by Vera Murphy Trayner, Co-Founder of Veritas College Counseling

Welcome Back to School, seniors! This is your big year to shine. You’ve worked hard and played hard, and now it’s time to get down to the business of applying for college admissions. Once your “job” of applying to college is finished, you can relax and bask in the glory of your most memorable year.

August 1st marks the beginning of the college application season. The Common Application, the Coalition Application, and the many institutional (individual college/university) applications will be available. If you play your cards right, you can get a jump on the application process and finish strong (read: EARLY)!

Here are the Best Practice tips to help minimize yours (and your parents’) stress level. Give these ideas a try and you will be celebrating like a rock star rather than pulling your hair out on December 31!

  1. START EARLY:  Have you ever heard the phrase, “The early bird gets the worm”?  It’s never been truer than in the college application process.  State universities fill their freshman classes on a first-come, first-served basis.  Selective private colleges report a higher acceptance rate for those who apply Early Decision or Early Action.  Start working on your college applications over Labor Day weekend.  You can check college admissions’ web pages to see if their essay prompts are available NOW.
  2. ESTABLISH AND STICK TO A ROAD MAP:  Studies show that a person is more motivated and focused on a goal when a well thought out plan of action is in place to reach that goal.  Get out your calendar and write down the due dates for early action applications (or binding early decision, if you so choose). Work on ONE application at a time, and apply first to those schools highest on your interest list.  Work methodically and stick to your plan. Plan to submit all applications by Thanksgiving.
  3. STAY ORGANIZED!:  This item is key for your sanity. Keep track of the details in a binder, keeping tabs for each school, and create checklists for each required item you need to do to complete the college’s application.  Your checklist should include each college’s due dates for the admission application, financial aid and scholarship applications.  Every college will want one or more essays, your transcript, a teacher recommendation, a counselor recommendation, and a copy of your standardized tests, so begin gathering these items early. Make an appointment with a college counselor at the beginning of the school year to learn the process you will need to follow to request all of the paperwork needed. If you are applying to a specialized program, you may also be required to submit a portfolio of your work or additional recommendations.

Following these tips will give you the opportunity to reduce stress and anxiety, keep your parents’ questions to a minimum, and most importantly, to give you the peace of mind to sit back, relax, and watch the decisions roll in before you need to begin studying for finals!

Remember, your ultimate goal is to ring in 2019 with many college acceptances!

Vera Murphy Trayner is an Independent Educational Counselor based in Lutz.  Veritas College Counseling offers individual counseling for students and parents to facilitate the college application process.  Veritas also hosts workshops to highlight best practices for college search.  Contact:; call or text 813-545-8178 or visit

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