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Balancing Senior Year and College Applications

One of the biggest challenges that college-bound seniors will face this year is how to balance a rigorous academic and extracurricular schedule with the demands of college applications. While we always advise students to start their college applications in the summer in order to alleviate some of the workload come fall, many students still have a lot of essays to write and materials to complete before application deadlines. The demands of college applications on top of regular school commitments may seem overwhelming, but it is possible to do it all and do it well.

So how can students balance the demands of dozens of essays and applications with their commitment to school and extracurricular activities? Here’s what students need to do to strike a healthy balance between senior year and college applications.

Get Organized

There are a number of tools that can help you get organized. Start as simple as buying a planner or get more tech savvy by downloading an organization app like Study Cal or setting up a calendar on your phone and input all school assignments, application deadlines, and any important meetings or college interviews. By taking the time to organize your schedule and write down everything you need to do, you’ll be able to better see what needs to get done and when.

This will also help you formulate an application timeline and break up the work into small, manageable chunks. Aim to get all projects, papers, applications, and other assignments done a few days before they’re due, that way you have some cushion should something come up unexpectedly.


Everything seems important when you’re a high school senior applying to college – and in many cases everything is important. If you have a project due in a few days, that should take precedence over finishing some essays that aren’t due for another month or two. That said, you will still need to keep track of those essays so that they don’t sneak up on you later. Learning how to prioritize those commitments and assignments can help you determine what’s most important on any given day – and what to tackle next.

In addition to the Common Application or Coalition Application essay, many colleges also require school-specific essays or short answer responses, so a student applying to balanced list of 10-12 colleges can expect to write anywhere from 20-30 essays or short responses. Juggling college applications with a senior year coarse load can quickly become overwhelming, but planning out your application timeline will allow you to prioritize deadlines and work efficiently throughout the school year and the admissions process.

Set Deadlines

Projects, school assignments, and applications already come with hard deadlines, but setting personal deadlines and goals will help you better manage applications and schoolwork. If you’re applying to college in an early admission round, for example, setting a deadline for yourself well in advance will give you and your college counselor plenty of time to review the application for any last-minute mistakes before hitting submit. It’s also important to remember that different components of your applications may have earlier deadlines – for example, scholarship and various financial aid application materials are often due before the Common Application. Using a calendar, planner, or even phone reminders can help you keep track of all the different due dates for your schoolwork, applications, and even your commitments outside of the classroom, like volunteer work, extracurricular projects, and more.

Fight Senioritis

Students fall victim to it every year – don’t let yourself get caught in the senioritis trap. Remember, colleges will pay attention to your senior year grades, so it’s crucial to maintain an upward grade trend, even after receiving offers of admission. Stay motivated by focusing on your small goals and deadlines and taking a break when you need it. Senior year is busy, so don’t forget to take some time to relax and recharge!

Don’t Procrastinate

Many students make the big mistake of waiting until the very last minute to start on their college applications. Don’t put it off. Application deadlines may seem far away, but they’ll come up sooner than you think. Start the year off strong by getting a head start on everything you need to complete, rather than put it off until the zero hour. Prioritizing your work load and setting deadlines for yourself can help mitigate procrastination, but it’s important to hold yourself accountable so you don’t fall behind.

Seek Help When Needed

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, your parents, teachers, tutors, or your college counselor. If you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed, seek guidance from someone who can help you better manage the process and guide you in the right direction.

With proper preparation, organization, and the right attitude, students can easily manage the college admissions process alongside their senior year course load. At IvyWise we work with students in various stages of the college admissions process, and many students come to us in the thick of senior year when they need help to stay on track. Contact us today for more information on IvyWise’s programs for high school seniors.


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