How to Choose a College, Part Three

Guest blogger Vivian Kerr has been teaching and tutoring standardized tests since 2005. She has taught throughout the greater Los Angeles area and is a proud member of the Grockit team. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern California and has studied abroad in London.
So you’ve got your list of “safety,” “match” and “reach” schools and you’ve done your homework on each program and campus. Now what?
To effectively handle the entire process of filling out applications, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind.

Get organized
It may sound obvious, but even the most organized student can get overwhelmed by the amount of papers flying about so you’ll have to work extra hard to stay on top of all of the deadlines.
I recommend purchasing a dry erase calendar. Put it on your bedroom wall and immediately fill in all of the application due dates. Don’t expect to fill out each application a week before they’re due. Give yourself at least a week to complete each one. That means for eight applications, you should be getting starting with the applications a minimum of two months before the due dates. This will give you plenty of time to get your supplemental information such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, resumes, etc., in order.
For the physical applications, create a file folder labeled with each school’s name and keep them together in a file box. Many students also make a checklist for each of the application’s components and attach them to the front of each application with a paperclip. As you add a transcript or a personal essay to each application, check it off and note what else needs to be completed.
Give yourself a personal due date for each application. Aim to have each fully completed one to two weeks before the actual due date. This is will give you plenty of time to re-read each piece of information for errors before you submit the final application.
Photocopy the entire application before you mail it and when you go to the post office, make sure to send it by certified mail so you can get confirmation that it was delivered.
Secure letters of recommendation
Many students feel shy or embarrassed about asking for letters of recommendation but it’s important to remember that your teachers are there to help and support your dreams. If anything, they should feel flattered that you’re asking!
Check to see what the requirements are for the letters of recommendation. Usually teachers are preferred but sometimes counselors, community leaders or family friends are also acceptable. Obviously you want to choose the people who know you best, but there are ways you can help your recommender write the best possible letter.
When asking, check to see what information your teacher would like to assist them in writing. If you can, provide them with copies of your resume, personal statement and transcript. Explain to them why you are applying to each specific school and how you’d like to come across to the admissions department. Give them a deadline for the letter but try and give them at least three to four weeks to write it. Keep in mind that they’ll probably have lots of others to write as well. When they complete it, make sure to write them a thank-you card and keep them posted in the spring on the status of your applications.
In case you missed them, here are the first two articles of this How to Choose a College series: How to Choose a College, Part One and How to Choose a College, Part Two.