It’s only fitting that we celebrate Labor Day in September since most high school seniors will begin the ‘labor-intensive’ process of applying to colleges this month. Some may have been smart and started their college admission essays over the summer, but most will have put off any work until after the holiday. As seniors wave goodbye to those carefree summer days, they may begin to feel overwhelmed and a bit anxious about the next steps they’ll be taking toward their futures. Days that were once filled with Pretty Little Liars marathons will now be consumed with homework, scholarships and college planning tasks. Fortunately, seniors can take some steps to help reduce their stress and make the college application process a bit more manageable. By following these simple tips, some students may even find enough time to have a little fun, too.
1. Plan Ahead
Students will find that many college applications require the same information. It’s a good idea to have the following documentation available before beginning the process:
- Social security number
- High school code
- Test scores (ACT and/or SAT)
- Activity résumé (listing of volunteer work, sports and extracurriculars)
- List of honors and awards
2. Narrow the List
Applying to several colleges can get expensive, so students should consider narrowing their list to between three and seven schools. Students can identify those that match their needs by doing the following:
- Review college search and review websites
- Attend local college fairs
- Visit college campuses
- Schedule an interview with a campus representative in the area
3. Create Files
An easy way for students to stay focused and organized is to create a file for each college on their list. Each file should contain the following items:
- College Cover Sheet with contact information and admission requirements
- Checklist of documentation required (essay, personal statement, transcripts, etc.)
- Username and password used to create their student account
- Copies of any materials created for the application
- Financial aid application, housing application, and any other forms that may be required
It may also be helpful for students to keep an Excel spreadsheet with general information on each college for quick review.
4. Schedule Everything
Students will have numerous deadlines to contend with over the next few months. Not only will they need to stay on top of their homework and assignments, but also be aware of upcoming exams, scholarship applications and college admissions deadlines. Here are a few ways students can ensure nothing falls through the cracks:
- Post a large wall calendar with upcoming deadlines
- Use a handy phone app to schedule everything
- Create weekly (or daily) to-do lists
The easiest way for students to avoid feeling overwhelmed or stressed is to set small, manageable goals each week. Putting off tasks and waiting until the last minute may cause students to rush, which could lead to serious errors, such as omitting a required document or failing to submit materials on time. Taking the time to follow these suggestions not only helps students reduce the chances that something may be missed, but also gives them a clear picture of what they need to accomplish over the next several months. It may seem like a never-ending list right now, but those who start early and plan ahead will no doubt reap the benefits this spring when the college acceptance letters start rolling in!
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