Staying Ahead of Your Applications | Part 1
As we ring in the New Year and juniors begin the spring semester, the college application process kicks into high gear. With so much work in such a short period of time, many students struggle with what to do and how to do it.
Every junior needs to take two small steps at the start of the year to get on track and stay there. First, adopt a strategy to keep content organized. Second, create a college application timeline that will ensure that the entire family knows what needs to happen and when. It is critical that students find ways to manage their college processes while simultaneously maintaining their school work and extracurricular activities. Consistent academic performance should always be at the top of your to-do list.
The key to an effective organizational strategy is that it must be convenient and easy to use. Depending on how organized a student is on his own, this may be an opportunity for parents to help provide support by sorting through email, keeping an eye on the overall balance of things, or ensuring important dates and correspondence don’t get overlooked. Here are three major steps a student must take to organize the college application process; students will need to choose the way to make these strategies work best for them:
- Create a college-specific email account. Do not use your school or personal email account, even if you already have one. Make a new email, be sure it is simple and appropriate, and provide access for both your parents and yourself to help filter the massive amount of email coming in.
- With so many dates and deadlines to keep straight, now is a perfect time to find a calendar that works for you. Fill it with all testing and registration deadlines, school events and extracurricular commitments, family trips and college visits. You should also add the dates applications and essay prompts are made available, along with application deadlines for early programs or regular decision. This will allow you to see conflicts as they arise well in advance, and can give you ample time to plan around them. Whether you prefer an electronic calendar system or a simple paper one, it will only work if you are committed to using it.
- Create a spreadsheet to keep track of colleges of interest. You can use Microsoft Excel, Word, or create shared doc online (through Google Drive, e.g.). The important thing is that the document is easy for you to use and update as you move through the process. You can add columns as needed and keep a copy on the front of the refrigerator, updating as frequently as is necessary.
There is so much you can do to stay ahead of your applications, like visiting colleges over school breaks, doing research online, or meeting with your Guidance Counselor to discuss next steps. But you’ll reap the greatest reward from these activities if you develop sensible organizational infrastructure before you get started. Join us later this week for Part Two of our blog, where we discuss five major steps every student needs to take in his or her junior year.