What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

Wendy Andreen, PhD
College & Career Planning

College Central, Files, and Charts

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!

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

Go "Type A"

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).

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

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.

Sommer Lang
School Counselor

What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

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.

Diana Hanson
Common Sense College Counseling College Mentors

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. Grade Shifts: 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). Unethical Behavior: 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.

Brittany Maschal
Founder/Director B. Maschal Educational Consulting

What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

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!

Garth H

What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

File folders? Calendars?

Christine Counelis

What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

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!

Henry DelAngelo
High School Counselor 20 + years Your Key to College

What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

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.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

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.