I am feeling overwhelmed trying to get organized and get all my applications completed. Any advice?
It is vital that you create a strategy for organizing all your applications before you start. You can create a tracking form or spreadsheet that lists all your schools, their deadlines, type of application required, additional supplements and forms that need to be submitted such as teacher and counselor forms and secondary school reports. Once you set up your list, you can quickly sort them by whether they are public institutions that use their own applications, those that use the Common Application, and private schools that that have their own forms. I like to have students make of a list of the supplemental questions they will need to complete so they have an idea of the number of essays and short responses required and whether any essays can be reused or tweaked for multiple schools.
Once you are cognizant of your deadlines, you should start with the private schools that require teacher and counselor recommendations. Hopefully you already have this step behind you, since these folks generally require and deserve a few weeks advance notice. The schools that have early deadlines that must be met by mid-January and early February, obviously need to be completed first.
I ask students to have some necessary documents handy before they complete the applications, which makes the process quicker and more efficient. Unless you have committed this information to memory, have your social security number, your driver’s license number, your school code, your unofficial transcript and your resume readily available. Most of the first few pages of any application are demographic data that can be completed quickly. The only difficult part of the application tends to be the multiple page essay required on the Common Application or directed by the school itself. The advantage of the Common Application is that one essay can be reused by each school that subscribes to the Common Application. Most schools do require supplemental essays that usually seek additional information as to why you want to go to that particular school, about obstacles or hardships you may have faced or short answer responses to a myriad of questions ranging from what information might be written about you online to how multiculturalism has played a part in your life.
When college ask why you want to go to a particular school, I find that students generally give a vague answer that could be used generically for any institution. You will want to ensure that you have spent enough time researching each school and academic departments you might be interested in, so you can respond in a specific way. Occasionally, some of this information can be gleaned from material found in the view books you might have received from the college. I find that going online to each college and researching everything from specific courses, professors to extracurricular activities and study abroad programs serves you well when you need to convince admission officers that your decision to apply to their specific school was a well thought-out choice.
Many students from Mercer Island struggle with essays that ask them to speak about diversity, as we tend to have a fairly homogenous community. It really requires you to think outside the box and consider diversity in a broader context. You might need to reflect on any opportunities you might have had through community service projects or even extend it to reflect divergent ways of thinking or how you were raised which may have been different from the norm here on the Island.
Once you have completed the application and either printed it out to send by mail or uploaded your essays so they can be submitted online, it is imperative that you review it multiple times for errors. I like to have another person proof each application at least once, since the Common Application cannot be retrieved once the sent button is pushed. Many a student has been denied an acceptance because of careless errors that are easily avoided. It is so easy to find yourself so rushed and frankly exhausted and tired of the whole process by the time you are submitting your materials. While the temptation exists to just send the darn thing, leave yourself an extra few weeks before the due date when you can come back to an application that you might have had a put down for a few days to look at it again with fresh eyes to make sure that it reflects all the effort and passion you have put into your high school years. You won’t be sorry.