Yes, Teens Should Use Proper Etiquette in the College Application Process
by Kathy de Jong, Independent Educational Consultant
Let’s face it – the college application process can be time-consuming, stressful, and overwhelming. However, that’s not an excuse for not using your manners and applying proper etiquette, such as saying thank you, throughout the process. In order for a student to put forth their best college application, other people agree to be part of the student’s “team”, contributing their time and effort. Not appreciating these efforts, is let’s say, not good form. Additionally, being mindful of how others may be feeling during this time is also important. So let’s talk college application and decision etiquette 101.
1. When you ask for recommendation letters, give writers plenty of time.
Many colleges will require recommendations from counselors, teachers, coaches, or employers. Ideally, students should ask for recommendation letters before leaving school at the end of junior year. Give your recommenders at least four weeks to write the letters and upload or send them as directed by the college. Check if your high school requires you to complete an informational form to help school recommenders be more efficient and thoughtful with their writing.
2. Always say “Thank You” to your team. Small gifts or kind gestures are always appreciated.
Be very aware that people on your team are most likely not paid to help. Teachers and school counselors, for example, do not earn anything extra for writing letters of recommendation or reviewing essays during evenings and weekends. Say thank you in person, if possible, once your team member has completed a task on your behalf. Additionally, when you’ve received a few decisions, send a hand-written thank you note to each team member. Include a brief update on the colleges you applied to and the decisions you’ve received; they want to know how things are going! Purchasing a small gift or gift card (or making a gift!) for each person that helped you is always appreciated. Follow up with your team when you’ve made your college selection.
3. Respect the Early Decision process.
Anyone applying early decision must understand the rules. You can only apply to one college early decision (at any one time), and it’s a binding contract that you will attend that college if accepted. Once you receive an acceptance at your early decision college, quickly assess the financial aid package, and contact the college if there are any concerns. Students are then required to notify each college they applied to and ask them to please remove their application from consideration- in compliance with your early decision agreement. Failure to do so because “you just want to see if you get in” somewhere else is breaking the contract and may cause you to lose your early decision acceptance.
4. You’ve determined that you are no longer interested in attending a college. Notify that college immediately.
Whether you’re still waiting on a decision, deferred, or waitlisted, if you know you won’t be attending a specific college/university, notify them immediately and request that your application be removed from consideration. Getting the number of acceptance right is always tricky for admissions officers because they never know how many students will enroll. By taking yourself out of the running at a college, you are not only helping the school’s admissions team do their job, but you are potentially opening the door to another student that is waiting anxiously for an acceptance letter!
5. Once you’re accepted, celebrate, but don’t brag or boast about it.
Remember, the kid sitting next to you in math class may have just been denied at the same school you received an acceptance. It’s okay to share your excitement with friends, family, and teachers, but keep it low-key at school and on social media, and certainly don’t judge others about their choices or results.
Showing respect and consideration is always part of the college application process, and it’s a perfect time for students to demonstrate gratitude and an understanding of proper etiquette as they approach adulthood.
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