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Five Tips to Streamline Your College Application Process

Jun 29, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Applying to college is stressful. One of the reasons why is that it’s a confusing and complex process. You may be applying to as many as six or eight schools. Each has different expectations, different applications and different essay requirements, and it can be a hassle to get all of those documents together. In addition, you may have to hassle teachers and other adults in your life to write you recommendation letters. If you start late, you may have a hard time making sure those get done on time.

Here are a few tips for making the college application process a little easier and less stressful.

Fill out the common application

Over 150 colleges in the U.S. accept the common application. You can download and print the application form early to get an idea of what you need to do to fill it out. Bear in mind that some colleges may have additional requirements such as separate essay questions or material submissions that you’ll need to follow in addition to using the common application, so check with each school you plan to apply to.

Have a stock essay

If you look over the essay questions you have for various schools, you might notice that the questions tend to be fairly similar.  If this is the case for you, you may not have to write an original essay from scratch for every college you apply to. Choose a theme that’s applicable to all questions, and write an essay in response to that theme. You will probably have to adjust it to fit the individual questions, but it’s still easier than writing an entire essay from beginning to end for each school.

Apply early

Getting started on your college application process early doesn’t just make things easier for you. It also gives you a better chance of being accepted. Some admissions officers advocate applying no later than October 31st of the year prior to the one when you plan to attend college.

While many colleges have rolling deadlines for application, they also admit on a first-come, first-served basis. That means if you wait to apply, the amount of slots available could be much smaller than it was at the beginning of the application process—and your chances of getting in are smaller.

In addition, it’s more common for students to wait to apply—the application process takes time, and Senior Year can be challenging.  So you may not be competing in a large applicant pool if you apply early. This is good news for you.

Get to your teachers early

You may need letters of recommendation from several teachers as part of your college applications. Ask your teachers as soon as you can. Teachers are extremely busy people, and towards the end of the year they are deluged with requests to write thoughtful, insightful and effective recommendation letters for dozens of students. Chances are if you ask them early they will get your letter back to you sooner and be able to write a more thoughtful letter—because they’ll have more time to do it.

Stay organized

The best tactic for keeping everything straight during the application process is to stay organized.  Keep your application documents for each college in its own separate file folder or binder. Mark on your calendar when you need to have each application finished and mailed in. Keep a list of all the documents you need for each school, and cross things off the list as you go.  These organization skills will help you as you apply to college and once you get there, as well.

Applying to college isn’t easy. But there are a few steps you can take to make sure the process is as simple and streamlined as possible. Start early, stay organized, and consolidate essays and applications when you can, and you should be able to get your applications in on time without tearing your hair out.



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