College app protip #3: Organization 101

We’ve been told to be organized since we were in diapers. “Stack the bricks after you’re done playing with them!” “Put the baby back in the stroller, don’t leave her on the floor!” “This is why you put the toothbrush on the rack–so it doesn’t fall in the toilet.

…You get the idea. If you’re a neat freak, now’s your time to shine. If you’re a disorganized mess, this is the best time in your life not to be. Here’s some tips for those of you who are messes.

Keep the space around you organized.

If mess doesn’t bother you and make you want to clean it up, you must be superhuman and your future college roommate will hate you. Skip to the next section.

If you’re normal, you’ve probably noticed that you don’t work as well when your workspace is cluttered. Clutter has a tendency to make you feel more cluttered and stressed. I used to clean up my desk area right before I sat down to write essays or think deeply about colleges. It helped me focus without getting distracted by an unsolved Rubik’s cube or random crumbs on my keyboard.

Your brain wants to get distracted from the task at hand–don’t give it any excuse.

Have a central location for your college stuff.

Self-explanatory, but easy to forget & put off.

  • Have a physical folder (pick something bright-colored and noticeable) to keep all your college stuff–stuff for your counselor, college counselor contact information, college tour notes, info booklets: whatever you need or deem important.
  • Put all your digital stuff: college app essay drafts, resume, cover letters, etc. in the same place. Whether that’s a folder on your hard drive, a USB* or in google docs, it’s up to you.
    • For the love of everything beautiful. If you’re dead-set on using a USB (I wouldn’t recommend it, but you do you) please back your stuff up so you don’t lose everything the way one of my seniors did.
  • Designate a spot on your desk for your college spam mail in case you need to read through a pamphlet when you’re writing the “why I want to attend this school” essay.
  • If you feel so inclined, filter the college emails in your inbox into a folder so you can look at them at your leisure.

Keep all your deadlines & dates in one place.

I don’t care if you use your phone, google calendar, an excel spreadsheet, a to-do list, evernote, notepad, pen & paper, whatever: just for heaven’s sake keep all your deadlines in a place you can always access and reference. Keep it updated. Stay on top of them.

Don’t be the person who’s always asking when the deadline is. (Everyone hates that person.)

Use reminders.

On that note, if you’re using a digital device, you can set reminders for yourself (day of, week before, etc.) if you’re the type to not stay on top of deadlines.

Set small goals and reach them.

Got five unique essays to write for a school? (Looking at you, Caltech.) Please don’t wait until the day before to start them. You’ll hate yourself, and you’ll literally be wasting your application money. Get all your essays done in a fashion that works for you (whether it’s finish a set in one shot or spacing them out over time), make sure you set goals such that you (and the people whom are helping edit for you) have time for editing.

Keep track of what you’ve done.

You’re going to feel really stupid if you submit your SAT scores twice. You’re also not going to be in a good place if you forgot to ask your recommender for a rec and it’s November. Make a checklist or something so that you know what you’ve yet to do and what you’ve not started.


That’s it for now! Good luck senior year

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