The one thing you can do to skyrocket your college apps

Let the college admission season begin! The University of California application is open to apply to any one or a number of the nine undergraduate UC campuses. The Common Application is ready to go, hosting over 900 applications for universities and colleges. Essay prompts are out and your creative juices are (or will be) flowing all over Google docs.

There is ONE thing you can do that will not only maximize your time, but also maximize your chances for admission. What is it?


Yep. That’s it. Why?

College applications may feel daunting, but it’s really a game of following the rules and being strategic with your time. Yes, you want to ensure you apply to a balanced list of colleges. That’s super important. Once you have your college list, it’s time to get organized. Not only will you be able to structure your time and devote energy towards the colleges due earlier and more time on essays for those reach colleges that really may make a difference in an admission decision, but you’ll also be able to limit the panicking.

When you begin your senior year, undoubtedly, there will be peers raving about how they’ve completed most of their Common App, how they’ve already begin applying and have all their essays completed. Insert panic here.

What is important to remember is that 1. they may be completely lying and nowhere near finished, and 2. who cares? at the end of the day you’ll be the one up at night with your computer applying and ultimately moving yourself into a dorm. So do your best to not compare yourself to your peers and take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Seriously, everything.

Focus on yourself and your deadlines and create an organization strategy that works. This could look like:

  • A pretty notebook with each section dedicated to one university where you write down how many essays, deadlines and any extras that you need.
  • An excel spreadsheet organizing dates/deadlines, etc.
  • Notes in your phone and reminder alarms for deadlines
  • Google Keep (an app within Google with post it notes that you can color code and sync with your Google docs)
  • Sticky notes on your bathroom mirror reminding you

The method doesn’t matter unless it works for YOU.

Photo by Linda Eller-Shein on

Student example:

My name is Rebecca and I am planning on applying to 9 colleges. I am applying to 3 UC schools, 1 Cal State, and 5 private. Of those private colleges, I am applying early action to 3 and regular decision 2 (because they are my likely schools and I want to give myself some time)

First, I look up the deadlines. UCs and Cal States are due November 30th, it’s August and the UC app is open, but the Cal States open in October. Okay so, UC’s will be priority over the Cal States early on. My three early colleges are all due on November 15th and the regular decision ones January 15.

In my binder I’ll prioritize my early colleges and UCs. I write down all essays and begin brainstorming larger topics (knowing I can use some of the same topics on different applications) and start drafting. I request letters of rec in time for my early colleges and find out I don’t need letters for UCs or Cal States.

I set alarms in my phone so I know when I want my final essay drafts done by my early deadlines and I continue working on my apps until I meet the deadlines.

Finally, I set a goal to complete my regular decision apps by early December. Even thought they aren’t due until January, I want to enjoy my break and holidays with family and wrap everything up.

Staying organized is helping to stay calm. It’s staying ahead of the game and reminding yourself you’re on top of things when your peers brag (and they will).

It’s applying to a healthy number of colleges (a.k.a a balanced list of schools that is NOT 20+ colleges) you can only go to one!!

It’s utilizing resources at your school like your counselor, your college admission officer and getting help staying on track when things get confusing.

Finally, it is maximizing your time and ultimately creating and submitting the strongest application that best represents you, which also happens to help your admission chances.

Class of 2021, get organized, stay organized and get excited. Because college is coming!

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on

Published by Casey Barneson

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

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