Applying to College The Application

Getting Organized for Winning College Applications


Are you feeling overwhelmed now that you have gathered together all of your applications and realize how much paperwork is involved in completing applications for ALL of the colleges you have decided to apply to? With multiple forms, numerous essays facing you, and those required deadlines in the not-so-distant future, it is no wonder that you are asking how is it possible to get all of this work done in so little time, especially during the first few months of a hectic senior year.

Before letting this application overload get completely out of hand, consider this: the key to reducing anxiety is regaining a sense of control. Now, apply this principle to application-related stress and anxiety. 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. An added bonus to this goal is you can really relax and enjoy your winter break!

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

So let’s get started creating an organizational system that will help keep your applications on track.

Summarize Application Requirements

Now that you have finalized your college selections, you should create a chart summarizing all of the important information that you will need to have on hand when you begin completing the applications. This chart will also help you keep track of your progress in the application process if you record the dates of completion and submission of various elements of the application.

On this master list include the following categories:

  • basic college info (name of college, address, phone number and website URL); -application deadline/date submitted
  • financial aid deadline/date mailed
  • standardized testing requirements
  • guidance counselor recommendation and report form/date delivered
  • specific recommendations required and names of teachers/date delivered
  • type of application used (Common App or specific)
  • paper copy or online submission/date mailed or submitted
  • supplements required
  • any additional information required


Create a Filing System

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

Never throw anything away relating to any college! Always file any correspondence to the college, instructions, test results, college publications, applications, etc. in the file folder. Keep copies of everything you submit to your high school for their processing or that you send to colleges or to financial aid processing centers. In addition, it is vitally important to print off a copy of your online application before you push the “submit” button and keep a copy in the college folder. You never know when you might need a specific piece of information, and it reduces so much stress to know that everything is in its own place and you can locate anything that you need with ease.

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! You might want to consider using the Common Application for all the schools on your college list that accept this option because 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 goal (at least 2 weeks prior to the earliest college deadline). It is 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: the personal essay, the short essay, and each college supplement essay required
  • developing your résumé
  • filling out the application forms
  • scheduling interviews if required/or recommended
  • taking all standardized testing required.

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 is 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!