You did what you promised yourself you would not do—you procrastinated and now you need to complete your college applications over your holiday break. Rest assured that you are not alone in this as many of your peers are in the same boat. You may be feeling overwhelmed by the mountain of work in front of you and the magnitude of the importance of that work, but it is very likely that the school you will attend next year sits in that pile of to-dos.
[Read more: 9 Last-Minute College Application Secrets.]
The first thing that you need to do is to get organized. Look at which deadlines are early, which college applications will be harder, and which schools are your highest priority. You might have been ambitious in creating your college list, believing that you could easily tackle 20 applications. You probably did that in the summer when time seemed endless. But now as the days are passing, you should go through your list and cut the schools that are not on your radar anymore. You need to focus your time and energy on the college applications that matter most to you. Sending in 20 mediocre applications will not get you any closer to your goal. This is certainly not permission to cut your backup schools, though. Your list should maintain its balance.
2. Create a schedule.
Sit down and map out the remaining days until your applications are due. Write down which essays you will complete on which day. Give yourself a couple of days to review your essays and applications before the deadline. Take the time to proofread. Spell and Grammar Check should not be your only editing guides. Remember, the goal of the essay is not just its aesthetic appeal. It has to say something important about you. Admissions officers need to learn about you through your writing. It should serve as a nice complement to the rest of the application.
[Make sure you haven’t made any of these 6 mistakes.]
3. Don’t skip a review.
Once you have finished your college application and are ready to submit, review it thoroughly. Have your parents or a trusted advisor review it for you—just to catch any errors you might have missed or messages that you certainly do not intend to send. Don’t do a quick scan on the computer. Print it out, read through it, really scour it, and make sure it is as perfect as it can be. Remember that if you are submitting your application through the Common or Universal Application, there are three components to a complete college application: your application, the supplement, and the payment. Missing any one of those pieces will constitute an incomplete application.
Beyond the application itself, confirm that your letters of recommendations have been submitted, your test scores have been sent in through the official reporting agencies, and that all transcripts have been requested. You want your application to be complete as soon as possible. Admissions officers are unlikely to even see an application that is missing one of its core requirements. Delaying any of these items means that your application will get delayed, which could hurt your admissions chances.
[Make sure to check The Ultimate College Application Checklist.]
4. Spend your time wisely.
While you should be smart about your priorities, do not rush through the writing or submission process. You have worked too hard over the past three and a half years to let this one last week do you in. Let your applications reflect the years of work and not the months of procrastination. And promise yourself that you will not wait this long the next time you have to apply for something important.
Purvi Mody is the co-owner of Insight Education and is an education contributor to the Daily News, Mercury News, and StudentAdvisor. She has been interviewed for several articles and books, as well as radio and television shows. She has worked with students across the United States and other countries including India, China, Korea, Dubai, and the UK on the increasingly complex college admissions and financial aid processes.