A Guide to Organizing College Applications

Catalina Padilla
Edited by Zoe Jones
Published on
November 14, 2022

It’s that time of year again… college deadlines are around the corner and stress levels are higher than ever. One of the best things we can do to mitigate the stress is to organize! This guide will give you a few key things you can do to organize everything you need for the college application process.

Make a Timeline

One of the biggest stressors about college applications is what you need to do and by when. One way we can reduce this stress is by creating a timeline. Start by opening a Google Sheet or Google Doc and write down everything you know has to be done for each month leading up to application deadlines. For example, in my timeline I included my application deadlines, when I would like to complete certain essays, and when I should ask for recommendations. Everyone's timeline will be different depending on their application deadlines but should include this basic information:

  • Application deadlines 
  • Scholarship deadlines 
  • Essay completion goals (for personal statement and school specific)
  • Ask for recommendation letters 
  • Finish the common app activities and honors section 
  • SAT/ACT test dates 

Of course there is more information that can be added to this list but this is just the basis of the timeline. Once you have completed your timeline you will have something to refer to so you can stay on track. Now that you have an outline of what you need to do, you can let go of some of that fear of the unknown!

Organizing Your Essays

Alright you’ve got your timeline finished and now you can start on the actual applications. One of the most crucial parts to your applications are your essays and it’s important to keep them organized. My number one rule for organizing essays is to NEVER WRITE THEM IN THE APPLICATION SITE! It is so important to write your essays on a different document in order to make sure they save and you have the ability to edit as you please. My favorite way to organize my essays is through what I call “The Ultimate Essay Document.” In said document, add each school you are applying to and their specific essay prompts. Under each prompt add a text box (a 1 by 1 table in Google Docs) to write the essay in. By doing so, you can keep school essays together and organized all in one accessible document.

Create a Master Spreadsheet

Applying to college means collecting a lot of important information and it's crucial to have somewhere to organize and store it. The best way to do this is to create a master spreadsheet. The spreadsheet should include the following pages:

  • Passwords 

In this section include any passwords you need for the application process. This can include your CommonApp password, FAFSA information, and more.

  • Application Status 

Include each school you are applying to and the status of each section of your application.

  • Essays

Add in all essay prompts and the status of each one. 

  • Tests 

Here you can add test scores and upcoming testing dates. 

  • References 

In this section you can organize who you are asking recommendations from and when. Include their contact information, an ask by date, reminder date, and a thank you note.

  • Scholarships 

Looking for scholarships can be overwhelming so organize the ones you would like to apply for here.

  • Other

Once again, there are many more sections you can add to your master sheet but the ones in the guide should be enough to get you started. I wish you all the best on your college application process and remember it doesn’t need to be stressful! Create an application that is true to you and not what you think a school wants, you are enough and any school is lucky to have you.


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