Tips for Applying to Colleges

Applying for college can be exciting and overwhelming all at once. Thinking about choosing a school is like looking out over a cliff and imagining all the lies before you. You’re about to step into the rest of your life—your future!

These days, high school students can feel a lot of pressure about applying for and getting into a certain college, and while some ambition is good and healthy, it’s important to make sure you’re not stressing yourself out about applications in an unhealthy way. We’ve put together a list of some helpful tips for you to use as you start applying to schools. This isn’t a conclusive list by any means, but it will certainly help get you started.

1. Fill out one application at a time

While it can be tempting to write an essay or two and fill in all your applications at once, you run the risk of making mistakes or accidentally doubling up what you send where. Unless you’re using a system like ApplicationU.com, which allows you to apply to up to 3 Christian colleges through ApplicationU for absolutely no cost, it’s a good idea to go through each individual college application at a time.

Not only will that help spare you from making mistakes, but you’ll also be able to spread the workload out over a long period of time. If you really want to limit stress by planning ahead, marking out which days you’re going to work on which application can be a huge help in feeling organized and understanding your workload. Plan a few days for each application so you can take your time.

2. Give yourself some buffer for essays

Again, planning ahead goes a long way with these. It can be easy to think you’ll just plop down in front of the computer to start filling out an application, and lo and behold, an essay topic will magically pop into your brain and make it’s way out through your fingers, but realistically, you’re probably going to need to do some planning for the essays.

Plan on brainstorming topics, making outlines, and even talking with some of your teachers or advisor about what might be best to write about. You’ll definitely want to leave time for proofreading at the end of writing as well. While some students write quickly and might polish off their essays in just a couple of days, it might take other students weeks, so be sure to assess your essay-writing timeline and make it realistic for you.

3. Don’t wait to fill out applications and write essays

While you might have one or two schools at the very top of your list, it’s important that you don’t wait until you hear back from your schools of choice before getting started on the rest of your applications and essays. It’s better to keep in the swing of things and keep applying steadily to all the schools on your list. That way, you won’t waste all that dead waiting time as you anticipate hearing back from a school that might end up taking a long time to respond about your acceptance or rejection. Keep your brain sharp, and keep the ball rolling with college apps in order to keep some back-up options in your back pocket.

4. Save, save, save! 

A helpful tip no matter what season of high school or college you’re in: be sure to save your work! You’ve probably already experienced the agony of writing a paper or working on a project, failing to save your work, and then losing the entire thing. It may have caused you a sleepless night, a late assignment, and may have even affected your grade!

Do yourself a favor and save, save, save as you write. Send yourself emails with the file including your essays attached. Not only should you do that, but it’s a good idea to periodically back up your computer as well. You won’t regret it when that power outage turns your computer off mid-sentence or your little sister hops on the computer after you’ve left and accidentally closes your Microsoft Word window. If you have trouble remembering to click save periodically, set a reminder on your phone, or stick a post-it note right on your computer or mouse—somewhere crazy that will help you remember!