For most moms, dads and high school students, the college application process can be overwhelming and laden with stress. This doesn’t necessarily need to be the case though – staying organized is one way to mitigate anxiety and ensure that you don’t miss any important documents or deadlines.
What do you need to apply to college?
Essays. It’s important to plan early, starting in sophomore or junior year, so that you can determine which colleges your child will apply to. Once you have your college list, you’ll know which essays your son or daughter needs to write. Is it just one essay? Or will it be two or more essays? Your child can often use one essay, changed slightly, for multiple colleges – but you’ll need to keep track. You don’t want your child to tell Harvard that Yale is her first choice!
Letters of recommendation. Keep track of who is writing your child’s letters of recommendation. Some colleges require one letter of recommendation, while others require up to three. Sometimes a college will indicate that it did not receive all of your child’s application materials, so you’ll want to trace what is missing. Also, it’s a nice idea to send a small thank you card or gift to the letter-writers.
Passwords. Your child will use online applications to apply to college – so you’ll need a username and password for each application. Keep track of usernames and passwords to access your child’s application and check his or her progress. Many students apply to ten colleges; it would be impossible to remember all your passwords without organization.
Financial aid. Filling out financial aid forms, particularly the FAFSA, is required to be considered for aid. You can start filling out the FAFSA as early as January 1 each year, and it’s best to complete it as early as possible. Have your W-2 tax forms from the previous year, as well as your SSN, driver’s license #, previous year’s federal income tax return and current bank statements help with the process.
Portfolio of certificates. Your child should not submit copies of certificates and awards to colleges, but instead, you should keep a file of these honors so that you can easily complete the respective application sections. Similarly, if your child has been mentioned several times in, say, the local newspaper for particular achievements, you might want to consider sending colleges a DVD or link to a website that compiles all these articles.
Stay organized by starting an electronic file on your computer desktop and a paper file on your desk. You’ll be able to keep track of what you need to make the application process as painless as possible.