The Importance of Organization in the College Process

Posted by: Lisa Cynamon Mayers, Senior Admissions Consultant

For years I’ve told students and parents that the college admissions process is as much a test of organization than anything else. Dates and deadlines for standardized tests, applications, scholarships, financial assistance, college visits, etc. are enough to make your head spin! Add to that the mountains of printed glossy brochures, endless e-mails and other college communications.  A poorly organized student could be buried under the seemingly endless marketing materials. So what are parents and students to do? How do you effectively manage the deadlines and the piles? Behold some welcome suggestions:

  1. Create a Master Calendar- You can keep track of those dates and deadlines by creating a master document to organize it all. Whether it’s an old fashioned paper calendar, dry-erase calendar, Outlook calendar, Google calendar or another option, you need one central location to keep everything together. Determine your system and then spend an hour or two on the Internet researching exam dates and registration deadlines, application deadlines (noting rolling, priority, early decision, etc.), scholarship deadlines, local college visit dates, evening programs, campus visits and anything else that will help you to stay on top of things. Make sure this calendar is prominently displayed in a place where you and your parents will frequently look.
  2. E-mail Filing System- So you’re getting 30 new e-mails a day from colleges. Your inbox is totally clogged and you’re no longer even reading the e-mails. Here’s what you need to do. If you’ve yet to enter the process, create an e-mail account exclusively for college use. Oh, and don’t make it, or Simple, straightforward and nothing questionable. Create folders for colleges you have no interest in attending, colleges you might want to attend and individual folders for the colleges on your list. As e-mails come in file them appropriately. This way you can stay on top of the e-mails that warrant your attention and eliminate the ones that don’t. Colleges are communicating more and more over e-mail so don’t carelessly miss out on important correspondence.
  3. Glossy Brochure Filing System- Back in my day (don’t I sound like an old gal), as soon as colleges had our addresses in hand, we were bombarded with brochures (featuring the only season in college admissions: fall), postcards, letters, flyers, etc. I think I received more mail in my junior and senior years of high school than any time since. Materials from schools that are off your radar completely should be recycled. Brochures and mailings worth keeping should be filed in an accordion file, file box, folders or your preferred method of files. A pile under your bed is not an effective filing system. Be sure to note important dates from the printed materials on your master calendar prior to filing.

If you take some time, little by little, to keep everything organized and in its place, you will find the college application process much more manageable.

Junior year- college presentations in your hometown

Although most colleges are holding open houses and special visit days for admitted seniors, many schools are beginning to reach out to juniors as these students begin their college search journey.  One such opportunity for junior year students to take a closer look is a group information session in your hometown.  Notre Dame, Emory, Wash U, UVA and Johns Hopkins have teamed up to offer group presentations in various cities around the country.

You can learn more here:

Admitted, now what?

The waiting game is now over, and to those of you accepted to your first-choice school, congratulations!  Given the rise in the number of applications that students submit, many students may have multiple options without a clear first choice school.  So, how does one decide??

1.      Take advantage of accepted student days.  Many schools offer admitted students the opportunity to spend a day on campus and meet with various university groups- faculty, athletics, residence life, career services, etc.  Colleges will roll out the red carpet on this day, and it is a great occasion to ask lots of questions.

2.      Attend class.  Some colleges may offer admitted students the opportunity to sit-in on a class.  This is a perfect time to take a closer look at academic fit.  You might not fully understand what is taking place within the class, but you can certainly get a sense if the professor knows his/her students, you can observe to see if students are truly engaged in the topic, and you can explore the overall classroom environment.

3.      Reach out to a faculty member in your chosen field.  If you have a clear major in mind call the admissions office and ask to connect to a professor within that field.  This is a great opportunity to ask specific and direct questions about coursework, research opportunities, internships and what alumni are doing once they graduate.

4.      Spend a night.  Some schools may offer students the opportunity to stay in a dorm room and get the full residential experience.  This is a great way to try the food, explore the various rooming options and learn about the social environment on campus.

May 1st is the national reply date, and all students who plan to enroll in the fall of 2017 must submit a deposit to one school by this date.  The next few weeks can be very busy for seniors as they try to make that final decision.