college applications

’Tis the season! The college application season! Yay!

If that doesn’t get you in a festive mood, then — well, you aren’t alone.

This year my Christmas spirit has been replaced with stress, anxiety and an unrelenting desire for sugary snacks. For me, college application season started in early November and won’t end until after January. The workload feels like I’m taking an extra class and, after I’m finished with all my personal essays, I figure I’ll have enough material to write my own autobiography.

While I don’t yet know if my work has paid off, I do know what it takes to finish an application, and to finish it quickly. With that being said, here are eight tips to help you complete your college applications.

1. Keep track of your deadlines.

Deadlines are the most important piece of information given to you on a college application. Whatever you need to do to keep your application deadlines in your head, whether that’s writing them down or putting them in your calendar, do it. You don’t want to be scrambling to submit an application 30 minutes before the deadline. Or 15 minutes before, like I did.

2. Don’t be afraid to contact your counselors.

Your school counselor is a vital part of your application process. Most schools require a counselor recommendation, and every school will request your transcript at one point or another. If you’re a junior or sophomore reading this, you may not know your counselor very well, so asking for a letter of recommendation from them may feel awkward. In reality, it’s not a big deal. Your counselor should be happy to help you get into the college of your choice. It’s part of their job, so don’t be afraid to ask them questions.

3. Make preparations for letters of recommendation.

Many schools require a letter of recommendation from a teacher. When asking for a letter of recommendation, try to make it as easy as possible for your teachers. Teachers are busy, so it’s important to ask for your letters long before they are due. The best practice is to ask for a letter of recommendation at least two weeks before it’s due. A lot of application deadlines fall around holidays, so you might need to ask for one even further in advance. Also, it’s helpful to send your teacher a resume before he or she begins writing that letter; that way, your teacher can recommend you as the whole, well-rounded person you are.

4. Keep a list of your passwords.

Not much elaboration is needed here. Keeping an easy access list of passwords for your various college accounts will save you a lot of time.

5. Research the colleges to which you are applying.

This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to be hypnotized by the endless box-checking and forget that you are applying to a real school with real programs, a real campus, and real benefits and drawbacks. Before applying, make sure you know that this is a school you’d be interested in attending. Also, many schools will ask you to write about what it is that interests you in their programs, so your research will come in handy for that.

6. Beware of supplements!

No, I’m not talking about shady dietary supplements you can find on the internet, although you should be wary of those as well. Rather, I’m talking about application supplements. Depending on what kind of programs or majors you are applying for, you may be required to submit a little more material than the average applicant. This is especially true for those interested in the arts. Actors may have to submit auditions, writers may have to submit pieces of their writing, and artists may have to submit paintings or digital art. If you want to pursue these interests in college, you might want to start assembling a portfolio of your work that can be attached to these supplements when it comes time to apply. Another thing to be aware of is that deadlines for individual schools and programs within a university may be different than the deadline to apply to the university itself.

7. When writing your essays,

brevity is the soul of wit.

Remember, admissions counselors read thousands of essays, so you need to make sure you are conveying to them all the information you want to convey in the shortest amount of time possible.

8. Relax.

Once you’ve submitted your application, try not to worry about whether or not you’ll be accepted. It’s out of your control. Whatever school you end up getting into will be the right one for you. In the meantime, spend time with your friends and family, watch TV, and do homework. Enjoy your senior year.

Lucas Cone is a senior at West Valley High School.

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