I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to organizing: I live for color-coded notes and perfectly labeled folders. The purpose is, in part my aim to make life #aestheticallypleasing, but also to make this hectic season a bit more manageable. I see my peers spend 15 minutes looking for a single piece of paper and constantly blurt, “Oh crap, is that due today?”. During admissions season, there’s absolutely no wiggle room for late applications, so being on your A-game is more important than ever.
Here, I’m sharing a few tips that my friends and I used to get organized:
Brainstorming for college applications is arduous: not every single extracurricular or every single possible essay topic will come to you instantly. If a great idea hits you while you’re in the middle of the grocery store, where are you going to write that down to remember? Whether it’s a Notes app on your phone or small notebook, make sure to have one set space for random thoughts. Even though your ideas may be sporadic and incoherent, hosting them on one platform is much better than hoarding crumpled Post-Its and scribbling on your hand. That way, when you sit down to actually write your essays, you can pull up your braindump document to look for some ideas and inspiration.
Facts & Figures Spreadsheet
Whether you’re applying to 4 or 24 schools, it’s going to take some serious brainpower to remember every single detail. I took the spreadsheet route, with a row for each school I applied to and a column for every possible point of information I needed to remember: due dates, fees, letter of recommendation, interviews, SAT/ACT codes, portal login info, and much much more. This will be incredibly helpful when you wonder “Wait, how many letters of recommendation are required and how many are optional?” and spending five minutes Googling and searching for the answer. Include any hyperlinks needed, such as application portals or the school’s website. You can also color-code to your liking: perhaps filling in the box when you’ve sent in your application, or going Stoplight method (green, yellow, and red) for your safety, target, and reach schools.
Not only will each school have varying application due dates, but you’ll have a long list of scholarship and financial aid due dates to keep track of as well. I use Google Calendar to keep track of every important date; the best part is its automatic cross-platform syncing between my phone and laptop. You can color-code your dates and set reminders a few days ahead of time to keep yourself on track.
To prepare for my own college interviews, I took tips from this other TP article about creating an interview cheat sheet. In summary, I listed highlights from each school and wrote sample interview questions with personal answers.