Unfinished College Applications

By Lauren Nicholson

Unfinished College Applications

It's December, which means that application deadlines are looming and many seniors are feeling the pressure. Here are five steps to help you finish those applications without breaking out into a stress rash:

1. Assess your schedule. Be honest with yourself—how much time do you have left to finish your applications? Days? Weeks? Make a reasonable plan—for instance, that you'll work on your apps for two hours a day for the rest of the month—and stick to it. In order to hold yourself accountable for this plan, feel free to share it with your parents or create your own application support group.

2. Make lists. If you truly haven't started your college research yet, it's time to create a balanced college list and make a note of each college's deadlines. Make lists of all of the applications you'll need to fill out, the test scores and transcripts you'll need to send, the recommendation letters you'll need to request, the essays you'll need to write, and the financial aid documents that your family will need to fill out.

3. Tackle anything time-sensitive. Take a look at those lists you made in step two and take care of anything with looming deadlines. For instance, you'll need to ask for letters of recommendation well in advance of the published deadlines in order to give your recommenders plenty of time to write them, and you'll need to send test scores and transcripts in advance to make sure that the colleges have enough time to match them with your other application materials.

4. Draft those essays. Remember the list of required essays that you made in step two? It's time to start writing. Brainstorm your essays effectively and consolidate your efforts whenever you can—it'll save you a lot of time in the long run.

5. Set a timer. If you find yourself struggling to sit down and work on steps 1 - 4, try setting a timer. Tell yourself that you'll only work on your apps for two hours (or even one), but that you'll give the apps your entire focus for that period of time. Turn off your phone and get started. You'll be surprised at how much you can get done in a short period of time if you really focus!