The 5 R's of College Applications

College application season doesn't have to be stressful! Just keep these five R's in mind and you're sure to come out of it unscathed.

College application season can be stressful, tiring, and heartbreaking. But the truth is that it doesn’t have to be. With planning, preparation, and faith, completing college applications can be an exciting experience. It’s a bonding moment for students, and when things get tough, remember that you are not alone. You can reach out to your peers and teachers to vent and ask for advice. Many have gone before you in this process, and it’s always helpful to learn from the advice of others. Below are five R’s to keep in mind as you’re working on your college applications. Now go out and have a great application season!

1. Remember

Four years is a long time. A lot can happen throughout your time in high school, and it can be hard to remember every amazing thing you did. You want to brag about all your achievements to college admission counselors—if you don’t brag, they’ll have no idea what a great student you are. The easiest way to remember is to create a résumé, list, or spreadsheet for all your accomplishments, clubs, sports, volunteering, etc. Many colleges will ask for a résumé to be submitted in addition to an essay. This way you will have one on file and won’t forget to mention anything. Spreadsheets are preferable for volunteering; that way you can add up all your hours quickly.

2. Research

You don’t want to apply to 40 colleges, but you don’t really want to apply to only one either. The more colleges you apply to, the more the cost for application fees and the more headaches. So you should narrow your college applications to your top choices, the colleges you can actually see yourself attending. At the same time, as the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you’re applying to extremely competitive schools, remember to have a backup option. This should be a school that you are confident will accept you—but it should still be a college that you would be happy to attend. Through research, you can find colleges that will suit your needs and be your perfect college match for the next four years.

Related: How to Pick Your Safety, Match, and Reach Colleges

3. Reference

Students are the best college resource that exists. When looking at colleges and visiting campuses, talk to current students who attend. I’ve learned that college kids are typically really excited to talk about their college and why they picked it. Oftentimes, they will be honest and tell you all the good and the bad. Don’t forget about students who have graduated before you too. Many of our graduated friends will be more than happy to grab coffee and talk about any college application headaches. Not only is this a great excuse to see friends and get coffee, but it can help you learn what you want in a college and how to pick one.

4. Review

Everything! Read over every résumé and essay a few times—finalizing your application is the most important step. Once our brain gets tired, it’s easier to overlook small errors. Make sure to give your brain a breather, get food and water, then take another look. Ask someone else to take a look too. The worst moment is finding a spelling error in your essay once you’ve submitted it. That happened to me once, and it was fairly awkward asking if I could resubmit another version of my essay before the official due date. In my case, the admission counselor was very nice about it, but not every college will be so lenient.

Related: 10 Things to Do Before You Submit Your College Applications

5. Relax

The biggest thing to remember is this is your senior year of high school! Everyone is just as confused and stressed as you are. After you submit your college applications, take a break from worrying to enjoy the last few moments as a high school student. Go to a sports game if you’ve never been, or attend a school play at least once. Appreciate your high school friends as you make memories that will help shape you into the best version of yourself.

Are you ready?

The key to crushing the college application process is through organization and planning. If you keep your materials together, put your due dates on your calendar, keep a spreadsheet of your research, you’ll do just fine. And if you find yourself in a moment of stress, remember these five R’s, and take a breather and relax before diving back in. Good luck with your college applications!

Find more helpful application advice in our College Admission section!

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