How to Complete Eight College Applications and Still Enjoy the Holidays with Friends & Family

By Sam Rosensohn

This column is for all the high school seniors who have yet to complete their college applications – we’re going to set up a highly efficient 10-step assembly line.

1# Find a large table in the house and spread out all of your college applications, including the Common Application that you submit online. Now read through all of the applications. Your mission is to identify all of the common areas on the applications that request similar information.

2# Make a list of everything that needs to be included in each application and round up that material and information. Have it all set and ready to include or note in your applications.

3# Don’t sweat it. There’s going to be something that you don’t have – whether that’s a recommendation from a teacher or the exact title of the class award you won in ninth grade. Make a To Do list. This will allow you to finish things up the day you get back to school in January.

4# Make two copies of the To Do list, one goes on the mirror in your bathroom, and the other goes on the fridge. If there’s no room, make some room. You’re going to college.

5# Identify how many essays each college wants. On a post-it note, that you’re going to place on each college application, note the number of essays you must submit and start to think about what each of those essays is asking. If you haven’t got around to starting the essay, I suggest you talk to your parents about creating one or two essays that can be tweaked to serve all of your applications.

6# The easiest way to write the essay is to talk about it with Mom, Dad, a good friend or a professional before you start to write. The discussion will help you to visualize the essay, and it might lead to something you had not considered writing about. Take notes when you have this discussion and you will have already composed the basis of the essay before you go to the computer.

7# Double check to be certain that the essay answers the question in a memorable way that only you could have written. Your GPA and SATs tell the school about you academically, now tell the school what those scores don’t say – just who you are, what you’ve done with your life or how you see things.

There is some good news to having put off writing your essay. People who have to write with a limited amount of time generally keep their work short and to the point.

8# Once your primary essay is done and you’re satisfied with it, determine how to tweak it so it can serve as the basis for essays asked by other colleges. Make copies of your essay and work from those copies.

Keep in mind that recycled essays often come across as general and impersonal. That’s why it’s important to have an adult read your essay. What seems novel to a student may escape an adult, and it’s adults who are reading the essays.

9# It’s time to start putting your application together. Start with an area where the information is not neatly stored away in your memory, for example, your parents’ work titles and work telephone numbers. Complete this task for all of the applications. Do the same for extracurricular activities and then move on to AP courses. This is a big time saver, because it saves from having to relocate the same information eight times for each of the eight applications.

10# Too many students race through written work even when they’re not under the gun. So make certain to have a parent, a friend or a professional proof your entire application for punctuation, clarity and the big oversights that happen particularly when applying electronically. It’s harder to pick up mistakes on a computer screen than it is on a printed page. Keep in mind that admissions counselors are judging everything they see. So make sure you write Conn. as an abbreviation for Connecticut in your essay. The abbreviation CT is for addressing letters and packages. This is a good time to have the grammarian in the family or the neighborhood look over the application.

Now round up those applications and start cranking them out with a careful eye. If you move efficiently you’ll start the New Year with your applications behind you.

Sam Rosensohn is the founder of College Planning Partnerships, which offers prep classes for the SAT and helps students to prepare for college and write college essays. He can be reached in Clinton at 860-664-9857 or at sam@satprepct.com