December 2019 Features

Winter Make or Break: Getting Ahead of the College Application Process

For many high-school seniors deep in the throes of the college application process, the holidays may begin to resemble something more like a holi-craze or a holi-daze. With multiple school-specific supplements left to tackle, and that daunting 650-word personal statement vying for attention (or at least a revamp), it’s hard to “vacate” over winter vacation, let alone ring-in the new year without succumbing to last year’s burn-out. What then should the savvy, college-bound student to do? Here are some essential tips to help streamline the admissions process while not having to forego some holiday R&R:

Plan your time wisely.

Prioritize applications that are due the soonest—as well as those that you are most excited to tackle!—to give yourself ample time to allocate to each application. Work backward from the deadlines and then schedule blocks of time to tackle specific steps, as well as time to relax, be with friends and family, or engage in other forms of self-care. Hold yourself accountable, while allowing for some wiggle room and adjusting as you go. Such planning and flexibility will allow for more productive bursts of creativity, precision, and focus – setting you up to have a balanced, enjoyable process. Furthermore, you’ll be all the more rested, energized, and likely to catch those unwanted grammatical and/or spelling errors.

Choose the “write” environment.

Who said you have to tackle all this in your typical “work” space? Put yourself in an environment that inspires you. Bring a tablet, laptop, iPad, or journal to some of your favorite places—inside or outside—and watch the ideas flow! Changing up your environment can help college “memoir-style” essay marathons feel less overwhelming, allowing for writing that is more nuanced, sincere, and vulnerable.

Request letters of recommendation now.

Establishing a strong relationship with your faculty mentors is a great skill – not only for a better classroom experience but also for stronger letters of recommendation. Schedule time to meet with your teachers 1-on-1 to discuss how best to capture your “nerve” in their specific recommendation letters. Provide them with a brag-sheet, resume, snippets of your personal statement(s), as well as a list of all your schools, intended programs/majors, and deadlines. It’s best to ask teachers and others for letters of recommendation at least four to six weeks in advance of your deadlines so that they will have ample time to reflect upon your milestones as a student/participant in their class, your unique attributes, and how you will meaningfully contribute to a college community.

Get into the right headspace.

How you think about the process is everything. It’s important to focus less on rushing through your to-do list and more on sharing what makes you YOU to your sought-after colleges. Sharing your one-of-a-kind, compelling narrative, your “why,” what you’re passionate about, and where you foresee yourself making an impact will undoubtedly contribute to the quality of your application narratives while shedding a powerful light on your aspirations, growth, and educational/career trajectory.

Written by: Cindy Chanin, Founder of Rainbow EDU Consulting & Tutoring


Cindy Chanin is the Founder of Rainbow EDU Consulting & Tutoring. Cindy has tutored in virtually every subject. From Honors Chemistry to Trig/Pre-Calculus to American/European History, Literature Analysis, Creative Writing, and Spanish to College Application Preparation and Expert College Admissions Exam Preparation. Cindy specializes in working with adolescents of varying skill levels (middle school through college level) and also has an extensive background in mentoring teens and young adults. She has coached college-bound seniors for their monologue and musical theatre auditions for NYU’s Tisch School and accompanied them on “power vocab. building” hikes around the city as well as to yoga classes.

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