Organizing Your Applications for College

Organizing your college applications

Your child is entering the senior year of high school, the pinnacle of his/her first steps in education. It’s going to be a busy year with challenging classes and extracurricular activities. Now is the time to help your senior start his/hers applications for college. It’s time for organization!

Step 1 – Determine 5 Good Fitting Colleges

The first step is to determine 5 colleges that are a good fit for your child’s educational goals. This may sound like too many schools, but educational consultants agree that having two colleges that by the numbers will easily accept your child, as well as two schools that are at reach for a child, is a great blend.

Search Criteria

Get organized with your search by talking with your child about the criteria for the search. This includes the location, size of the school, intended interest for a major and price range for your family. Your list can start off long, but narrowing it down to 5 schools makes the application process easier. Post this list where you and your child can see it and review it.

Step 2 – Organize the Application Process

Get organized with the application process laying it out on a chart or form that works for you and your child. The form should include all the requirements and deadlines for each college, including:

  • which application to use (Common, Universal, State Common, or the school itself)
  • SAT or ACT requirements
  • deadlines for sending the high school transcript
  • required essays, and
  • required recommendations
  • a form of mailing: by mail or online
  • contact information for the college
    • address
    • email address
    • phone number

Use this form as a file cover with the basic information you’ll need for each college.

Attached is a .xls file by for you to keep track of all the information in your application process.

Step 3 – Plan on a Calendar

Use a month at a glance calendar and plot out the deadlines with your child to sequence the requirements.

Break the requirements into segments that are manageable chunks.

Remember to allow ample time for tasks, such as the essays, that require extra time and attention. Establish deadlines that are a week in advance of stated deadlines, whether these are sent by mail or online. Have a weekly time when you and your child will work on each part of the process. Being organized helps everyone stay focused and on track, as well as function as a team.

Starting early on college applications is a bonus. By working on the application in late July and early August, your child will feel more confident as the school year begins. It will give time for your student to do outstanding work and not interfere with the demands of the school year. College applications are just one example of how relevant and important organizing is in the real world.

Helping your student navigate the process is a great introduction to project management. Create a team effort and model collaboration so your child sees how people work together positively. Even if organizing is not your strong suit, working together with your student will bring out the best in both of your organizing styles. Get organized and stay organized throughout the process. Update your chart with completed items and review letters sent from the colleges updating about the application process. Set up a small file box with hanging files for the paper part of the application process.

Organization helps you juggle all the demands of college applications and more!

Ellen Delap Professional Organizer

For over 10 years, Certified Professional Organizer and Certified Family Manager Coach Ellen Delap has helped her clients make time and space for what’s important to them by organizing their homes, offices and their daily living. Ellen, owner of, works one-on-one with her clients in their home and offices streamlining their environment, creating effective strategies for an organized lifestyle and prioritizing organization in their daily routine. She holds ADD and Chronic Disorganization certificates and specializes in working with ADD and ADHD families, adults and students. Ellen has been featured on Stretch Your Dollar on ABC13 Houston, in articles in the Houston Chronicle, a guest speaker on radio KLOVE, and is a national expert on The Clutter Diet, an online organizing website. She is a Golden Circle member of the NAPO and a specialist in chronic disorganization and ADHD with the Institute of Challenging Disorganization. Learn more about her and her business at, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

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