"If the process is viewed as an opportunity for the student to highlight her achievements, explore her career goals, and research best-match institutions from the perspective of consumer rather than nervous applicant, college admissions can be interesting and fun."
Let's be honest: You're busy, you have a ton going on at school and your social life -- and the idea of adding college applications to the mix seems daunting. But the truth is, it's not too early to begin researching and working on college applications. Some experts say it's smart to consider the application process during a student's junior year of high school.
"Getting a head start on the applications process is the best way I can think of to motivate and inspire students to keep on track and meet deadlines," said Thalia Thompson, founder of College Admissions Coaching, LLC.
"The best time to get started is during junior year (or even earlier). College essays should ideally be written during the summer of junior year allowing plenty of time for corrections and changes, and preventing undue stress during senior year."
Outline Your Requirements
Begin the process by designing an outline of the necessary steps that will be required to fulfill your application requirements. This outline should include deadlines for financial aid, specific requirements for individual schools and the given due dates and deadlines for scholarship applications.
"There is great financial incentive to getting your applications in well before the due date," said Kevin Campbell, president of College Planning Authority. "This is because schools begin deciding who is going to receive financial aid, merit aid and scholarships as the applications are received, rather than waiting until the deadline to review the applications and decide."
Campbell pointed out that the application preparation process should include a students' decision about what career path he or she is seeking and what school will best meet those needs.
"Deciding their career choice and determining if it aligns with their lifestyle choices is generally a fun and eye-opening experience for students," he said. "Dreaming about what kind of car or house they want to live in some day is an exciting experience, but also a sobering one."
Meet With a Counselor and Work With Your Parents
Campbell also recommends working with a college planner in order to better motivate a student for the application process.
"Top performing athletes, entrepreneurs and celebrities use coaches to help them maximize their abilities," he said. "A good college planner is a coach for college bound students." There are many ways students can prepare with useful college planning tools online.
Thompson recommended students create an account on the Common Application website in order to have access to information about more than 400 U.S. colleges and universities.
"How a student and his or her family view the college admissions process can go far in making the process enlightening and even enjoyable," Thompson said. "If the process is viewed as an opportunity for the student to highlight her achievements, explore her career goals, and research best-match institutions from the perspective of consumer rather than nervous applicant, college admissions can be interesting and fun."
- Begin college essays during the summer of junior year allowing to allow time for corrections and prevent stress.
- Put together an outline that highlights financial, scholarship and application deadlines.
- Consider working with a college planner in order to simplify the application process.
- Start applications early and plan well in order to enjoy the process.