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How I Survived College Apps and You Can Too

Guest Blogger,
hand holding pen filling out an application

As a senior who is officially done with college apps, (Yay!), I want to share how I survived the dreadful and scary college application process.

  1. Research the schools you want to apply to. When I say research, I mean go on the school website, look at the programs offered, look at the cost and if you can, give the school a tour. It may sound a little early for school tours, but trust me, it could be the difference between liking the school and hating it. I’ve been to schools and absolutely fell in love with it because of the campus and its environment even though I was indifferent to the school at first.
  2. Create your college app account. For me, this meant a common app, UC, and Cal State account. Tip: Use the same email for all the accounts and for the entire college application process. It saves you a lot of time and makes things a lot easier when it comes to checking emails for updates on application statuses.
  3. Prepare to write your personal statement essay(s). This is different for everyone but I find it easiest to copy all the prompts onto a word/google doc and write down potential essay ideas on this doc as a way of brainstorming. This may take a few minutes or a few days and feel free to brainstorm with a friend. These essays are important so take your time with this. After brainstorming, pick what you consider to be your best idea for a given prompt.
  4. Write your personal statement essay(s). College essays are unique in that your tone is entirely up to you. I chose a more casual tone for my essays, but I know many who chose a formal tone. Just write what works for you. It may be easier to just write the essay disregarding the word count at first and focus on answering the prompt. You can always cut down on words by rephrasing or deleting things after. I personally also love to write while listening to some music; it helps the creative juices flow. After writing your first draft, revise, edit, revise, edit, and after a bit, bring in a friend to look at the essay. Ask them for their honest opinion, another set of eyes never hurt anyone.
  5. If you’re applying to private schools, write your supplemental essays. I had a similar essay writing process when writing these. I put all my supplemental essays on one document, but I would advise you to create a separate document for each school and just group them all in a folder. By the end, my document felt really cluttered and long, it was almost overwhelming for me.
  6. Fill out the rest of the application. This is the simpler part of the process as it doesn’t take much brain power. Tip: get all your documents together and have them handy when doing this part. This includes your transcripts, your parent's tax forms, and your social security number. Oh and heads up, manually inputting your transcript will get annoying and tedious. Before submitting your application, I’d get a trusted friend to double check this part as mistakes are easy to make.
  7. Submit. These college apps can be very expensive and it will add up, but by this point, you are basically at the finish line, so just deal.
  8. Apply for scholarships. Some schools have scholarships that you have to apply for separately, while others have an automatic merit scholarship consideration. You can also apply for other scholarships on websites like There are many scholarships out there and they are just waiting to give out money. However, this doesn’t mean that it's easy. Sometimes you have to apply to tens of scholarships just to receive one. Take your time and be patient.

Further Reading

Book cover for Crushing the Common App Essay: A Foolproof Guide to Getting Into Your Top College
Crushing the Common App Essay: A Foolproof Guide to Getting Into Your Top College
Frank, Julie Ferber

Book cover for Accepted!: 50 Successful College Admission Essays
Accepted!: 50 Successful College Admission Essays
Tanabe, Gen S.

Book cover for The College Bound Organizer: The Ultimate Guide to Successful College Applications
The College Bound Organizer: The Ultimate Guide to Successful College Applications
Costaras, Anna


Theme Your College Application by Various Authors

Surviving The College Application Process by Lisa Bleich

Iris has been a teen volunteer at the Chatsworth Branch for the last 3 years. In her free time, she enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, and cross stitching. Chris Keifer Adult Librarian Services