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3 Simple Steps to Get Your College Applications Organized

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Every college has its own array of forms and requests that it wants from you, and each has its own particular due dates. Because an admissions application is not complete until the college receives every piece of required information, you need a system for keeping track of what is required, when it is due, what you’ve sent, and most importantly, when it is received. Organizing your college applications from the very beginning can determine whether the college admissions process goes smoothly or becomes a chaotic mess. And as such, it can affect your admissions chances.

To make sure that you keep your applications on track, be sure to start with these three steps:

Step one: Find a place for your application materials.

First, it is very useful to establish a college admissions “center” someplace in your home. This might be anything from a desk or small table in a corner of your bedroom, to a bulletin board and table in the kitchen, or a bookshelf and card table somewhere else. It’s important to keep all of your application materials in one place.

Step two: Gather your materials.

There are materials and pieces of information that you need to gather before you start filling out applications. Better to gather everything before you start working on an application than to wait and then run around searching for this or that while you’re trying to complete it. I have put together two lists, available for free download on College Countdown, that will help you gather everything you need to work on your applications.

  • Materials to Gather Before Completing Applications list (including a container or file box to hold all your admissions materials, equipment such as a computer, stationery items, mailing supplies, and more)
  • Information to Gather Before Completing Applications list (including personal and family information, high school information, academic courses and records, test scores, lists of honors and activities, and more)

Need to get organized?

Download all of the helpful lists, checklists, and worksheets mentioned in this blog post for free, and start your college applications off right.


Step three: Know your deadlines!

In order to make sure that colleges actually receive each and every form and piece of information required, it’s important that you know (1) what they want, and (2) when they want it. I have created a series of checklists and grid worksheets, also available for free on College Countdown, that will help you get organized and stay on track:

  • Master Admissions Checklist (a check-off list that identifies everything you need to do for each of your applications)
  • Master Application Due Dates Grid (a grid that organizes when applications are due for Rolling, Early Action I and II, Early Decision I and II, and Regular admissions)
  • Master Essay Question Grid (a grid where you can write down the short, long, supplemental, and optional essay questions—as well as the topics you will use to answer them)

Once you have gathered all of your materials, then you can begin the process of filling out the applications. By being organized, I promise you, the job will be less overwhelming and a whole lot easier.

Need more help with college admissions?

Check out adMISSION POSSIBLE in the College Countdown store for tips and advice to help you through the entire college application process.

learn more about admission possible

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Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz is author of adMISSION POSSIBLE: The “Dare to Be Yourself” Guide for Getting into the Best Colleges for You, and founder/director of, a free college admissions information and resources website. An award-winning author, speaker, and professional counselor, Hansen Shaevitz is a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), Associate Member of the Independent Educational Consultant’s Association (IECA) and a Unigo Expert Network columnist. She is a former member of Stanford University’s Parents’ Board and chair of the Advisory Council for Stanford’s Institute for Women & Gender. She spent twelve years as a trustee for La Jolla Country Day School. Hansen Shaevitz has a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Stanford University, was Orientation Officer at the East West Center, a member of the Dean of Students staff at Stanford, and directed the College Re-Entry Program at the University of California, San Diego.

See adMISSION POSSIBLE in the College Countdown bookstore.