Seniors: Get a head start on your college apps this summer!
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4 Tips to Stay Organized During the College Application Process

By Krista, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor

Imagine that you’re applying to 10+ schools this fall. You’re spending what seems like an eternity trying to find that one email X college sent you, scrolling endlessly through your inbox. Maybe you can’t remember where you saved your latest essay draft for Y college on your laptop. What a headache!

These scenarios can be avoided if you are proactive and get organized from the start. Here are a few tricks I give my students that will set you up for success — an hour or so of great planning can save you hours over the long run!

1. Create One Spot for Everything

You have a choice of different tools to accomplish this — I personally find Google Suite helpful, so I will use that as my example. I also appreciate that this tool allows you to have one inbox only for your college application work.

Within your Google Drive, you can create a folder for every college. Put all of the important resources regarding that college in the respective folder. To go one step further, I encourage you to create a Google Doc with all of the college essay prompts for each school. This gives you a great go-to spot to work on the college essays, especially since you should not be drafting your essays directly in the application! Only input the essays into the application when they are 100% finished.

If you’re a junior (or even younger), go ahead and set this up now! I encourage you to input your notes from college visits or virtual info sessions into each college’s folder. That will be a great way to have an easy resource to refer to when writing your essays later.

2. Come Up with a Game Plan

As soon as you get the syllabi for your senior year classes, create a game plan for the next few months. I recommend creating a Google Spreadsheet with a tab for each week at the bottom. Then, create three columns:

  • Task/Event
  • Internal Deadline
  • External Deadline

Then, work backwards. Add all of your college application deadlines, interview deadlines, financial aid deadlines, etc. into the spreadsheet in the External Deadline column. Next, add in any school or personal events that would hinder you from working on college applications, such as vacation or midterms — use a red font so they stand out.

Once you have all of the “external” deadlines, you can begin to make deadlines for yourself — these make up the Internal Deadlines column. You should, of course, work around any of the deadlines you added in red. Don’t forget to add all of the tasks you need to complete for the entire application process: requesting letters of recommendation and transcripts, finalizing your activities list and essays, scheduling interviews, etc.

If you want to be really organized, you can even color coordinate your tasks to the college’s colors. While this isn’t necessary for success, it can help you find things with a quick glance.

This is meant to be a living document, meaning that you may have some weeks where you fall behind schedule or get ahead. That’s totally okay! Adjust as you go, but always keep an eye on the external deadlines and give yourself enough time to prepare for them.

3. Factor in Adequate Time for The Drafting Process

Factor in ample time for each essay. Sometimes you might think of a new, better topic for the essay after drafting one or two rounds, or maybe you need to rearrange the essay for it to have better flow. Either way, it is extremely common for college essay drafts to need several rounds of substantial edits.

Getting started as early as possible gives you the most breathing room to make sure your college essays and applications are top notch!

4. Be Intentional About Time Management and Scheduling 

It is imperative that you carve out time each week to get college application work done. You should add this in your schedule — whether you use a planner or an online calendar. Try to make it the same time each week to build a routine.

Within the actual calendar event for each week, I encourage you to make a checklist for yourself for that specific week. You can refer to the game plan spreadsheet and input your tasks for that week. Then, when the day comes for you to work on the items, you’ll already have an agenda of what you need to do and won’t waste any time trying to remember where you left off.

Set a reminder for yourself on your calendar of the external due dates!

Good time management, agenda setting, organization, and forward thinking will help in your extracurriculars, courses, and ultimately in the workforce. The college application process is a great opportunity to learn and practice these helpful skills! However, we realize that it can be overwhelming to manage college applications along with your schoolwork and extracurricular activities.

IvyWise college admissions counselors help students stay on track, ensuring they meet their deadlines and build a strong profile for college admissions. Schedule an Initial Consultation today to learn how we customize our services to your needs and goals.

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