Congrats! You’ve narrowed down your choices and are ready to take that big leap—the college application!

Maybe you plan to apply to only one or two colleges; others may consider applying to 10 or more. I just read an article last week in which twins applied to and were accepted to over 60 schools between them! Now the 60+ applications is an extreme number but applying to several colleges is not a bad idea. I’ll use my experience as an example when I applied for college many years ago.

I was extremely active throughout high school—serving on various committees, participating in civic and college prep organizations and working part time as a tutor. Whew! I applied to my level 1 dream school– Northwestern University; I also applied to my “back up” dream school—Texas Christian University. My third choice was an in-state school, in case I didn’t get accepted into the first two, Western Kentucky University. I did NOT want to stay in state for college but I made it an option.

I participated in a youth program and was offered a scholarship to the University of Kentucky so I applied there. Finally, I sent off for applications to two schools and received only one of them, Hampton University. This was prior to the internet so I filled out paper applications on my family’s word processor and mailed them in. In total, I completed 5 applications, each with its own admissions requirements.

So, if I could do everything over – these are the tips for you to follow to make your process easier and less time consuming.

* Use the auto-fill option on your computer. This will save you time as you are completing the applications online. With one click, your name and contact information will be populated; super easy and fast, especially as this is information that all colleges will ask you for.

* Most colleges ask for an essay. The essay topics can vary greatly. I gave a presentation on essay writing to a group of young men while working in North Carolina and I used some of the topics that I found online. They ranged from if you were a space alien, what would you be and why to what did you learn from your most difficult experience. While the questions are different, the intent of the essays is the same—to determine how well you write, how you process topics, and whether you think critically. Keep this in mind when you’re writing.

* Another essay writing tip: pre-plan what stories you may want to use should you be asked. For example, some essays may want to know how you would change the world (that was one I had); this same essay could be the basis of what you plan to accomplish by attending this college, your future plans or what has influenced you.

* Letters of recommendation, also known as reference letters, can also be a part of your application process. Don’t let this trip you up! Plan in advance. Ask someone who knows you well, with whom you have worked or volunteered, a coach, a teacher—someone who knows your capacity for performing well in college who is NOT a relative. I say this because I have seen letters from relatives. And ask someone who will actually write positive comments about you; I have seen some letter that are not flattering at all!

* Give the people writing the letter at least 30 days to complete. There schedule could be very busy and you want them to write the best possible letter than can for you!

* Write a resume. Some colleges ask for one, but even if they do not, it can serve as a reference tool for portions of your resume– activities, positions held, etc.

* Be organized. Keep a file, hard copy or electronic, of your application progress and the deadlines for each one. Devising a game plan before starting can work wonders! Best of luck!!! I look forward to hearing how you saved time; just email me!

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