So maybe you waited a little longer than you planned to get started on the college application process. You meant to take your standardized tests again to try and get a better score. You had every intention of talking to your guidance counselor about letters of recommendation. You were going to visit schools over Spring Break and throughout the summer after junior year, you really were.
But then life happened. And now it’s senior year and application deadlines are looming. What to do?
First: Do. Not. Panic.
Here is a to-do list to help you play catchup:
Find Your Recommenders
If you’re behind schedule, the very first thing you want to do senior year is to find your recommenders. Ideally, you’ve formed relationships with some teachers, mentors, advisors, and/or other adults, and you’ll know exactly who will write the best possible endorsement of your skills. Go to them as early as possible, so that they have the time to craft the best recommendation they can. (Also so that you can pop in to remind them, if they forget, and have it not be at the last minute.)
Get The Tests Done
Check with your schools of choice: many of them will take SAT/ACT scores after their application deadlines. Know your deadlines for each school, and plan accordingly. Don’t forget to register for the test in advance!
Visit If You Can, Network If You Can’t
We believe that there’s no better way to feel out a college fit than being on campus, in person. However, particularly when it’s crunch time, that’s not always feasible. Therefore: if you can’t visit, try scoping out Facebook groups for the school and looking at student blogs if the Office of Admissions offers them on their website, to give you a second-hand sense of what it would mean to be a student at the school. Still not sure? Send in the application—you can always decline an offer, but you can’t get an offer without applying first. And you can always visit after you’ve been accepted!
Do Not Discount Brainstorming
Writing is hard. Writing essays based on predetermined prompts is harder. Writing with the stress of a rapidly approaching deadline, with a million other things on your mind?
That might be the hardest.
So try not to be too hard on yourself: don’t convince yourself you don’t have time to prewrite and take notes, for instance. Sometimes, you need some brainstormed ideas in front of you in order to spark the real idea for your admissions essay. Jot ideas in the margins of your homework; keep a notebook handy—anything and everything can help. Knowing that you’re making even a little progress will help allay the stress, and the more you put on paper, the more momentum you’re building to get that essay written.
Plan Ahead: Yes, You Still Can!
When all else fails: tell yourself that every deadline is a week before the real thing. Work and plan with that week’s worth of cushion, and you’ll give yourself space to work out the kinks, if necessary, before that final bell rings.
Remember: you can do this.
And don’t forget to take a long indulgent walk, or get yourself a fancy latte, or buy one of those overpriced, nice bars of chocolate as a reward, when you’re done.