5 Important Components to a College Application

With the exception of California’s fleet of public universities and a handful of other institutions across the United States, nearly all “regular decision” deadlines fall sometime between December 15th and January 15th of each year. While a fortunate few students are in the unique position of applying to one or several schools “early,” the overwhelming majority of students will be following the “regular” deadline cycle. Upon returning to high school in September of senior year, most students will have approximately three months to create, refine and submit all of their college application materials to their schools of choice. It is during these particularly exhaustive few months that students are tasked with the prospects of juggling their most challenging academic workloads to date while moonlighting as de facto college application project managers responsible for the fate of their next four years of education. Substandard applications and missed deadlines can be the unfortunate bi-product for students who are trying to survive the most challenging slog of their young, adult lives!


In the hopes of streamlining the college application process while alleviating the stressors associated with it, I generally advise my students to break the college application process down into five smaller components or “projects” that they should account for weekly. Assuming that standardized tests have been completed and any additional materials have been prepared (i.e. artistic submissions, athletic recruiting film…etc.), all students will need to focus on a) finalizing their official “college list” b) asking their teachers for recommendations and coordinating logistics with their Guidance Department c) composing their 650-word Common Application “Personal Statement” d) creating their Common Application “Activities List” and e) writing “supplemental essays” for each school.

While some of these tasks may require drastically more work output than others, I find that there is still tremendous value in monitoring each individual project steadfastly. There are frequently several dynamic elements associated with each project as well as fluctuating deadlines that can contribute to important work components being lost in the fray. Therefore, I highly recommend that students break down the college application into its most essential elements. If students can create project deadlines for each of these five tasks and complete their work piecemeal, the totality of the college application process becomes much less stressful and students find themselves accomplishing their goals within the allotted 3-4 month time frame.


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