Tip of the Month: How to Deal?! Managing College Applications

This time of the year, high school seniors across the country are taking their last-first-day of school steps…well of high school at least. This time can bring a lot of feelings: excitement, nervousness, joy, nostalgia, a little mix of all of the above in the bit of your tummy! So before we move on to the next section of this blog, I want to remind you to stay present in these moments and feelings. You will only experience your senior year of high school once (the good, the bad and the ugly), so take it in…

Moving on to an exciting and, yet, equally nerve-wracking topic – College Applications. By now, the adults in your life, the strangers you meet, and the person at the desk beside you have probably asked, “So, what are your college plans?” While you might be thinking, “Ugh [mom, Bianca from French, or Bill from the Farmers Market] mind your business!” What you might say is “I’m still looking” or “I want to go to XYZ College” or, my favorite, “I simply do not know because this is a big deal and a big decision for a person to make and I really don’t want to talk about this right now [@Bianca from French] !” 

This whole thing can be a bit overwhelming. Let’s take a deep breath after that last response. Breathe in 2, 3, 4, and out 2, 3, 4. Okay, so on to the Tip! The application process is all about taking little steps to achieve a big goal: applying to college. Here are some ways to break the entire process into digestible pieces and take them one at a time. The goal here is to not be overwhelmed, but to simply be “whelmed”.

1: Start with the Common App

Select a day, when you are not stressed or pressed for time, grab yourself a snack, some water, and fill out the nitty gritty parts of the Common Application. You’ll be asked for your name, family and school information, activities, and a few more general things. This is a time-consuming process, but the nice part of the Common Application is that if you are applying to any of the over 700 Common Application schools, you only have to do it once.  You can also fill in part of it, save it and come back to it later. 

2: Draft your personal statement

On a different day, when you’re feeling good, start writing! The Common App offers several prompts to help guide your thoughts. There are plenty of online resources to help you workshop and generate ideas. Check out some of our tips!

3: Add schools that interest you and investigate requirements

Find out if any of the schools to which you are interested in applying to requires additional writing samples (like Harvey Mudd does).  Take a look at those questions as well as the new essay topics on the Common App and start thinking (if you haven’t already) about which one fits you best. Think about the stories you want to share with colleges and find the topic that will allow you share what you want. The topics are intentionally very open-ended.  Start on drafts of essays – no matter how rough.  There is nothing harder to start from than a blank page, so get something, anything, down as a start.

4: Request Letters of Recommendation

Do some thinking about who you would like to write your recommendations to, and make sure that you are submitting recommendations that fill a college’s requirement. In HMC’s case, this means getting one recommendation from a math or science teacher and one from a humanities or social science teacher.  Be ready to ask your teachers early so they don’t get overcommitted. Perhaps send them an e-mail letting them know what you enjoyed about their class and reminding them of any projects or papers you did for them.

5. Stay organized

Completing these tasks will get you going in the right direction, but you must keep yourself organized in the process. You may find it helpful to create a Google Drive or Folder for your college search. Some students like to use spreadsheets or checklists to keep track of dates, deadlines, and other tasks. Whatever floats your boat- just stay organized. 

 In the coming months, we will cover financial aid, final touches on the application, and more! Good luck!