For this week’s CTP tip, we will be providing you with ways to stay organized over the weeks to come. Balancing standardized testing, essay writing, financial aid applications along with classes, assignments, friends and family can be challenging (we as college students still struggle with this on the daily, so know that you’re not alone). Therefore, to get the most out of this experience, it is important that you have a means of strategically achieving your goals and holding yourself accountable.
The first step to staying organized is to have a clear idea of your goals, your action plan and your deadlines. Invest in a notebook/planner and first write down all the things you have to achieve every week. Rate those items in terms of urgency and difficulty. Ideally, you should be spending the most time on the most urgent and difficult activities. Finally, block in times in your planner to work on these items. When you do cross off a certain item on your list, reward yourself (an episode of your favorite TV-show, candy – whatever works for you, as long as it doesn’t break the bank. Do it to keep yourself motivated!)

The second step is to pace yourself. A lot of the work you must complete to produce a successful college application can’t be done overnight. The best essays come out from weeks of editing and rewriting, and the highest SAT scores are contingent upon routine practice leading up to the exam date. Set a dedicated time each day (for instance, 45 minutes a day for SATs and 45 minutes twice a week for essays) to work on these items. Stick to your routine and you will see a lot of progress!

The third step is to structure your workspaces (notes and on your computer). For SAT’s keep a folder of your notes divided by section. On your laptop/computer, set up folders for financial aid, transcripts, essays, practice tests, and guides to colleges. And of course, back up EVERYTHING on another computer or a flash drive!

The last step is to work with others. Find people who will motivate you and you in turn will motivate when the going gets tough. Work with them, share resources, and support one another. The process will be less stressful for you if you’re around people with the same goals as you.

Managing college apps with classes can get tough but know that you are supported and more than capable. Stick to your plan, organize your workspaces and keep yourself motivated. You got this!!

The Author is a rising senior at Columbia University studying Chemical Engineering.