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How to Optimize Your Time on College Applications

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine Livestream. You can watch the full Livestream for more info.

 

What’s Covered:

 

 

As a student, applying to college is a stressful time with so many moving pieces. You will want to make sure that you are leaving ample time for your essays and applications, and asking a parent, friend, teacher, or guidance counselor can help you stay on top of everything. However, it is still your responsibility to ensure that you are meeting your deadlines and submitting all of the required materials.

 

As a parent, you will probably find yourself helping your child think through how to budget their time throughout the admissions process. Of course, this may not be intuitive for you, either. So, how much time should your student allocate for each component?

 

In this article, we’ll break down some of the main pieces of the college application process and provide guidance on how much time students should allocate for each part.

 

Write Your Essays Efficiently

 

Students are going to need to budget about 20 hours or so for college essays. That number climbs to around 40 hours if they’re applying to several highly selective colleges. Of course, this will vary depending on how strong of a writer the student is and whether they have outside support to help with brainstorming and feedback — a teacher, guidance counselor, or admissions counselor, for example. 

 

But generally speaking, the Common App essay or the personal statement itself really takes at least five hours of work, while supplemental essays each take around 2-4 hours per school, factoring in research and writing. Remember that each essay must be written for the individual college. Some colleges don’t have a supplemental essay, making them a little bit easier to apply to, but the most selective colleges these days do have a supplemental essay that must be completed.

 

Saving Time

 

Students can save some time while writing the supplemental essays by reusing or at least reworking existing essays. Additionally, if they apply more efficiently by targeting schools that share a single application, such as the University of California (UC) system, they will also save time.

 

Remember the Miscellaneous Components

 

The essays are the bulk of the application, but they’re not the only component. Students will need to spend approximately 10–15 additional hours across other activities.

 

This includes roughly 2–3 hours filling out sections across the different applications. Then, there is coordination with third parties, such as figuring out forms from the school, completing alumni interviews, and so on.

 

Remember, that students and parents will probably also need to be filling out financial aid forms, which may require between 1-5 hours, depending on the complexity of your finances. 

 

Save Time for Proofreading

 

Finally, students should have multiple people review their applications for accuracy and to catch typos or grammatical errors. While you don’t want someone else to completely change the essay strategy or other core components, you probably do want them to read through the application to catch any mistakes, review grammar, and otherwise highlight and seemingly minor imperfections that could be held against you.

 

This is a great place where parents can add a lot of value, and it will only take a couple of hours. 

 

How to Budget Your Time

 

The single most important tip for time management throughout the admissions process is to spread out the work. It’s a lot easier to get a little bit of work done each week than to save all of it until the week before the deadline. It will be much less stressful to complete the work incrementally over the course of 20 weeks than trying to cram it into just four.

 

Students can even use time off during holidays and weekends to catch up and get ahead. There’s also the fact that if you wait until the last minute, you might encounter unexpected tech issues, which could prevent you from completing your application.

 

As a student, it is important to be proactive throughout the process and keep on top of all deadlines and requirements. It is a challenging task, but getting help from those supporting you through the process will make things much more manageable.

 

As a parent, you can play an instrumental role in helping your child stay on track and manage their time. It’s a grueling process, but it’s a necessary one — and budgeting time will prove extremely valuable.


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At CollegeVine, experts host weekly livestreams on college admissions topics, including application advice, essay writing tips, and college information sessions. To register or check out more livestreams, visit www.collegevine.com/livestreams.