The college admissions process can be quite daunting. As students begin their senior year, they are trying to simultaneously prepare for the futures and enjoy the end of their high school careers while maintaining their grades. It is very easy for them to become overwhelmed with all the decisions requiring their attention. Where do I want to attend college? What will I major in? These are just some of the endless questions weighing on students' minds. In order to alleviate some of these stresses, it is important to approach college applications strategically. A little bit of planning up front will prove invaluable later.

How to Handle College Applications

First, you should research and compile a master list of schools you are interested in applying to. Take the following into consideration: academics, graduation rate, majors, size, location, school resources and campus life. This includes researching universities online, going on college visits, and fielding your peers, family, and mentors to find an alum who can provide you some information on each university. Ultimately, a college should be a good fit for you: don’t attend simply because it is your parents' alma matter.

Once you have your list of schools, it’s time to organize program deadlines and requirements so you don’t miss out on applying to a school because you overlooked a due date or component of its application. Organize your school list by application due dates. This way, instead of feeling overwhelmed by a long list of schools, you can focus on a chunk at a time. Also, take time to look through each section of an application before you sit down to complete it. Applications often include sections asking you to upload additional materials you may not have been aware of at first glance. This is also the reason you should not wait until the last minute to complete your application. In addition to main application essays, check to be sure the college, major, or honors program you are applying to does not require any supplemental essays or letters of recommendation. You’d hate to miss out on admission to the honors program or fall short of eligibility for a scholarship because you somehow failed to follow instructions and write an additional essay. 

After you have compiled your list of schools and their deadlines, create a plan of attack by plugging this information into a calendar. Break up your list into manageable portions; this way you are more likely to stay on schedule and complete each application on time. In addition to school application due dates, you should make note of ACT & SAT exam dates and registration times as well as financial aid and scholarship deadlines. Even worse than missing a college’s application deadline is missing the deadline to receive funds to attend the school.

Once you have a plan to make your college applications more manageable, it is time to sit down and execute your plan. College applications are the last leg in a long journey toward the first steps in your adult life. You have spent many hours studying for classes, preparing for college entrance exams, and cultivating your interests: don’t allow yourself to slack off now. Put in the time to complete an impressive college application that adequately represents you. Good grades are not enough; be strategic, organized, and purposeful in putting your best foot forward as you begin your college journey.