5 Ways I Prepared for College Applications

Are you having trouble getting started on your college applications? No need to fear, this U-M blogger is here! Read on to learn how I navigated the college application process with these five tips.

By Madeleine Lee August 31, 2020
Madeleine Lee

With summer coming to a close, it is time to start preparing for the new school year! If you are a high school senior, this may mean starting your college applications. Okay, you are ready to dive in, but where do you start? From getting organized to writing college essays, here are five tips that helped me navigate the college application process:

Create a separate email account for all things related to college

It is much easier to keep track of college emails when they are all located in one place and not mixed in with the class announcements, Drama Club reminders, and Spotify notifications collecting in your personal inbox. I used this separate email for the Common Application, FAFSA, and scholarship applications and saved plenty of time from not having to sort through the tens of emails I received daily.

Organize your college list

Since you have quite some time between now and when you submit your applications, staying organized is key. To help with this, I made a college spreadsheet on Google Sheets to remind myself about deadlines and required materials. Once I completed an item, I would mark it as complete on the sheet. This provided a clear visual of what I needed to accomplish and by what date. If you want to write it down on paper or type it up on a document, go for it! Do whatever works best for you to stay organized.

Here is an example of what my college list looked like (with a few modifications, of course!):

Screenshot of spreadsheet

Quick tip: Once you have submitted your applications, you can also use this list to check off which schools have confirmed receiving all of your materials.

Start off your essay with a free write

Are you staring at the U-M community essay prompt and have no idea what to write? Been there, done that. To beat writer’s block, try free writing. Free writing is a technique in which you write down whatever comes to mind without going back to read what you wrote or focusing on the details, such as word choice and grammar. Set a timer for 10 minutes or longer, and write without stopping until the time is up. Don’t worry about phrasing every thought perfectly. Instead, keep the ideas flowing and your hand moving. You’ll be surprised by how much you can write and how many ideas you can generate in such a short period of time.

Once you finish, make sure to take a break and repeat as needed! When you read through your writing, you’ll be able to get a better idea of what ideas you like and move forward from there. Write on!

Adventure is out there … on the website and more!

A college website is a great place to start learning about the schools you are applying to. By clicking from one link to the next, you’ll find so many different places to explore. Before researching a school, make a list of criteria you are looking for in a college. What do you want to get out of your college experience? This can be as broad as wanting the opportunity to gain different perspectives to as specific as a fantastic research program for first-year students (both of which the University of Michigan has!).

Once you have something in mind, scope out the website to find more information about it. Also: don’t forget about this blog! It is an awesome way to learn more about student life and perspectives from the students themselves. Read through my fellow bloggers’ posts to find out why becoming a Michigan Wolverine is the best decision you’ll ever make!

Follow up with your recommenders

Make sure to check in with your teachers, counselor, and other recommenders at least a week before your application is due. Since they are busy people and adjusting to an unprecedented school year, it is important to be patient but also advocate for yourself so that everything is all set on their end. As deadlines near, you can send follow-up emails, politely asking about the status of your letter and reminding them of the approaching due date. Don’t be afraid to ask! They are here to help you – that is why they are writing a letter on your behalf!

I hope you found these tips helpful and can use them as you get started on your college applications. Remember, you got this!

Madeleine Lee
Madeleine Lee

Madeleine Lee is a sophomore in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and plans to study at the intersection of health and social justice. Outside of the classroom, she conducts research at the Kellogg Eye Center and is a member of the Vice President for Student Life Advisory Board. She is an Ann Arbor native and in her free time, you can find her running, reading, or snapping photos.