Be aware of deadlinesThe most crucial aspect of the college application process is staying on top of deadlines. Not all universities follow the same deadlines. Between juggling schoolwork, sports, and a social life, it can be easy to forget when application materials are due. To minimize your anxiety, get a calendar or agenda pad where you can note all upcoming application deadlines. If you use a calendar, hang it in a place where you will see it often, such as above your desk or on your bedroom door. You can also use the calendar feature in your cell phone or tablet to keep track of deadlines; one of the advantages of electronic planners is that you can set up alerts to remind yourself days or hours before an application is due. It would be a shame to miss your opportunity at a school because you lost track of the deadline – be sure to stay organized!
Make a scheduleSome high school students plan to apply to several different colleges and then feel overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork that awaits them. There is nothing wrong with applying to many institutions – perhaps your interests are varied or you want to make sure you have options for the fall. However, it essential to make a plan for tackling the various application processes. To ease your stress, dedicate a fixed period of time to completing one particular college application. For example, you could set aside the first week in October for one school’s application and the second week in October for another school’s application. Of course, bear deadlines in mind as you create your schedule. The key is to focus on only one college application at a time. This way, you can concentrate your energy and not feel overwhelmed by everything you still have to do.
Take standardized tests earlyWhether you plan on taking the ACT or the SAT, avoid the temptation to procrastinate. Take your test of choice as soon as you can this college application season. Taking the test early will lighten your load as important deadlines approach. It will also give you time to sit for the ACT or SAT again if you are not pleased with your initial score. Since many test takers do better the second and third time around, you should see if you can improve your score.
Consider your financesNow is the time to think seriously about your financial situation. If your parents are going to help pay for your college education, discuss how much they are able to contribute. If you plan on taking out student loans to pay for college, think about how much debt you are willing to accrue. Loan interest rates can be high, and you must start paying back your loans just six months after you graduate. Depending on the amounts of your loans, you may have to make payments of hundreds of dollars per month. To avoid headache later on, apply to schools that are monetarily feasible for you and your family. Do not be misled by the belief that a prestigious college degree has to be expensive; there are plenty of public institutions that provide world-class educations. College application season is an intense time for high schoolers. But if you can plan ahead and stay organized, you are bound to submit your applications with peace of mind. Tiffany Sorensen is a professional tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Spanish Language & Literature from Stony Brook University.
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