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Maura Kastberg Headshot

Organizing the College Application Process

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All the dates we have to remember in life can get overwhelming. I come from a big Irish Catholic family and I have five sisters and one brother. Remembering their birthdays, and their children's and spouses birthdays is nearly impossible if it weren't for my old-fashioned paper calendar. As I turn each month over in a glance I can see how many cards I need to buy for that month.

I also have a larger one in my office. It's the only way I can keep track of the meetings and pending commitments looming. Why am I telling you all this? Well, a high school senior needs a calendar at this time of the year. There are so many deadlines to keep track of. The typical student applies to three to five colleges they each have two deadlines one for admissions applications and another one for financial aid applications. Then there are state financial aid program deadlines. Illinois advises students to apply as soon after January 1st as possible. Connecticut has a priority deadline of February 15th.

If you miss the deadline you miss out on that opportunity. Most state financial aid programs are initially applied for by submitting the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Students should have their FAFSA completed as early as possible but certainly no later than their earliest deadline be that from the college or their state program.

The first step to organizing this work is to know what paperwork is required. Keep track of which admissions applications require which pieces, is an essay required, do they want recommendations if so how many, if SAT or ACT test scores are required what deadlines are associated with those. Have a sheet that lists each schools requirement then mark the deadlines on your calendar.

Next know what the financial aid requirements are, all schools will want the FAFSA but some will also require the CSS Profile form and some will have their own financial aid forms that need to be completed. Once you know what the colleges require mark the deadlines on your calendar. Finally look up your state financial aid deadline and mark that on the calendar.

The admissions applications should be sent in early enough to meet the deadline but not too early. The FAFSA should be submitted prior to whatever the earliest deadline is. You probably will not have your taxes completed but you should submit your application using an estimate so your deadlines are met then update the information once you and your parents have completed their taxes.

Finally, keep a copy of everything you submit and the date you submitted it. This will help you later if some piece of your application gets lost or is incomplete. There are many dates to keep track of, but using a calendar to lay it out and plan from can go a long way towards making things a little easier.