So Many Deadlines! 5 Tips for Organizing Your College Applications

Perhaps your favorite gift last holiday season was a label maker (mine was!) or maybe you are a self-proclaimed World Class Procrastinator. Regardless of where you fall on the personal organization continuum, the college application process is comprised of many types of deadlines for each college or university. All too often, one school’s application deadline happens on the same day (or during the same week) as another school’s scholarship deadline.

With so many moving parts to keep track of, empower yourself with a system! Follow these five tips to build structure around a multi-layered process:

1. Designate the space

Locate one area in your home for all of your paper-based, college-related materials to land. Communicate this information to everyone with whom you live so that any mail, handouts, etc. are funneled directly to your designated space. EXAMPLES: Your desk. A drawer in the filing cabinet. A table in your room. An area of the home office.

2. Pick out the office supplies

Designate a notebook, accordion-style folder, or various file folders for your lists, handouts, and mailings. EXAMPLES: A file folder for each school. Keep a folder of general information too (e.g. testing dates and deadlines, handouts from your counselor/advisor, etc.)

3. Record deadlines for each school

Paper-based: Use a separate piece of notebook paper for each school. Digitally based: Use a separate “sheet” for each school within the program. Locate deadlines on the school website or through your high school’s database (e.g. Naviance). Record each college’s deadline for the following:

  • Application (the one under which you intend apply – e.g. Early Action – Nov. 1st)
  • Programs such as certain majors or honors options (if applicable)

  • Institutional Scholarships (if separate application from admission is required)

  • Portfolio Submissions or Auditions (if applicable)

  • FAFSA and/or CSS Profile filing deadline

  • Any deadlines required by your high school counseling office

4. Make a Master Calendar

Compile all deadlines into one master document. More visually-oriented? Use markers, color-coding, sticky notes and/or a true grid-based calendar. Linear in your thinking? Create a list (either paper or digital) organized by the upcoming dates. Take it one month at a time!

5. Develop a Weekly To-Do List

Using your Master Calendar, make a weekly To-Do List based on the upcoming deadlines for that month. Use an app in your phone, personal agenda book, or a notebook for this task. Set reminders in your phone for marquee tasks to be addressed. Designate one hour on the same day each week to review the Master Calendar and compile the next week’s To-Do List

Above all else, follow the system you put in place! When you know what is coming next, your mental and emotional energy is liberated to enjoy the process!