What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?
Yes, in rare cases, colleges can and do revoke admissions offers, for a variety of reasons that roughly fall into two general categories: failing to inform a college of a change to the information you reported in your application and unethical behavior. Let’s look at some of the specific behaviors in each category that could affect an admission offer.
Forgetting to Inform Colleges of Schedule Changes:
Sometimes students change their schedule in the second semester of senior year, choosing, for example, to drop a class or move from an honors/AP course to a regular course (or vice versa). Whenever you change your schedule, you need to inform colleges of the change. It’s good to be proactive and explain what’s happening and why. For example, a student may have an opportunity to be involved in a special program (play, internship, athletics) and in order to do so needs to drop or change a class. A student may need to help out at home and have to drop an afternoon class. Most of the time, colleges will understand.
Sometimes a student’s grades in senior year might go down–“senioritis” anyone? Of course, I would advise you NOT to let that happen, but what do you do if you find yourself getting a D in a class as the semester ends? You should, of course, make sure that doesn’t happen, by getting help from your teachers, tutors, parents, etc. However, if you find yourself facing a dramatic shift in grades, especially in a class that is required for college admission, you should contact the colleges and let them know what you’re doing to ameliorate the problem (retaking the class online or at adult school, for example).
Simply speaking, most unethical behavior means that you lied in some way on your application–from saying you were involved in extracurricular activities that you were not involved in to failing to disclose a disciplinary issue. Colleges take ethical behavior very seriously, and if you lie on your application, you would be subject to your admission offer being revoked.
Honesty is always the best policy.
I have a GRID which I give to each family so they can list all items to be submitted to a college and the dates they are due. This way NO deadlines should be missed. Also, have a file folder on each college w/copies of all correspondence.
Making a spreadsheet or calender where you can note each and every details of the application process will be helpful. Perfect planning and focus on the application will keep you stay organized.
Be patient. Save all usernames and passwords on your computer and on your cell phone. Make sure you have a checklist for each college and all of your high school deadlines. You can be as organized as you need and never stress.
If you have a different folder for each college that is the best way to stay organized. Also, if you save each colleges’ webpage in your favorites that will help, as well. Make sure to keep notes on each college, especially during your visits. When you have time you can go back and reflect on your thoughts and feelings at the time.
Once you pick your list of schools, organize them in word or excel, and arrange your schools by application due date. You should not send applications in at the last minute. The sooner you submit your applications, the better. Admissions offices tend to get overwhelmed as the application deadline nears. Take time to make sure your application is complete.
I am a huge fan of using Google Docs (now Google Drive) to help stay organized during the application process. I would suggest creating one central spreadsheet to use to keep track of all of the schools to which you are applying and the requirements for each individual school. For example, you can have one column that lists each school name, and then a series of columns following for: Test Scores, Transcript, Letters of Rec, Resume, Supplemental Materials, Common App, etc. I encourage students to set personal deadlines for completing each application (relative to the school deadline) and then check each box as they go. If you find it helpful, you can “share” this spreadsheet with people who are helping you complete the application process (e.g., parents and teachers) so that they can also help you stay organized and on time.
Google Drive can also be used to write and develop personal statements and supplemental materials. One big advantage: you can access your documents from anywhere – home, school, library – and don’t need to constantly be carrying your computer around. Similar to sharing your “to do list” above, you can share your writing documents for feedback.
Hope this helps!
I love the online platforms that help students stay organized. I use these extensively with my students. You can take a look at Big Future or check to see if your school uses Naviance.
One of the keys to staying organized is having a timeline with critical due dates. You might want to pick a day each week and review your timeline. My final suggestion to anyone applying to college is START EARLY. This is the best organizational strategy you can employ. This allows you to complete each task in a methodical manner.
Make a checklist in Excel and keep records of what is needed, who is sending it, where it is going to, and when it is due. If not in Excel, keep this in a handwritten table, but keep on top of what is needed.
Here’s where a college consultant can be invaluable. I have software that is designed and personalized for each student. We keep track of application deadlines, financial aid dates, when the SAT/ACT tests are given, as well as monitor the progress of each application, and the specific essays associated with each of those applications. If you don’t have a college consultant, a good old excel spreadsheet can keep you on track, as long as you update it regularly. Staying organized in the application progress is also good practice for all the assignments you will need to balance in college.
Create a checklist for each of your schools and keep a folder for each. Checklists should include: deadlines, transcripts/test scores sent, letters of recommendations requested/sent, essays, interviews, and financial aid. I would create a second list for admissions decisions and your final acceptance so that you ensure all materials are sent.
keep a notebook of the colleges that you are looking at. Make sure to save all of your log ins and passwords for the countless websites that you need an account for. Save your correspondence from each school that you are interested in by creating a folder either actual or virtually in your email or on your computer desktop. Save all of your essays. Keep a check list of what you need to do. When completing a task, write the date of completing. Don’t just check it off. Keep your dates and deadlines organized. Get a calendar and use it. Write important deadlines and dates on it. Make sure that you are checking your email. You may not use email that much, but I can assure you that colleges do. You may miss something that is important.
Set deadlines and timelines and tell a parent, friend or teacher so someone else is also holding you accountable (or work with a counselor like me!). Use Google docs or keep everything in folders that are organized on your computer by school or whatever naming convention works best for you. There are also a number of other productivity apps that work well for this process, you really need to choose a method that works best for you. I think overall being motivated it really the key. If you are motivated to do this process well you will stay on top of it!
Your guidance counselor, or an independent educational consultant can be invaluable in helping you to keep on top of everything. In lieu of those, try making a spreadsheet that tables all of the schools you are applying to as well as all of the components they require with their application (essays, recommendations, test scores, transcripts) and then check off each one as it has been completed.
At the very beginning of the process, set up a calendar, specifically dedicated to this purpose, on which you enter standardized testing dates – SAT, ACT, TOEFL (if applicable), in-school tests, college fairs, when you plan to visit certain schools, and so on. In order to avoid time conflicts, it would also be helpful to schedule in the time that you will need to prepare for standardized and in-school tests. Add relevant dates as you become aware of them and make any necessary schedule adjustments.
When you’re investigating schools, create a folder for each one in which you will include printouts about the schools, copies of information from college evaluation books, brochures from the institutions, and notes that you yourself have taken while researching online, visiting the schools, etc. Include anything that gives you a better overview of each institution. Keep all of the folders together in a file box or cabinet. Before deciding which schools you will apply do, thoroughly review the material you have gathered in order to make a considered decision. A good way to compare various institutions is to prepare a document which you can fill in for each school, entering information about specific qualities/features/offerings that are of interest to you – application deadline, size of student body, student to faculty ratio, tuition . . . The list goes on.
After you have made a decision as to which institutions you want to apply, carefully note all relevant deadlines and enter them on your calendar – application deadlines, financial aid application deadlines, and any other dates which are applicable. By knowing when various bits of information are due, you will be able to schedule your time effectively with a minimum of stress. Plan your time so that you are not waiting until the last minute.
The deadlines, high school forms, piles of shiny brochures, applications, application supplements, and scholarship opportunities can be a little overwhelming. The first way to stay organized during the process is to create and use a college-planning calendar. List application due dates, college visits, test dates, and school functions. Then create files to manage all the information. Create a file on your computer for essays, account passwords, resumes, and all application related document. You will also need some files for the mountains of paper. Recycle mail from any college you have removed from consideration and make a file for each school still on your list. Keep a file with copies of your test scores and transcript. When you know where everything belongs it is easier to manage the deadlines and details.
You should probably begin by setting up a filing system where everything for each school is kept together. Then after you have narrowed things down and you have determined which schools you are applying to, you will need to organize the pieces of the actual application process. Some sort of chart that helps you keep track of the various requirements–what tests do they want, what are the deadlines for early application, regular decision, financial aid etc, how many recommendations and from whom, essay requirements, etc—can be very helpful. At its worst, the application process can seem like an additional course in the fall of you senior year, but an organized approach can ease a lot of the stress.
First, find all the deadlines for your colleges. Then put all these deadlines on a calendar that you can always see. Be sure you have a copy of the calendar on the fridge so your parents can see it. They can be your best cheerleader and support. If they know what is going on they won’t bug you as much.
Put together a spreadsheet listing all the pieces you need for each application with due dates. The list for each college will be slightly different. Don’t miss anything. If it says “optional” that means “if you want to get in and didn’t find a cure for cancer, you had better do this”.
Read the Admissions web pages carefully. One website has the following information buried in the text: “Applications received by [a date in November] will be given extra consideration.” This means, if you meet this unofficial early deadline then we will give your application extra “points”.
Keep all your papers in manila folders sorted by school in an accordion file. You can also file all the communications from the school. Keep paper copies of everything in case your computer crashes, breaks, or gets fried. Remember to back up your computer OFTEN.
You can recycle essays but be sure that you read the essay carefully. You don’t want to send the wonders of Yale to Harvard.
When working on the numerous amount of dates for admission and financial aid deadlines, you must use a calendar with several copies printed so everyone in the family can keep you on track! Even with our technology and smart phones, it is important to have a visual where everyone can see.
Learn organizational techniques now and you’ll have greater success in college. I recommend that my clients create a file for each school. In each file is a checklist that tracks all the pieces of an application. Note the dates you submitted your test scores, asked for a recommendation, submitted the recommendation, etc. Whether you do this on your computer or a hard copy, it will help create order among all the steps involved in applying. In addition, designate a calendar dedicated solely to college application deadlines, test dates, campus visits, etc.
The most important aspect of staying organized is developing a system that works for you and that you will actually use. Deadlines are the most important part of staying organized. If you miss a deadline, there is little that you can do to fix it. I have created a spreadsheet that I share with students that helps them manage deadlines, record needed documents, and record when they sent each part of the application.
I recommend that students maintain a separate email address for all college communications (i.e [email protected]). Students should also investigate online organization tools and app tools that help them keep all their college info in one place. Additionally, a large wall calendar will help the entire family remember important dates and reminders. Take advantage of your smartphone by setting alerts for important application deadlines.
Using a spreadsheet to track the schools you plan on applying to with a list of things you are looking for in a campus and a major can make the process a whole lot easier. Also plan on taking lots of pictures when you visit to help you to remember each campus.
File folders? Calendars?
Keep notes on a wall or electronic calendar. Ask for help. If you lose a deadline, see if you can get a reprieve for cause. Ask for help. Applications are pesky and complicated. Ask for help!
I would suggests that the best way to remain organized during the application process is to complete general information before beginning the application (dates of all activities volunteer, school, work), write a general personal statement that reflect your motivation, interest, and why the institution is the best choice for your future interest.
As students begin the school year, high school juniors may start becoming more aware of colleges, choices and college rankings. Here are some tips to for students to make the most of their junior year:
1) Standardized Tests
The best advice anyone can give a high school junior is to complete ALL standardized tests by the end of their junior year. These include the ACT, the SAT, and SAT Subject Tests. Countless students before you made the mistake of talking letting the tests linger over the summer. What seems prudent during one’s junior year transforms into a disaster in the fall when so many other responsibilities demand attention. Plan ahead and take all the tests before summer starts so you can spend your summer reflecting on colleges and the essays that accompany the applications.
2) Grades & Classes
Everyone has heard that one’s junior year grades are the most important and it’s true. Nothing is more significant than how a student performs during his or her junior year. Why? By the time students reach their junior year in high school they have settled into a routine and matured to the point that colleges can ascertain how they will perform in college. The courses are more demanding and colleges want to see how students handle the pressure. Also, the classes students take speak volumes about their level of motivation and extent of their intellectual curiosity. If a student receives an A in a class as a sophomore, the student should select a more demanding class the following year. Otherwise, college admissions officers see right through the ruse: the student opted for the easy A and evaded the challenge of a more difficult class. What does that choice say about the student’s character?
3) Teacher Recommendations
In high school students do not want others to consider them the “teacher’s pet”. But guess what? The teacher’s pet secures the best college recommendations. In many cases a student genuinely possesses an interest in a class and pursues that curiosity outside the classroom. Other times, students fake a deeper interest just to impress a teacher; this is not an advisable course to take. Students should pursue academic areas that interest them to the fullest extent possible. If a student shares an intellectual interest with a teacher, naturally the more the teacher will consider the student a “good student”, a “dedicated student” and “a student who always goes beyond what is expected.” On the flip side, the students who huddle in the back of the room and barely speak to teachers all year will find themselves in a rather stressful place when it’s time to request teacher recommendations. Ultimately, let’s face it: if a high school teacher cannot vouch for you, why would a college want you in their classrooms? What can you offer to the discussion?
The way in which students spend their time outside the classroom serves as a testimony to their moral fiber. Students often assume that involvement in as many activities as humanly possible renders the ticket into college. Wrong! This misnomer pervades the high school student’s brain, but the inaccuracy of this type of thinking can lead to a student’s downfall (at least as far as gaining admission into college). French philosopher Denis Diderot wrote, “Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things.” When beginning the junior year, students should assess their activities and reflect on whether or not the activities in which they participate offer a depiction of their interests and passions. If not, students need to straighten out their priorities fast. Colleges want people who remain dedicated to one interest; the activities in which they participate should have a common thread that binds them together and culminate to present a person dedicated to a passion.
5) Take Advantage of Your Opportunities
This adage stands true for students during any year of high school – or any time in one’s life for that matter. College opens up a new world for most people and opportunities to try new things abound. Since past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior, admissions officers look for students who step out of their comfort zone and seek new experiences. Students who choose to ignore opportunities do not appeal to admissions officers. Colleges seek students who will bring diverse viewpoints and experiences to the campus. They also want to bring students to the school who will get involved. If students do not make the most of their opportunities during high school then chances are they will do the same not only in college, but throughout their lives. Colleges do not accept students who most likely will not contribute to life on the campus or make a difference in the world when their college years end.
Devise a plan that works for you and work the plan. Everybody ‘organizes’ differently so don’t think there is only one best way to attack the college application process. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and graciously accept help from those around you. Students, this is definitely a time when you want a parent/guardian as an ally! Don’t push them away. If you are not an organized, self-motivated, high-achieving student then let an adult support (not do it for you!!) you with the organization process. 5 tips to help you get organized:
1. Find one location in your home to be ‘COLLEGE CENTRAL’. Keep all materials in this space – a desk, folding table, or the dining room table works well. A place where everything can stay for the duration of the process.
2. Select your method of organization – binders (one for each college) or FILE box with hanging folders. My preference is a file box with hanging folders. It doesn’t have to be expensive. This allows for expansion and it’s easy to drop materials into the labeled folders.
3. Label the binder dividers or folders. Examples of labeled folders may include: One for each college (with name, email, & cell phone of rep written inside each folder), paper copies of the applications, supplements, financial aid/FAFSA, test scores (ACT, SAT, PSAT, AP), essays, resume, your high school info/handouts on the college application process procedures, transcript request forms, paper copy of the Common Application chart with all the schools and their deadlines and requirements.
4. Folders with pockets to give to teachers/counselor with your recommendation forms (if submitting by paper) or a list of schools if they are writing recs online. Stamped, addressed envelopes, and a complimentary resume for reference. Follow your school’s procedures on this process.
5. Once you have your list of colleges identified, prepare a CHART (computer spreadsheet or by hand) with rows for each college. The column headings should include: your ID# for each college, DEADLINE DATES for application, scholarships, financial aid, auditions/portfolios (if applicable), supplements, SAT/ACT sent, Subject Tests required (if any), transcript requested, essays & how many, and other information you need to stay on track for each college. This chart should be posted where it is clearly visible – closet door, above your desk, refrigerator – to be sure you don’t miss a deadline or forget something!
1. Narrow Your List
In the fall of your senior year, you should create a narrowed list of schools to which you will apply. Keep the final list small (6-10) and balanced (equal number of likely, 50/50, and reach schools) for your sanity (and the sanity of those around you).
2. Make a Chart
When this list is finalized, make a chart to keep track of supplements, deadline type and date, sending standardized test scores, working with your school counselor to send letters of recommendation and transcript, scheduling and completing an interview, etc. No need to reinvent the wheel, check out this great sample from College Board: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/apply/the-application/8435.html
3. Check it Twice
Put the final chart on the fridge (or some other central, regularly viewed location). Check tasks off as you complete them. Create a once-per-day, very short “check in” routine (before bed, when you get breakfast, after dinner) to review your deadlines.
4. Take Help Graciously
With your chart prominently posted, others (parents) will likely create a routine of checking-in (probably more than once a day). Take the reminders graciously (yes, let them nag).
most schools offer student the access to Naviance, or family connections.
it is used to track application and other communications.
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