Applying to College The Application

Getting Organized for Winning College Applications

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Are you feeling overwhelmed now that you have gathered all of your college applications and realized how much paperwork is involved? With multiple forms, numerous essays, and required deadlines in the not-so-distant future, it’s no wonder that you’re asking how to possibly get all of this work done in so little time, especially during the first few months of a hectic senior year.

Before letting the application overload get completely out of hand, consider this: the key to reducing anxiety is regaining a sense of control. Applying it to the application situation, the key to regaining control over this seemingly horrendous task is to get organized. If you get organized and break down the parts into manageable pieces, you will be able to complete all of your applications without undue stress and have them done even earlier than the deadlines. As an added bonus, you’ll be left with plenty of time to relax and enjoy your winter break.

In order to accomplish this you need to start early, preferably no later than July! Leaving this task until the last minute only exacerbates the stress, and your final product will suffer.

Here are some of our tips to get organized and ensure your college applications stay on track!

Summarize Application Requirements

Now that you have finalized your college selections, you should create a chart summarizing the important information that you will require when filling out the applications. You can even create a chart to track your application progress, marking the dates of when various components were submitted.

Your master list should include the following:

  • Basic college information
    • College name
    • Address
    • Phone number & emails
    • Website
    • Application deadline
    • Date submitted
  • Financial aid deadline and date submitted
  • Standardized testing requirements
  • Guidance counselor recommendation, report form, and date delivered
  • Specific recommendations required, names of teachers, and date delivered
  • Type of application used (Common Application or school-specific)
  • Paper copy or record of online submission and date mailed or submitted
  • Supplements required
  • Any additional information required

Create a Filing System

For paper hard copies:

Make a folder for each college you apply to for the application form and associated paper work. You should keep an individual sheet of the application requirements and deadlines for each college in the specific college folder in addition to the application.

It can be helpful to write the requirements and due dates on the front of the folder, then check each task off as you complete them. At quick glance, you can see your progress and the work that still needs to be done.

For online submissions and emails:

Always be sure to save a PDF, screen shot, or print out of your online submission. Many systems will email you a copy of your application as well. Be sure to save these in an easily accessible place, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or even a flash drive. Within your chosen drive, create school-specific folders and include your deadline in the folder name.

Regardless of how you apply to college, remember: never throw anything away relating to any college! Save and file all correspondence to and from the college including instructions, test results, publications, applications, and anything else you may receive. Also be sure to keep copies of anything you submit to your high school or financial aid centers for processing. You never know when you may need to access specific information. Having everything filed away in an easy-to-find location takes stress out of the task.

List your Essay Prompts

It is vital to develop a list of all the essay questions that are required by all of the schools you are applying to. Then you can accurately determine the workload ahead of you, the time required, and any overlaps between schools.

Tip: Consider using the Common Application for all the schools on your college list that accept this option. It will significantly reduce the number of different essays that you will be required to write. Then you can focus your time in writing your personal statement, which is the most important essay of all!

Develop a Timeline of Completion

Review what needs to get done by your personal deadline (at least 2 weeks prior to the earliest college deadline). It’s important to know if you will be applying Early Decision or not at this point so that your schedule can be fine tuned with this early deadline in mind. Then with calendar in hand, map out a schedule of completion. This is your schedule, not the what and where of colleges’ requirements. You need deadlines for accomplishing what you need to do. Your schedule of completion should include

  • Brainstorming and writing your essays
    • Personal essay, short essay, and each college supplement essay required
  • Developing your resumé
  • Filling out the application forms
  • Scheduling interviews if necessary
  • Taking all required standardized testing

Be realistic and allow time for unexpected situations that might occur. Ask your parents to monitor the timeline schedule for you so that they can keep you focused and on track by gently reminding you when a certain due date is approaching.

Now that you have an organizational system in place, it’s time to get started! The earlier you start, the earlier you finish! Then all you have to do is wait for the acceptance letters to arrive!