5 Tips for Dealing with Last-Minute College App Stress

In high school, the first semester of senior year is a college pamphlet-filled, application-loaded blur. Trying to get good grades, running around to extracurriculars and dealing with the college application process is a lot to handle! Of course, the college applications stress really maxes out during winter break, the apocalyptic moment of the entire process.

Are you coming into winter break extremely behind on your college applications and freaking out? There’s no need to worry; Her Campus is here to help you figure out how to get everything done!

1. Stop, Drop and Organize

The key to surviving the winter break college app craziness is organization. If you don’t already have one, create a college admissions binder ASAP! This binder should include a list of all of the schools you’re applying to, a calendar of deadlines (not just official deadlines, but also dates for when you’d like to get your teacher recommendations, tests, actual apps, etc. completed) and a checklist for what you need to get done and when.

Kate Masters, a sophomore at Wesleyan University, says that her college admissions binder saved her from near catastrophe during the month leading up to the January 1 college applications deadline. “Around the first week of December, I realized that I was falling way behind on all my applications,” she says. “I hadn’t written most of my supplements, nor had I been checking in with my college counselor to see if she’d sent in my transcript or other materials. I was actually going into meltdown mode from stress!”

However, one of Kate’s friends talked to her about creating a binder for her entire admissions process, and she said it saved her from disaster. “I quickly drew up a detailed calendar for the month ahead, writing out every single task I wanted to complete as well as the date and time on that day I wanted to complete it,” she says. Kate also had daily, weekly and monthly checklists to make sure that her different tasks got done in a timely manner.

“I’m so, so happy I took the time in that last month to get my head in the game and get organized,” Kate says. “I honestly don’t know how I would’ve finished my 11 applications without that binder.”

Jillian Feinstein, an college admissions consultant and founder of the admissions advice company CollegeApp Chick, says that creating an organized system will allow you to see when applications overlap, especially when it comes to essays. “Make sure to look at every supplement before you get started,” she says. “Often a lot of topics will be open-ended enough that you can recycle your essays and use them for multiple schools.” If you know what each college expects and see some places where the same essay could generally work, why not save yourself the hassle of writing extra essays?

2. Finish Your “Essential” College Apps First Before Starting Others

A lot of students get caught up in the frenzy of applying to college and find themselves applying to way more schools than they originally intended to. However, before you click your computer mouse excessively and break the bank on application fees, narrow down exactly which schools you want to apply to.

Sure, creating a college list seems simple, and it’s something you should’ve already done way earlier in the semester. But you’d be surprised how many students freak out and add a ton of colleges to that list at the very last second!

Kate made this mistake when applying to schools, even after creating her college apps binder. “I got so caught up in adding schools and trying to finish everything that after about a week, I realized that though I was getting a lot done, I hadn’t actually completed or sent in any applications yet,” she says. “I took another step back and drew up a college list of the top six schools that I really wanted to apply to—and I worked on those six applications first.” It took Kate a day to adjust her entire college apps calendar, and it made a huge difference in terms of her efficiency. She finished all of her necessary applications first before moving on to other schools.

Feinstein recommends separating all of your schools into different groups. “Put essays into ‘chunks’ with different deadlines,” she says. “If there are schools that you really aren't too fond of, or are just ‘extras’ on your list, save those for last.” Doing so will allow you to focus on the apps that you truly care about instead of caving into the last-minute panic.