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College Applications? We'll tell you how to get started, prepared & make the whole process a breeze

Applying to college can be an overwhelming process. To manage your anxiety, and ensure that the application process runs smoothly, consider applying Early Decision or Early Action. Doing so allows you to get an early start on your college applications and improve your chances of getting in.

No doubt about it, applying to college can be quite tedious and boring. You have to get an application, fill it out, send letters of recommendation, write an essay, pay a fee, and finish all this on a deadline. A daunting proposition, when taken all at once.

However, you shouldn't let these little barriers stop you from filling out that application to the school of your dreams. Let me tell you a story.

The college I wound up attending had a very straightforward and quick application process. When I started at school, I found many students who were attending simply because the application was easy. Their good grades has gotten them excepted quickly, but they had no particular interest in the courses at my school (an engineering school). Some, when asked what they wanted to do, would give such decidedly non-engineering careers such as fashion design!

Most of these people dropped out soon. I can't help but think that if they had spent a little more time finding the right school for them instead of applying because the application was easy, they might have done a lot better. Rather than allowing the challenges of applying to a school to cause you to look for an easier path, plow ahead through the process.

To help with this plowing process, I've created this quick list of tips on eliminating the barriers that stop most people from making the leap and applying for the schools they really want to attend. Read them and learn.

1. Application Fees
To many it may seem odd that a $50 fee would be a hurdle for someone applying to a school that costs thousands, but if you are applying to many colleges, the fees will stack up quickly. Make a list of your top 10 choices, shortlist them, then Just call up the the admissions office and tell them about your financial situation, and many times they will waive the fee for you. Even if they don't, it never hurts to try.

2. Letters of Recommendation
It's also wise to seek recommendation letters well in advance of deadlines and even as early as the spring of junior year. Many teachers and guidance counselors, especially popular ones, are bombarded with requests as application deadlines draw near. If you wait until November, your writer may not have as much time to dedicate to your letter.

Ideally, you should meet to discuss your goals and accomplishments with your writer early. That way you can provide them with a greater insight into yourself thereby providing them with the kind of information that helps them write a fantastic recommendation letter for you.

When you're out requesting recommendation letters, ask if they could make the recommendation letters generic enough to change a few words (preferably just the school name) out for different schools, and give them a list of schools you're applying to so they can make multiple copies. Then, give them pre-addressed and stamped envelopes to send the letters out in. This "batching" technique is much more time efficient that individual letters. However, keep in mind that a lot of schools have their own format of recommendation letters. Usually 1-2 pages of questions with multiple choice type answers in addition to the requirement for recommendation letter which needs to be written on the page provided by the school - this page usually part of the application form.

Lastly remind and/or check and ensure that the person whom you have requested to send in a recommendation letter for you has actually done it and not forgotten about it. Check with your school, college, University to which you have applied and make sure that they have actually received it and its not lost in the mail. In the end, write a small thank-you note for your professor who took the pains to write a recommendation letter for you. Sending this small thank-you note may go a long long way, just in case you need to count on the same professor again for another recommendation letter for a different school, college or university.

3. The College Application Essay's
When it comes to things like your application essay and recommendation letters, you want to avoid any types of mistakes at all costs! Make sure that you spell check your essay as well as check it to be grammatically correct with all punctuation marks in the right places. Submitting your application early may also help out in terms of how it's processed by prospective colleges.

A good essay takes time and requires multiple drafts and careful editing. When you're in a rush, it is very easy to miss the small mistakes, or large omissions, that an admission officer will catch immediately. It is also more likely that you will be overwhelmed and draw a blank when you read the essay question. If you're working on it, say, two days before the application's due, that's going to put you in a very stressful situation.

For many, application essay is the most daunting aspect of the entire application. Let me tell you how to make it easier. Go through each of your applications, and find out what they're looking for with the essay.

To make the most of your essay, choose a topic about which you are expert. As the expert, give the reader the advantage of understanding why the topic you have chosen is important to you. Additionally, you want to write from your perspective. Don't try to impress the reader with words or ideas that you can't express comfortably. Lastly, take the time to read your essay out loud or have it reviewed by an essay expert. It always helps when a different set of eyes reads through your essay and provides you with their opinion which may, many a times surprise you.

Also, You will notice that many of these essays are on similar topics. Once you've identified these similarities, you can "modularize" your essays in order to save time. Once you have these topic modules written, you can just copy, paste, and change the sections into the appropriate essay. Just be sure to alter any references to the school name, or else Harvard admissions might be puzzled as to why your only goal in life is to attend Duke!

Hopefully, these tips have help you out a bit with the applications process. Be sure to never give up on your dreams, particularly due to what are actually very small (though largely annoying) obstacles such as college applications. Good luck with the process, and I hope you get into the school of your dreams!