Originally Posted: Apr 29, 2016
Last Updated: Sep 29, 2020
Does the thought of applying to all the colleges on your list make your head spin? It can seem overwhelming, but somehow I managed to apply to 13 schools Early Action...without losing my mind! How'd I manage? I'll tell you all about it! Here's my best advice on how to survive the college application season.
Talk to your counselor
My school has a website where you sign up online to schedule appointments with your counselor, and if I could go back in time, I would schedule an appointment with her every two weeks from the beginning of October through the middle of December, because those spots fill up quickly. Regardless of whether or not you have questions, checking in with my counselor mentally and paperwork wise made the process a lot easier on both of us. And as an added bonus, if some questions do pop up as you apply, your counselor will surely answer them promptly before you mess something up.
Write the essays ASAP
I started sending my common app essay to teachers to edit in September. By October, editing appointments were filling up rapidly. At schools like mine, there are 700 seniors all trying to apply at the same time, so, again, scheduling appointments early is a lifesaver. Having an appointment to meet with an editor may also serve as motivation to write your essays early, so meet early and often. Additionally, check out the prompts for all of your schools and see which essays are similar enough that you can use the same one over (with minor revisions, as necessary.) I ended up just slightly tweaking a lot of essays instead of totally rewriting. Without that, I'm not sure I would've finished in time.
Send in your stuff early
By “stuff” I mean everything: transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, and the application itself. There is no worse feeling than waking up the morning after the app due date and realizing you forgot to send your SAT scores and then spending extra money to get them rush ordered to your schools (*cough me cough*). Even if your scores and transcripts are due after the application itself, send them early so you never have that panic attack. That goes for your application too. Stanford doesn’t care if your internet died at 11:57, because to them, late is late. To avoid situations like that, send your app in as soon as it’s done.
Apply early, if possible
I applied early to all of my schools, because usually the best scholarships and admission to the honors colleges go hand-in-hand with early applications. None of mine were binding, but make sure you research whether a school’s Early Action option is binding or not, and also check the date the Early Action application is due. For Purdue, for example, the early application deadline was October 30 even though the date on Common App said February 1, because that was the Regular Decision date. Keep everything marked in your calendar, and set plenty of reminders for yourself. Getting everything done first semester will be a massive weight off your shoulders.
Check your email every day
You may or may not have already gotten into this habit, but important e-mails come all the time during application season, so check your inbox constantly (and turn push notifications on!). I usually check mine when I wake up, after I get home from school, and before I go to bed. I started to actually read the bajillion e-mails I was getting from colleges, and through this practice I got a fee waiver for the University of Minnesota, a decision from the University of Tennessee two days before the letter came, and an extension on two of my honors college applications. Essentially, checking your e-mail never hurts.
To summarize, my best advice is to keep organized, and make sure you let people know inadvance when you need something from them. As long as you keep in control and don’t let this process take over your life, you’ll do just fine. Just maybe don’t apply to 13 schools. I can’t recommend it with much confidence.
For more articles and advice, check out our College Application Process section!