September has arrived and with it, the start of another academic year. While it can always be challenging to refocus on school after time away, students who plan to apply to college, graduate school, or a professional program this year face an added burden on top of regular academic and extracurricular commitments.
If you’ll be applying somewhere in the coming months, take a look at the following tips designed to help you balance applications with the demands of being a student.
1. Start Early
This is the single best tip out there for all applicants, yet a remarkably small number actually take it to heart. Applying to a school or program is a complicated and time-consuming process with many parts. A few elements, like taking standardized tests, must be planned and completed well in advance of actual deadlines. The rest, however, are completely in your hands.
Rather than leaving things until a week or few days before deadlines, you’ll find the process much smoother and less stressful if you start early and give yourself added time to get everything done. You’ll avoid last-minute panic and, more importantly, your application will be more polished and impressive. The three elements most important to focus on when starting early are:
- Writing and revising your essays or personal statement
- Securing professional or teacher recommendations
- Putting together any supplementary information, from resumes and CVs to portfolios, requested by your target program
2. Break Things Up
Rather than try to get every part of your application done at once, break it up and focus on one section or element at a time. That way you can focus on the task at hand (usually leading to better results) without letting the application completely consume your life. This is particularly important for full-time students, as they need to balance applications with coursework.
3. Stick To a Schedule
Get online, find your target programs’ websites, and write down all of the important dates for applications this cycle. Remember, there may be more than one deadline (for example, early application vs. regular decision for college applicants and Round 1 vs. Round 2 vs. Round 3 for MBA applicants). Also, some things, like standardized test scores and recommendations, may need to be sent directly from someone other than you by a given deadline.
Once you’ve pulled all of the deadlines for your programs, get them on a calendar so that you can keep track of everything. If you’re using an online tool like Outlook or iCal, set automatic reminders to go out two weeks, one week, and two days before each deadline. That will help you stay on top of everything even if school or extracurricular activities distract you.
4. Utilize Support Systems
Just because you’re the one applying somewhere doesn’t mean that you have to go it completely alone. There are many resources that provide valuable help for applicants, from parents and friends to teachers and counselors.
Don’ forget about professional admissions experts as well. Services like EssayEdge connect you with experienced admissions professionals who have been through the application process many times before.
Last but definitely not least, make sure you take time away from your applications to enjoy whatever makes you happy and keeps you sane. Exercise, socialize, and just sack out with a book or movie. Applications are important, but worrying too much about them won’t help you in the least. You’ll be much more motivated and efficient if you don’t let applications completely take over your life!