My son, Hardhik, is in 12th grade and now is busy applying for colleges in USA. As many of you know, college application process takes lot of time and he has to write many essays for each college. Hardhik is aspiring to apply for 10 colleges, that means, it involves completing the common application (common information for all colleges), writing college specific essays and sending SAT/ACT scores etc.
When I checked about three weeks before the deadline, he said he is on track. When I asked him how many college applications did he finish he said none. I really started to worry that he might miss the deadline and won’t apply to any college. There are many unknowns in the process. So, I decided to help him by applying couple of agile principles.
Tracer Bullet: I asked him to focus on applying for one college immediately though the deadline is few weeks away. He did that and found lot of new information, e.g. SAT/ACT scores take some time to get to the colleges and he needs to send them early. He also needed to collect lots of missing data. After some hard work, he was able to apply to the first college in couple of days. However, this gave him lot of comfort that he figured out all the common information required for all the colleges and now he has to focus on college specific information for remaining colleges.
Iterate: We noticed that he is taking way too much time for each essay making it perfect from the beginning. I asked him to write the essay completely without worrying about word limit or the way it is expressed. Then I started reviewing the essay while he is working on his next essay. We iterated over this until we ran out of time allocated for that college application. The essays may not be perfect but we got good enough in the time available.
Stop starting and Start finishing: Initially, he was keeping all applications open and jumping between them. We never had any sense of progress. So, I asked him to go ahead and apply to a college before he starts on the next one. This gave a sense of progress and good handle on what can be completed.
We continuously prioritized the work based on how much needs to be done for each college and the deadline for the college. Now we are more confident that he will apply to all colleges he wanted to.