Staying organized during the college admissions process: advice from college freshmen.

Sana Muneer, Editor in Chief

Whether it’s talking about dream schools, thinking about which teachers to request letters of recommendation from, or brainstorming ideas for answering supplemental essays, the college to-do list seems never ending.

For seniors who aren’t sure where to start with college applications, here are some tips from college freshmen who attended South on how to stay organized and consistent with applications. 

Make a spreadsheet for your college list

Many students will make a college spreadsheet detailing each school’s location, application fee, GPA and SAT/ACT ranges, ideal major/minor, and acceptance rates to help in staying organized throughout the admission process. 

Alina Muzammil, a freshman at DePaul University who graduated from South in 2022, utilized Google Sheets for her college spreadsheet needs. 

Muzammil remarked, “I love spreadsheets to keep myself organized, and to know what prompts I need to write for each college and what requirements they have.”

Maya Page, a freshman at Northwestern who also graduated from South in 2022, loved her college spreadsheet.

“It was so helpful because I was able to put all the important pieces of information about each college (tuition, acceptance rate, accepting test scores, my personal ranking of the college, etc.) into one easily accessible place. It definitely helped me feel more organized.”

Make a separate college email

Parents and students both understand the painstaking process of deleting endless automated emails sent from colleges and universities. 

In order to make sure important information from colleges or scholarships is received and seen, creating a separate email address is beneficial. Another perk of having a separate account for college related emails and documents is having a new Google Drive account reserved for college essays and supplementals. 

As almost every university requires multiple extra documents and essays to submit along with a ‘Common App’ personal statement, having folders and sections for each school helped students like Page and Muzammil stay organized and make sure everything required per school was together. 

Manage your time

Lastly, work hard, but also take time for yourself. Whether it’s setting timers for taking breaks, working consistently or using methods like the Pomodoro to stay on top of things, finding a routine that works for you and sticking to it will benefit in the long run. 

Muzammil personally preferred going to a coffee shop or the library and working for 2-3 hours straight before taking a long break. Others may prefer working in 25-30 minute chunks and taking a 15 minute break between. 

Muzammil, who’s a part of the DePaul Pathway Honors program, started the college application process early. She also mentioned that she does not recommend seniors apply to an excessive amount of colleges – she herself applied to ten.

Page advised, “Turn on mental blinders, don’t compare yourself to others too much. Make sure you’re pacing yourself well, but don’t get into comparing your essay, your extracurriculars, the college you’re applying to to other people. It just makes the process more stressful. When decisions start coming back, do not take it too personally if you get waitlisted or rejected. It definitely will not be a great feeling at the time, but it  does not at all reflect who you are or your worth. You will end up going to a school you really enjoy even if it’s not the exact school you had in mind.”

Page continued that seniors should, “try not to have a specific thing planned out in your head, meaning don’t be like ‘ok i’m going to this school no matter what’. Try not to expect anything and have an open mind!”

The months of August to January are nonstop for seniors. With school, college applications, extracurriculars, sports, family, friends, and other commitments students may have, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose motivation. 

However, in these tough moments, remember that thousands of other seniors are in the same stressed position you may be in. 

Page remarked that her biggest takeaway from college applications was, “It doesn’t end up being about the most elite, lowest acceptance rate college you can possibly attend- it’s more like you pick the one that makes the most financial sense, that you would personally feel most yourself at, and that has the program you like!”

From a high senior in Glen Ellyn to all other seniors, you aren’t alone – and will end up at the college you’re meant to be at. Good luck!