Organization is half the battle when it comes to helping your teen prepare for college. If you stay organized you won’t be fumbling around senior year in a panic. And as with any organizational system, it’s important to have the right tools. These tools will make the organization simple because you will have a place for everything, and everything should stay in its place. You’ll not only save time, but you won’t miss deadlines and be stressing to find that all-important application information.
First things first—setting up an email account
Have your teen set up an email account specifically for college-related correspondence. This will facilitate the information gathering process and ensure that all emails from colleges, counselors, teachers and scholarship committees land in that email account. Explain the importance of using this email for all correspondence, not the email your teen has set up previously, since most teens set up email addresses to be cute. For example: email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org will not impress college admissions officials. There are numerous free email services: Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail are a few. Once your teen sets up the account, have them set up folders in the account for incoming messages. This will help them keep organized and enable them to easily find emails related to specific topics. Encourage them to use this email when registering on sites related to the college admissions.
The all-important filing system
I can’t stress enough the importance of maintaining a filing system for organizing papers, applications, college information, scholarship materials and resume materials. You can go all out and purchase a separate filing cabinet, or keep it simple and use a crate or filing box. For papers and documents submitted online, use a separate thumb drive to store those files (and backup to the Cloud).
Establish a separate filing system for scholarships
Whichever you choose to use (online storage or traditional file storage), start the process at the beginning of freshman year. Maintain files for each individual scholarship, the actual applications, and essays written. You will also need files for any additional requirements: transcripts, honors and awards, and the high school resume. As our Scholarship Mom pointed out, you can recycle and reuse the essays.
This is by far the most important component of organization. You can either use a traditional wall calendar or an online calendar or app. This will be an invaluable tool during high school. This calendar will help you and your teen keep track of test dates, application deadline dates, and scholarship submission dates. In the first few years of high school you can also utilize it for activities, volunteer events and follow up reminders related to scholarship applications and deadlines.
With so many deadlines during the college prep process, organization might be the most important tool you and your teen will use.