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A Handy College Admission Cheat Sheet

What am I supposed to be doing now? That is the question that anxious high school seniors and their parents are asking themselves as they contemplate the college admission process.

Unfortunately, the college admission season can be unforgiving. Overlook deadlines and you could miss out on financial aid or scholarship opportunities. And many colleges want students to act sooner rather than later. Some schools began accepting applications from seniors right after Labor Day.

A game plan, however, can reduce the anxiety level. To get you started, here is what students should be doing right now:

Get organized. Use a spreadsheet or calendar to write down all the admission and financial aid deadlines for each college you plan to apply to.

Complete the Common Application. Hundreds of private colleges use the Common Application, which allows students to fill out one application for all participating schools. This sounds simple, but many schools have been piling on additional requirements for students who use the Common Application, which often means an extra short essay or two. You should be filling this form out now.

Write a college essay. Many private and public colleges and universities require a college essay, which is sometimes called a personal statement. This weekend would be a great time to get started on this chore.

Order your transcripts. You can't send your transcript directly to a college. Colleges don't want to have to worry about a student tampering with the document. Find out who is in charge of sending these records out at your high school and make your requests now.

Send in your SAT/ACT scores. Unless you are applying to a test-optional school, now is the time to send your scores to colleges on your list. Visit the College Board and/or ACT Inc., to make your requests.

Don't be a stranger. Colleges get nervous when they receive applications from stealth candidate who have never visited their campuses or made any contact at all. If you plan to apply to a college that doesn't know you exist, make contact now. Ask for admission material, visit or email an admission officer.

Clock image by Leo Reynolds. CC 2.0.

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