Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills

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10 Tips for Students to Reduce College Application Stress

10 ways to reduce college application stress

Aarrgh! It’s creeping up on you…you can feel it…it’s reaching out to grab you like a thousand spindly fingers…it’s COLLEGE APPLICATION TIME!

Send that Stress Packing! Here’s how:

1.Get OrganizedStart by:

A. Writing Everything Down

Dates of tests.
Application due dates for each school.
Any other paperwork you’ll need or deadlines you’ll have to meet (financial aid, etc).
Letters of recommendation you’ll need and who you’ll ask.
The number of supplemental essays required by each school and each essay prompt (write down these prompts exactly as they’re given to you). Then:

B. Make a Calendar

Work backwards from each deadline or task and decide when each one needs to be completed.
**IMPORTANT: Give yourself twice the amount of time you think you’ll need. Trust me on this – everything will take longer than you think.

C. Set up a Filing System

You’ll need both a virtual and real filing system for each school (for email and snail mail).
You might also want to try Evernote, which is an easy way to access photos, documents and notes from any computer you’re on (it’s free).

Don’t want your parents bugging you? Take the initiative and stick to your schedule.

2.Pick a Range of Colleges You Like and Will Like You. Be realistic when you’re putting together your college list. It’s great to have one or two reach schools, but make sure to include schools that you like and that are likely to admit you.

3.Look for Schools that are Test Optional. ACT and SAT scores not your thing? Over 850 colleges are test optional. These schools believe that a combination of grades, recommendations and extra-curricular activities will give them a better picture of how you’ll do in college. For a complete list of schools that are test-optional, go to

4.Don’t Wait Until School Starts to Write Your Essays. You’ll have homework, homecoming, applications and activities —  how are you going to have time for all those essays? (No, you can’t write well without sleep.)  Start your college application essays during the summer, when you have time to think and write. This goes double if you’re applying early — you may have several supplemental essays due November 1. Plan ahead and put those deadlines on your calendar!

5.Don’t Talk to Other Students About Your College Applications. This is a MAJOR stressor. Your friends come up to you and want to know what your essay topic is, or where you’re applying, or why you haven’t heard yet since theyve all heard. It’s easy to compare yourself to other students, but DON’T GO THERE. Enjoy the search and be confident that you’re applying to the schools that are right for you. When friends ask if your application’s in or your essays are done just say, “It’s coming along, thanks.” Then change the subject. Eventually they’ll get the idea and stop asking.

6.Get Moving. Ride a bike, go for a run, take the dog for a hike. Spend a few hours not thinking or talking about college. You’ll think better and you’ll feel better, too.

7.It’s YOUR College Tour. Enjoy! You’re on a shopping trip. Keep your eyes off your texts and on the sights. Talk to the tour guide and the students you meet –  ask them what they’re studying and what they love about their school. Then try to imagine yourself as a freshman on campus heading to class, the dorm or to dinner. See if your gut says you want to spend the next four years there.

8.Remember That Your Parents Want the Best for You: Your parents helped get you this far in life and they’re probably going to be a bit protective. It might scare them to think that you’re leaving home or even make them sad. So if they hover over you or ask tour guides embarrassing questions, take a deep breath and remember that they just want what’s best for you.

9. Don’t Narrow Your Options Too Quickly. (The College Helper suggested this tip when they commented on my last post, “7 Tips for Parents to Reduce College Application Stress.”) Some students get focused on attending a particular type of university – a large state school, for example – and never look at private universities or other schools that are outside of what they ‘think’ they want. Take time to explore – you can’t really be certain about what you want until you know what the other types of colleges are all about.

10. If You’re Overwhelmed, Ask for Help. Never be embarrassed to ask for help. Guidance counselors, teachers and private professionals can answer questions, guide you through the application process, provide feedback on your essays, and work with you on achieving your deadlines. Help is out there – you just have to ask for it.

related posts:
7 Tips for Parents to Reduce College Application Stress
Organize Your College Search: Try Evernote

Dealing with the Stress of College Applications
Peterson’s: Reducing Stress About College Admission Requirements
New York Times: The Burden of the College Admissions Process (students write about their college application experiences)

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.
Connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest

Leave a comment — let me know what you think!


7 Tips for Parents to Reduce College Application Stress

7 ways to reduce college application stressFace it: Applying to college is stressful.

Which colleges should be on your list? Which ones can you afford? What questions do you need to ask? What exactly is the Common Application, and why is your child about to have a meltdown over all those essays???

Here are 7 Tips for Parents to Reduce College Application Stress

Be Realistic.  For most students, getting in to the school of their dreams isn’t a lock. Sometimes it’s because they reach too high, but often it’s because schools receive so many applications that qualified students are turned away.

Work with a guidance counselor or other professional to come up with a realistic range of schools, and encourage your student to find several things about each one that he or she can get excited about. And remember: A rejection letter isn’t a sign of failure. If your student has chosen well, he or she will end up at a school that’s a good fit.

Listen. It’s natural to want to be involved in the college application process, but be careful not to project your own hopes and dreams. Allow your student to discuss what he or she wants from a college experience and listen to those ideas. Provide helpful feedback – and keep on listening.

Be Financially Honest.  If money’s an issue, be honest with your student early on. That way he or she will be able to choose a range of affordable schools and explore scholarship opportunities. Don’t let your student set his or her heart on a school you can’t afford.

Help Your Student Get Organized. Set up a plan with your student early on. Help organize paperwork, create alerts for upcoming deadlines, and set goals for completing essays and filling out applications and financial aid requirements.

Use both real and virtual filing systems for college communications, and try Evernote (which I wrote about in a previous blog). Evernote lets you upload notes, photos, videos, and documents from mobile devices and tablets, and access them anywhere. So, for instance, on college visits students can make notes on tablets and take photos and videos on their phones, and then access everything on their computers when they get home (Great for remembering what to write in the “Why do you want to go to our school” essay).

Don’t Micromanage.  Be a guide, not a leader. Allow your student to take ownership in successfully navigating the college admissions process, and be his or her greatest cheerleader. Your student will engage, feel independent, and ultimately become more informed and confident. Those are great qualities to take to college.

Don’t Write the Essays.  Help proofread and check for grammar and spelling mistakes, but don’t choose your student’s essay topics, “improve” word choice, add phrases, or even write entire paragraphs. College admissions readers know the difference between an essay written by someone who’s 17 and someone who’s 40. Reading an essay engineered by mom or dad doesn’t make them happy; they want to get to know the student.

Escape the Family War Zone. Despite a family’s best support, sometimes a student’s stress level can build to overload. If you’re concerned about meltdowns, missed deadlines, and becoming the “application police,” consider enlisting a professional to help with college search, essay writing skills, application filing, etc. The peace and ultimate success will be worth it.

College Application Time Can Be Smooth Sailing — If You Know How to Navigate the Waters.

related posts
Organize Your College Search: Try Evernote

Washington Post: Tips for Maximizing Your College Admissions Visit
Advice for Parents on Surviving College Application Stress
Dealing with the Stress of College Applications
New York Times: College’s High Cost, Before You Even Apply

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.
Connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest

Leave a comment — let me know what you think!


Organize Your College Search: Try Evernote

Imagine This Scenario:

libe slope Cornell University

You’re visiting a college. You love the architecture. You snap a picture.
You see students playing Frisbee on the arts quad. You grab a video.
You use Dad’s iPad to get more info about that cool looking dorm you saw. You bookmark the page.
You’re home. Where’s your stuff?

Everywhere. Except on your own computer.

Try Evernote. It’s an app that lets you save to different computers, phones, mobile devices and tablets, and then access it anywhere. And it’s free.

I first heard about Evernote when it was mentioned as one of the best free apps around. So I tried it. It was good, but it really proved its usefulness after last August’s hurricane when we lost our power for six days. When my husband needed my laptop, I took my iPod to the nearest library and started writing a new blog. Later, I was able to access those notes on my laptop and keep right on writing.

Here’s how you can use Evernote to help organize your college search:

Create an account on Evernote (with parents’ permission if necessary).
Take pictures, videos, notes.
Create a “notebook” for each college. Drop each piece of information into the notebook.
You’re done.

The best part? Months later, when you begin applying to college and have to write that college application essay on “Why I want to go to _________ University, ” you won’t get stuck writing “It’s so pretty,” or “I love the atmosphere,” or “I just know it’s the school for me.” You’ll know the name of that dorm you loved, and what kind of architecture caught your eye.

You’ll be able to write a great college application essay because you can be specific about what you saw, learned, and heard.
Because you saved it all in one place.


Try Evernote.

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website  for more info.

Leave a comment — let me know what you think.

related posts:
College Essay Writing: Make it Easy! Keep a Journal