One peek in your son’s room confirms that he’s in the midst of the college application process. His floor is littered with school viewbooks, post-it notes obscure his computer screen, and his test score summary has gone AWOL. One thing is certain: if colleges are looking for well-organized students, he’ll be getting mostly thin envelopes. You wonder how he’ll ever pull it all together!
Take a deep breath, and consider this: in no time at all, your high school student will be in college and in charge of his own life – including his own paperwork. So why not take this “teachable moment” to show him how a good organizational system can be a de-stresser and confidence-builder. Here are three easy steps to get you both started:
- Make a list.
With so many details to manage, there’s nothing like the good-old checklist. Have your student keep a running To Dolist. No matter what stage of the application process she’s in, she’ll feel in control if all the steps are laid out before her. Even something simple – sign up for standardized tests, research colleges, write essays, get letters of recommendation – can keep things from falling through the cracks.
- Create a master calendar.
Get a big wall calendar that’s just for application-related dates. Have your student keep it current with college fairs, campus visits, test dates, application deadlines, etc. By checking it regularly, he’ll know what’s coming up and can plan his time accordingly.
- Develop a filing system.
Even with online applications, the process is far from paperless. Work with your student to set up a simple filing system: an in-box for mail and pending items, a quick-access file for info that she’ll want to reference frequently, and a file box for “deep storage” – viewbooks, copies of applications, financial aid and loan info, and school correspondence. Getting in the habit of managing paper flow will pay dividends in the future – for example, when she files her first tax return.
- Track your progress.
If your student is like most, he’s working on several applications – each with its own requirements and deadlines. It’s key that he know what’s been submitted and what remains to be done for each one. Suggest that he record the date he submits each part of an application (application, transcript, test scores, recommendations, fees, etc.) It’s also helpful to note how each part was submitted – online or by snail mail – and how fees were paid – check or credit card. With a separate sheet for each school, he’ll be able to track his progress and also have a record in case something needs follow-up.
These steps can’t guarantee a sweep of acceptance letters – but they just might give your student an edge. After all, the secret to getting in is getting organized.
Susan Rothstein and Diane Brandt
Creators of the Captio® AppliCase™ – the complete system for applying to college.