How Can I Stay Organized During the College Application Process?

Our experts offer tips for keeping everything in order when you are applying to college.

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Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines! Whether getting recommendations from teachers, sending in applications, or even writing a thank you note to an admissions officer you met during a campus visit, there's always something to remember to do. This week, our experts tell you the best ways to stay organized and keep the stress levels (moderately) low during the application process. Steve Griffin of Eau Claire, Wis., asks:

What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

A: Save. File. These are two top organizing tips.

Rebecca Joseph, executive director and founder, Get Me To College This is the most important time of the year to get and stay organized. First, save all college application usernames and passwords in one place. You can do this on your computer with Mac Stickies or a Microsoft Word document. Colleges require different types of usernames, and not only do you submit applications this way, but you also get admitted and learn about housing, accepting, and enrolling.

Second, use Naviance or a master charter to track all application requirements for deadlines, test scores, teacher and counselor recommendations, as well as transcripts and essays. Track the completion and submission of each. You have the right to check with teachers and counselors. They are busy, so be nice and give little gifts such as Starbucks cards if you can.

See all of Rebecca's expert admissions advice.

[Get more advice on applying to college.]

A: Organization is key to the college application process.

Susie Watts, college consultant, College Direction Choose a place where you keep everything you need. Create a calendar for all deadlines for college applications and scholarships. Read all instructions carefully; it saves time in the end. Work from a personal checklist of "things to do." Write down all user names and passwords for every college. Brainstorm essays and do more than one draft. Check all supplements and complete them. Print out and read all applications before submitting. Have test scores sent from the ACT and College Board directly to colleges. Have transcripts and teacher recommendations mailed or sent from your high school.

See all of Susie's expert admissions advice.

[Get tips for improving your SAT and ACT scores.]

A: Use helpful tools to stay organized.

Jane Shropshire, founder, Shropshire Educational Consulting LLC Folders, calendar/planner, and a timer with alarm—armed with these things, you can organize your college application process magnificently! Folders will collect all that you receive from a college in one place so you won't have to sort through, let's say, Northwestern University's materials when looking for information on University of Michigan. Use your calendar/planner to track applications and target dates for completion. Finally, use your timer and alarm to pace yourself, allotting specific blocks of time for work and breaks for maximum productivity. A talented carpenter once told me that the best advice he ever received was "Use your tools!" Many college applicants agree.

See all of Jane's expert admissions advice.

[Learn how to apply to college for free.]

A: Start with a plan!

Jim McCorkell, CEO, Admission Possible Just like with any major project, it's important to start with a plan. Before you start, determine the deadlines and requirements for each college to which you intend to apply. Also, identify colleges that accept the Common Application or other standardized forms in order to avoid unnecessary work. When you're ready to begin applying, create a checklist for each application noting which materials you're responsible for and which you'll need to ask others for (be sure to give them plenty of time!). Keep applications separate from one another using individual folders or binder clips and double check your materials before sending.

See all of Jim's expert admissions advice.

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