There are a lot of dates to remember when you’re applying to college, and it can be difficult to keep track of everything. Therefore, organization is key to a successful college application process. There’s no need to feel overwhelmed though; with just a little planning and the right tools, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
The key to organization to meet college application deadlines is to know exactly what you need to keep track of and how to do it. Let’s take a look at the major steps you’ll need to keep track of:
- Application due date(s)
- Scheduling interviews
- Financial aid deadlines
- Turning in transcripts and test scores
Once you have these major tasks in mind, think of the subtasks that come with each of them. For example, when asking for recommendations, you’ll need to make sure you give whoever you’re asking enough notice (presumably a couple of weeks), confirm they sent it in, and then give them a thank you note. Similarly, for college essays, you’ll need enough time to choose your topic, outline your essay, write a draft, and edit it all before you turn it in.
Keep in mind that some of these tasks can and should be accomplished in your junior year or near the end of it, such as the SAT and the ACT. If you’re organizing your materials in your senior year, you can simply check off important things you’ve already done.
Now that you have your application materials and dates laid out, you can organize them for maximum efficiency. Decide first if you’re going to organize your materials by school, by type of material you’ll need to keep track of (such as essays), or if it’s helpful to you, both.
The first thing you’ll need to organize your materials is a large binder. Having a binder or a folder to keep all of your materials in will serve as a quick reference for anything you need. Ideally, you would have separate tabs or sub-folders to ease your ability to find whatever you put into it.
Next, you’ll want a calendar, or maybe two: one for your binder and one in an often-seen location, like your desk or your kitchen. You could also use a phone or web app if that’s helpful to you. Whether you prefer a paper calendar, a phone or web application, or some other type of calendar, having somewhere to place specific dates for each deadline is important.
To take your calendar to the next level, use different colors for different types of due dates or for different schools. It’ll serve as a quick visual reminder for what’s coming up when. Not only will this specific kind of writing help you remember deadlines, it can be a fun and productive diversion to design your calendar and tasks.
Finally, you’ll want a couple of task lists for your binder. This is where you’ll list the subtasks you gathered before for your essays, recommendations, or anything else. You may want to list all of these tasks and subtasks onto one major spreadsheet, perhaps with the dates from your calendar mixed in. That way you have a quick reference sheet for everything. Plus, when you finish a task, you can check it off on your spreadsheet to see your progress as you go along.
You can also set your own dates in here. For example, if an application is due on January 1st, you might aim to turn it in on December 15th. This can be helpful if you know you tend to procrastinate, miss deadlines, or find dates motivating.
Not only will it be a big relief to you to not have to worry about important deadlines, the skills you develop now will help you again and again in college. In college, no one keeps track of your schedule except for yourself, so being organized beforehand will show you have a leg up over other students applying along with you.