How to Survive the College Application Process: Part One

It’s August and you’re about to dive into your senior year of high school. It’s also time to jump into the college application process (if you haven’t already) which, at times, can be a little stressful.

Over the next few months, you’ll write several essays, send many transcripts, and fill out seemingly endless piles of paperwork. It’s a lot of work—but once you’re done, the payoff is so sweet: admission into college and plenty of time to enjoy the remainder of your senior year of high school.

Want to learn how to make it through as painlessly as possible? This first installment of a three-part series will explain how you can survive the college application process:

1. Start early

When it comes to applying to colleges, the earlier you start, the better. Completing one college application by itself may take several hours. Many high school students apply to five to eight colleges, so applying to all the schools on your list is a significant time commitment.

What you don’t want to do is wait until the last minute to complete your applications. This will undoubtedly lead you to rush, and that’s stressful. But besides the extra anxiety you’ll feel is the increased possibility of you forgetting to complete a part of an application (a common mistake).

Take out your calendar now to set aside a schedule for working on your college applications, and stick to it. Set up a schedule that gives you enough time to complete your applications at least a week or two before they’re due to give you extra wiggle room to review and revise your applications before sending them in.

2. Educate yourself

It’s important to know the ins and outs of completing each application you plan on submitting. While many colleges rely on the Common App, each college has its own specific application process and requirements. It will save you time in the long run if you spend time now researching the application requirements of each college to which you plan on applying.

3. Stay organized

Once you’re familiar with colleges’ application processes, create a checklist that will help keep you on track. Write down the names of all of the colleges you plan on applying to. Then, beneath each college’s name, list its specific application requirements, such as an essay, a transcript, and letters of recommendation.

As you go along filling out applications, you can easily cross the items you complete off your list. This can help ensure you don’t forget any aspects of the applications you need to complete. Additionally, because it gives you a visual of the tasks you need to complete, keeping a list can help you better manage your time as the application process progresses (and gets busier!).

4. Dream big

So you’ve started researching the application requirements of the various colleges to which you plan on applying. As you do this, you may notice that many colleges and universities publish the average standardized test scores and GPAs of accepted students. For some universities—especially Ivy League schools—these scores and GPAs are very competitive.

But just because some colleges are tough to get into doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply! Apply to a variety of schools, both those you’re more confident about and those you may think are a stretch—it doesn’t hurt to apply to a couple of reach schools to further challenge and motivate yourself. After all, you’ll never know if you might be admitted into the school of your dreams if you never try applying!

See Part Two of this series for what to do next...

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