Eleven Tips for Your College Application Process

Camille Crumbley, Staff writer

Senior year is all about preparing to move on from high school (while still having fun!), but that requires students to fill out applications, get recommendations, and complete a whole myriad of other things that take time. It can be stressful to find information and meet deadlines, but with careful planning, it can be a bit easier. In the list below, I’ve compiled eleven tips to make the application process smoother.

1. Use the Common App

“I’ve looked at each college’s applications on their websites and it would have been a ton of work to do each one, so being able to do it in one place, where everything is organized, makes it easy,” said Catherine Ng.

This application program allows you to complete hundreds of college applications in one place. You fill out one general application and then answer supplemental questions for individual colleges. Using this, you won’t have to fill out multiple applications on schools websites. You can also use the Coalition App, but it doesn’t include as many schools as the Common App.

2. Keep all your answers in a Google Doc or in Word

When you use the Common App, you’ll be asked to write one main essay. You may write five, ten, or even fifteen drafts. Keep all of the essays, whether they’re completed or not, because you may be able to use all or part of them for individual colleges’ other supplement essays.

You will also have to write supplement essays for almost every college, but some are repeats from different college. Keep a document of your answers and you can copy and paste your answers into the boxes for different schools.

3. Keep a log of the things you do

“When my sister applied to college, she used her resume to fill out the activities section,” said senior Safiya Duncan. “She also submitted that resume on the Common App and gave it to teachers who wrote her recommendations.”

There are sections of the Common App that ask about awards you’ve won and extracurriculars you’ve participated in. Before you start, create a list of these things to pull from. Check old resumes for information. Don’t forget to include any jobs and family responsibilities you’ve had.

4. Email teachers for recommendations

A good recommendation can hold some weight, so you need to pick teachers that can speak positively on your behalf. They didn’t have to have given you the highest grade, but need to be able to speak about you as a person and as a student in a positive way. Pick a teacher that you’re sure will say something positive, not someone who you’re unsure about, because you most likely will have to waive your right to read the recommendation. Be sure to ask teachers early, too, and be prepared with materials if they ask for a resume or transcript.

5. Pick schools you’re generally interested in

You’ll be asked why you’re interested in their school. For all the schools you pick you should have at least one specific aspect you like about them, even if the rest is general (enough where you can nearly copy and paste for each school, maybe). But, if you can’t figure out one thing you like about the school, you may want to reconsider applying there.

6. Don’t Read Other Peoples Essay

They wrote that essay for a reason. That type of essay may not work for you. Your essay holds considerable weight, so let it be the time for you as a person to shine. It doesn’t have to be about winning some game or loss; it can be a story. Find what story you want to tell and stick with it, working it out until you feel it is perfect and you are telling the story that best represents you. If it’s not want you want, let the topic go and try again.

7. Scores Are Just a Number

Do not let a test score define who you are and how smart you are. Testing is not everyone’s forte and colleges understand that. Many look at you holistically, and there are even some colleges that are test optional (they will not take your score into account when reviewing your application). If you’d like to show your skills in other areas, some colleges will allow you to share supplemental materials in different forms in an area you excel in.

8. Plan!

There are a ton of deadlines to meet (early decision, early action, FAFSA, etc.) especially when you are applying to lots of schools, so you’ll need a way to organize them. Make sure you have a planner to organize them and keep up with them so you don’t miss any. Communicate those dates to a parent so they can get you any information you need.

9. Don’t give up and don’t hold back

This is not the time to hold anything back. If you have a dream school– apply! You never know what’s going to happen. So don’t give up before you’ve even started. Write the essay you want to write. Push yourself!

10. Fight Senioritis!

“The school year’s just started and it’s still kind of hard not to want to just chill,” said senior Camille Vanleer. “I have to push myself and remind myself of the ultimate goal.”

I know it’s hard and it hits hard, but you have to fight senioritis. Whenever you feel it creeping up, slap it away! You have to try to keep your grades up because colleges check second semester grades, so you can’t afford a major slip up. Stay strong and take breaks when you need it to keep your mentally healthy and able to function.

11. Check It Once, Check It Twice

Before submitting, check your work! Check that you clicked the correct boxes. Read over any written responds a dozen times. Read them out loud. Read them to a friend, a family member. Make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Then check it again.

All in all, be sure to stay calm and have a positive attitude. Your friends are going through the same thing, so talk to them if you’re struggling or just need someone to discuss with. Parents, teachers, and counselors are all here to help you as well. And don’t forget: college applications are a stepping stone, not an end goal. Instead of getting stressed about filling in the application, get excited about where it has the potential to take you!