I always choose sanity over chaos. I work ahead, knowing that unpredictable bottlenecks happen in the last hours before something is due. I let things sit for a few weeks and grow cold, understanding that my work is better with time for reflection and enough space to see my mistakes. I tend to plod faithfully on instead of sprinting in short bursts. In other words, I am the tortoise in the children’s story and not the hare.
If you have a college-bound junior, I invite you to consider taking a Tortoise Approach – working earlier and slower that most of the rest of the world. Careful planning and discipline can make your life much less stressful over the next 1 ½ years as well as increasing the probability of better college and scholarship offers for your student.
What does that look like? If you homeschool, the parent will be responsible for all the school documents: transcript, course descriptions, school profile, and counselor letter. These documents take time and I would suggest you start compiling these now, in the spring of the junior year (if not before). Whether you methodically tackle one at a time or work a bit on them all each week, you will make your life easier if they are done by early summer.
It is wise for students to ask for letters of recommendation before leaving school this spring. That allows the teacher plenty of time to write a great letter while the student’s performance is still fresh on their minds. They can let the recommendation sit in their computer until needed in the fall of the senior year. Teachers are busy people and last minute requests often lead to uninspiring letters.
Once school is out for the summer, it is time for the student to begin writing essays, developing a resume, refining their Activity and Honors Lists for applications. All these things will take MUCH longer than you imagine. Trust me! Once those are perfected, your student can begin filling out the actual applications mid to late summer, with the goal of completing the applications before school starts in the fall. They don’t need to submit them until closer to deadlines, but having them completed makes the senior year much calmer.
Each year, I watch families that fall in both camps. The ones who take the Tortoise Approach are still somewhat stunned by all that has to be accomplished, but produce much better applications, which result in acceptances to selective colleges and great scholarships. They also have much less stress as well as time to enjoy their senior in that last bittersweet year at home. Those that take the last minute strategy of the hare are completely overwhelmed, make mistakes, and often turn in applications that are decidedly subpar compared to the true abilities of the student.
My advice? Slow and steady wins the race.
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