If you will be applying to college soon, you will want to sit down and create a college application plan. There are so many important pieces to the college application process, and you won’t want to miss a single one. Follow the steps outlined here to craft a comprehensive college application plan.
Designate a Calendar or Spreadsheet for your Plan
You’re going to need to keep track of a lot of information, so you’ll want to start an excel spreadsheet and/or a calendar to track your progress, deadlines and admission requirements. Label everything clearly and set deadlines for accomplishing each task.
Figure Out Which Colleges You’ll Apply To
Have you narrowed your search down to a few specific colleges? Have you checked into the true cost of attending these colleges or looked at what the admission requirements are?
You will want to check into the following as you choose which colleges to which to apply: cost, admission requirements (average GPA and entrance exam scores), and what you’ll be expected to contribute financially (and how much financial aid you can expect to receive.)
After you’ve narrowed down your options, record these institutions on your spreadsheet and/or calendar. Label each college as to whether it is a pretty good bet you’ll get in or if it is a “reach” school, meaning it is a reach to get into it.
Look Up Deadlines and Application Requirements
You’ll need to keep a checklist for each of the colleges you wish to apply to. On this checklist, you will need to list all the admission requirements and deadlines. Be sure to mark these deadlines on the calendar as well. Be careful to give yourself plenty of time to accomplish each task, remembering that some pieces of information are tougher to get than others.
In some cases, you will need to rely on others to be responsible with the tasks. For example, you will need to ask your high school counselor to send over your transcripts (since you could tamper with it if you touched it yourself), so you’ll need to give your high school counselor adequate notice. You can’t call them the day the transcripts are due and expect them to get it done on time.
Schedule Campus Visits
You’ll want to visit these colleges in person before you are stuck trying to decide between two acceptances (without actually seeing either campus!). Check out official college or university websites and find out when campus tours are available.
Prepare For and Set Up Entrance Exams
Will you need to take the ACT, the SAT or both entrance exams? Invest in college preparation courses, books or classes and schedule the exam dates ahead of time. You should make sure you have taken your exams before October of his or her senior year of high school.
Make an Appointment with Your High School Counselor
You may need specific items that only your high school counselor can provide (information on scholarships, contact information for teachers who are no longer with the school.) You will benefit from at least one-on-one meeting with the counselor, so set this up early on.
Request Letters of Recommendation
You will also need letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches, pastors or other adults who know you well. In some cases, the college will only accept letters of recommendation from the school counselor, so you’ll want to make sure you are on good terms with the counselor and that they know you well.
Practice Writing Skills
College entrance essays (and writing tests for SAT and ACT) can be deal-makers or deal-breakers for some colleges. If you are not getting enough writing instruction at school, you’ll want to invest in some sort of outside tutoring service. You can download free writing practice assignments, write practice essays and submit them for evaluation by your high school’s teachers, or hire a tutor.
Sticking to your College Application Plan
Once you’ve got your application plan in order, you’ll just need to motivate yourself to stick with the plan. Consider the following suggestions:
- Set electronic reminders on your smart phone or computer
- Write deadlines on a calendar you check frequently
- Celebrate with a reward (like going out to eat) when you’ve finished a set number of the tasks on the plan
- Offer tangible incentives for yourself that you know you’ll appreciate
It’s essential that you complete all the tasks on your application plan so you won’t miss out on a valuable opportunity. While the process may seem daunting at first, you’ll discover it’s not that intimidating if you break it down into achievable milestones.