Oh, the college application. As a high school student, you might turn your nose up at such things because who has time to write one more essay? Don’t you already do that for history class on a regular basis? Why must you complete proverbial “homework” in order to qualify for more school and more homework?

The thing is, these college applications and essays you’re crafting can literally change your life. They are the gateway that stands between you and the rest of your future. While it might feel like a lot of work in the moment, remind yourself that your college application is like your certificate of authentication—it lets colleges and universities know that you’re a viable candidate for college, and they won’t be wasting their time if they select you as one of their students.

So, what should you pay attention to as you embark on this college-application journey? We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you along with your sojourn. Read on, aspiring undergraduate!

1. Map out application deadlines

Different college applications have different deadlines, and it’s highly important you submit yours before the cutoff point passes. Some schools offer an application fee waiver to students who apply by a certain date, so getting your materials in sooner rather than later can save you and your family money as well.

While some schools have what’s called “rolling admissions,” meaning there isn’t a specific deadline, it’s still wise to get your application submitted in the early fall of your senior year or even during the summer before your senior year.

For some people, deadlines are simply a stressor, while others function well within their structured confines. Try to schedule out a few evenings to work on one particular application—well in advance of the deadline—and then you’ll be able to breathe easy when you accomplish your forms ahead of time.

2. Strive for excellence

It can be easy to assume that your college application will get lost among the hundreds of other apps flooding in from hopeful students. However, know that there’s generally a college board reviewing what you write and combing through your essay. This is why it’s important to strive for excellence—even in the little things.

Make sure to type as much as you can when it comes to your application and essay. If you handwrite portions, and your handwriting is too messy, your app might simply be discounted. It’s tough to make a favorable impression if it appears that you can’t even write your name correctly. Professional-looking applications speak volumes and show that you’re serious about admissions process and the school.

Another area you can strive for excellence in is with your essay. Some applications don’t even require an essay, but if you take the initiative to include one, you’ll most certainly stand out. If the college app you’re working on does require an essay, consider writing an extra one explaining why you would be a great candidate for the school and how you could make a difference there if selected.

3. Ask for help 

The beautiful thing about high school, nowadays, is that most schools have a guidance counselor or other qualified individual whose job is to assist with helping students graduate and get into a great college.

If you come to a portion of your application that confuses you, or you’re simply wondering if your essay sounds professional enough, take advantage of the well-qualified people in your life who are there to help you and ask for help. You could also ask if there are any extra things you could add in with your application that would show you are going above and beyond the normal scope of applying.

It’s time to start your future

All the hard work you’re putting into your college applications will certainly pay off. Now that you’ve narrowed your choices down to several particular schools, your applications and acceptance will make it even more clear which colleges and universities you officially have to choose from.

Press into the work and strive for excellence during these last few steps in the college admissions process. You’re so close to your beautiful future—it will be well worth all the effort!