Academic Advising 101: Tips on Proactively Managing the College Application Process

A 2018 Wall Street Journal article reported that, at some elite colleges, admissions officers spend approximately eight minutes (sometimes less) on each application. This phenomenon is partially due to the ever-rising numbers of applications colleges receive each year and is partially the result of applications at some schools being evaluated by several different people according to categories (activities, letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc.) instead of being reviewed as a whole by one person.

Understandably, the eight-minute-or-less statistic has caused concern among students and parents, along with rebuttals from some institutions. Because the notion that admissions officers are pressed for time during the application season isn’t new, Green Ivy encourages students and parents not to panic. To help, we’ve gathered some key strategies for students to use to organize and manage the application process.

Proactively manage the application process to make sure nothing is missed. Many students apply to a mix of private schools, UCs, CSUs, and out-of-state public schools, which can mean upwards of four separate applications to complete, not to mention private school supplements. We recommend creating a week-by-week timeline with self-imposed due dates beginning in July or August, a strategy our college counseling students have found invaluable. Another tip: Pull together into a single document all of the essay prompts so that everything is in one place and details are less likely to be overlooked.

Carefully consider the presentation and content of each piece of your application. Spend dedicated time on each aspect of your application, from the wording and presentation of your activities to the first sentence of your Common Application essay and the content you provide to recommendation-letter writers. Focusing solely on one part of the application can be detrimental, especially if some admissions officers are dividing applications into categories instead of reading them in their entirety.

Answer every single question a college asks. Optional essays aren’t really optional if you are seriously interested in a school, and it’s always a good idea to maximize any space provided to elaborate on an aspect of your application. That said, if questions about special circumstances or educational barriers are included and they don’t apply to you, simply leave them blank.

Pay attention to the details, and remember, neatness counts. Typos and grammatical and spelling errors can send a not-so-great message to admissions officers about your level of interest in their university. Pro tip: Make sure you are talking about the right school in your essays—don’t tell Boston College why you’d love to attend Villanova, for example. Triple-check everything, and read your essay aloud, as you are more likely to catch mistakes that way.

Lastly, keep in mind that your job is to put together the best application possible, and the rest is out of your hands. There is a college match for every student. If you stay organized and on top of the process, focus on quality content, and pay attention to the details, positive results will follow.

For more information about Green Ivy’s academic advising and college counseling services, click here.