Seeing an exclamation point-punctuated proclamation, as in the headline above, might strike you as a bit over-the-top, like when car dealers start selling 2019 models just a few months into 2018, barking over the airwaves with disingenuous urgency that, “We have to clear these 2018s out right now!”

We promise that there is no exaggerated level of urgency when it comes to our claim. It may be the middle of the summer and your local high school likely doesn’t reopen for another five weeks, yet admissions season is undeniably, irrevocably upon us.

It’s a simple fact that as of Wednesday, August 1, 2018, the Common App and Coalition Application will officially both be live, which means that you can begin working on your actual college applications long before the hectic, regimented, and free time-deficient days of autumn return.

So, what exactly do you need to know and what actions should parents and students be taking right now to get ahead of the pack? We’ve got you covered, beginning with an update on what transpired over the admissions “off-season.”

New Common App schools

More than 60 schools will begin accepting the Common App for the first time in the 2018-19 cycle. These include big-time public institutions such as: Penn State, Florida State, Mississippi State, UNC Charlotte & Greensboro, Oregon State, and Michigan State.

New Coalition App schools

The Coalition App’s gradual rollout has hit some snags, with prominent school’s delaying the use of the application. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), originally slated to accept the Coalition App this admissions cycle will now begin in 2019-20. Babson, Barnard, Brown, and UNC-Chapel Hill are also expected to begin implementation in in 2019-20.

Beware of Early Action and Honors College deadlines

The urgency of getting started on applications now rather than later becomes amplified for those considering applying early action or early decision. Many EA or ED schools give you until November 1st or 15th. However, there are some institutions with deadlines as early as October 15th, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Georgia, and Georgia Tech.

Preparing for these deadlines is especially important because applying early can (with a series of caveats-see #5) give you an admissions edge. We encourage students to visit our Dataverse for information on early action vs. regular application acceptance rates at highly-selective colleges.

Students interested in attending public honors colleges also need to be cognizant of earlier-than-usual deadlines. Even honors colleges that allow for later submissions often have a priority deadline of November 1st which provides applicants with an advantage in the admissions process.

Time to request recommendations

Rising seniors, if you have yet to request letters of recommendation from the teachers who know you best, now is the time to start. Revisit our blog on the subject for everything you need to know on this topic.

Demonstrate interest

Carve out a few moments to show your prospective colleges some love by demonstrating interest. Trust us, with yield rates causing admissions officers many restless nights, making schools feel wanted can leave a favorable impression. Whether or not a student showed interest in the form of a campus visit, an e-mail to an admissions counselor, or by requesting info through the university website can become a factor come admission time. Colleges want great students, but they really want great students who are genuinely interested in attending their institution.

Create a profile on LinkedIn and/or ZeeMee

If you want to take things to another level, ZeeMee is a relatively new smartphone app that allows students to upload videos and pictures that illustrate their passions and help their prospective colleges learn about them as more than just a series of statistics. Schools like Carnegie Mellon and Beloit allow you to connect your ZeeMee account to your college application. Also consider creating a LinkedIn profile. Yes, I know you’re not a middle-aged executive with an extensive educational and work history to chronicle, but LinkedIn can still showcase a teen’s areas of skill or expertise in a professional and impressive online format.

Get started on those essays

The final weeks of summer present an ideal time to begin working on your essays. At the very least, seniors should be brainstorming and beginning to crank out a first draft before the rigors of the school year return. The Common App remained the same from the 2018-19 cycle after undergoing a makeover in 2017. We encourage readers to check out our advice for selecting the prompt that best allows you to tell their most original and compelling story. It’s also a great time to begin working on the often neglected “Why This College?” essay.

Final thoughts

College application season “going live” could sound like a source of stress, but in our view it’s actually quite the opposite. This is an opportunity to get started on the important work of applying for college at a time when term papers, unit tests, and lengthy reading assignments are but a hazy memory. Even if you only tackle a couple of the above suggestions, you’ll find yourself less stressed than many of your peers when school recommences.

Dave Bergman

Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent education consultant. He is a co-author of the book The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).