Prioritize and tackle your apps with these simple steps

The season is upon us. No not the pumpkin spice latte Fall kind of season…College app season. And it’s not all warm and fuzzy. Why? Well for starters we have more students applying, with higher overall rigor and scores, and with applications streamlined online, on average students are applying to more schools. Think about it. My job as a college counselor wasn’t around when I was in high school. And while I won’t give my age, it’s not THAT long ago.

But let’s breathe. Because it’s not that we have limited college options. In fact students have the opportunity to thrive at college campuses that WANT them. Students have more access and resources than ever before. All they have to do is SIMPLIFY.

The chaos of app season comes because there’s simply more information to deal with. More app portals, too many schools on the college list and thinking that more is better. If you can strategically apply in a simplified way, not only will your apps be stronger but you’ll be a better candidate for your dream reach school AND feel confident in having multiple admission officers and financial aid on the table. So let’s do this.

Prioritize and tackle your apps with these simple steps

  • Apply to a balanced list of colleges around 2-3 in each category (safety, target and reach) Find Resources for a Balanced College List for some guidance
  • More reach schools don’t increase your odds.Quality over quantity. If you’re applying to a reach school, presenting a stronger application overall and being able to REALLY show why your a good fit for the university can help. With all of the supplements and essays like “why us” for an admission team to advocate for you you’ll really want to send a killer compelling app. That takes time. A lot of time. Don’t cloud your reach schools with having too many on your list.
  • Be smart about early apps. Have a school with rolling admissions? Send it in! Applying Early Decision? Only if it makes sense to you. Applying Early Action? Don’t cram all of your applications early. If it’s available send in a few of your top choices. Remember supplemental essays can add up so be mindful about sending in all your apps early.
  • Prioritize what’s due first. A few early apps due Nov. 1 or 15, UC and Cal States due Nov. 30, then what? Prioritize.
  • Set designated times to work on apps and work on one app at a time. There’s no sense in spending 2 hours putting in half effort on a couple apps while you check your phone, have Netflix in the background and pause for dinner. Set a timer for a shorter amount of designated time and focus on one app. Then when the timer is done, feel free to walk away feeling productive.
  • Print a calendarand write down your due datesso you can visually see when things are do. Include financial aid and scholarship deadlines, applications and reminders for sending in SAT/ACT scores and transcripts.
  • Don’t compare to your peers. Just don’t. The person saying they’re completely done with their apps or they’re WAY ahead…they’re not. Trust me. Honor YOUR timing in this process.
  • Self-care. What is the one activity that allows you to zone out, laugh, be at peace and clear your mind? Playing guitar, skateboarding, writing, listening to music, Yoga, video games, a nap. Do it! Incorporate self-care no matter how small.

Here’s to a successful application season!


Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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