Getting Organized for the Last Lap

From time to time, we will be welcoming guest bloggers to the website. Today, we're pleased to host Ana Homayoun, an expert on time-management and organization. You may notice that our guests' recommendations don't always jibe with the guidance in our book -- for example, we recommend that you do your essays first, before the rest of the application! But not all great minds think alike and we believe you can benefit from a broad spectrum of advice and expertise. As you count down to your deadlines, Ms. Homayoun is here to help: When it comes to the college application process, I often think of December as akin to the third of the four laps of the timed mile run in P.E. class. Even though you have already done so much and exhaustion is starting to creep in, there still may be a key amount of work left to do before the finish/submission line. Some students feel as though they have been hearing about college applications forever, and by December many students can find the final details daunting. But some simple steps can make a huge difference in successfully finishing up. Below are a few tips: -          Have a collaborative meeting. If you are struggling to get motivated, set aside a time and have a collaborative meeting with your parents. This collaboration would ideally occur at a favorite local restaurant and is a time for you to brainstorm solutions on how to move forward. If you feel that your counselor or another mentor would be a better source to help you think up solutions, ask to meet with them. -          Set aside blocks of time -- 2 to 3 times a week -- to work on applications. On a calendar, block out 2-3 two-hour blocks every week to work on college applications free of technological distractions (put your phone on silent in the other room, turn off instant messenger, and log out of Facebook). It’s amazing how much faster things can get done when you aren’t being interrupted by the bizzz! of a text message or the ding! of a new email in your inbox. Students who schedule their time often comment that the process feels much less stressful and they feel much more in control. -          Log-In Sheets Can Be A Lifesaver. There is nothing worse than getting to the final steps and forgetting your user name and/or passwords and having to go through all the steps to have them re-sent or re-set. Create one document with all user names and passwords for each application website, as well as any standardized testing websites. It will save time and annoyance later. -          Create Virtual and Real Folders for each school. College communication can sometimes overwhelm you and your inbox. Create email folders for each school to which you are applying and file the emails away. Go through each folder every week during the time you have set aside so you don’t miss anything important – like housing sign-ups. Likewise, create a real binder with tabs for each school and print out important correspondence (i.e. receipt of payment for submitting your application, SAT testing information, etc.) so that everything in is one place. -          Make a Chart with All Pertinent Information. If you have not already done so, create an Excel spreadsheet or Google doc with key information about each school – deadlines, number of recommendations required, personal statements, transcript requirements, admissions website address etc. Seeing all information in one place can help you prioritize. ( has some downloadable forms here -- just scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Worksheets.) If a school is on the Common Application, most of this information is in the school information tab. -          Do the Administrative Stuff First and Leave the Essays for Last. It’s easy to get bogged down by short essays and personal statements, which can require time-intensive revisions. Take care of everything else first – filling out your name, giving your parents information, describing extracurricular activities, handing in teacher recommendation forms etc. That way, once you are done with the short answer questions and personal statements, you are ostensibly done with the entire application. Great essay tips can be found here and here. -          Print Preview Everything. Print out each application and read it carefully one last time before submitting. Formats can sometimes shift, and it can also be easier to catch mistakes on paper -- like misspelling your last name -- when your eyes are tired after staring at the computer screen. Have someone else check over a paper copy, as well. There are only a few weeks left! Use these tips to get through those final hurdles. Good luck! Ana Homayoun is the Author of “That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life” (Penguin/Perigee 2010)


Thanks for helping out, excellent information.

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