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09/08/2019

How to handle classes and college applications?

QUESTION
How to handle classes and college applications?
It’s my senior year, and all my teachers are piling on the homework, and I have no time to work on anything else! I barely started on my college applications, and did not apply to any scholarships yet! Which should I focus on more?

ANSWER
As a high school teacher I am pretty familiar with the usual homework requirements. Trust me, it gets harder. College, grad school and the professional work world are all much tougher. It is rare that in HS you are given assignments that take more than a week or two, a lot of the hard work of keeping up with the work in college and beyond (long term assignments without a lot of structure) is taken care of for you by the teacher.

So, what is the answer? Time management. You will NEED good time management skills to be successful in college and beyond. Keep a calendar and day planner if you don’t already. Budget your time. Plug in times to do homework, and assign yourself time to do the things you need for your college and scholarship applications, and treat it like any other appointment (i.e. don’t neglect or postpone it). Also, don’t get into the mindset that weekends are “free time”, they are less structured time. For adults it isn’t necessarily “fun” free time, but rather, time to get things done that need to be done. You may need to limit your free time with friends more than you’d like, but you need to think long-term and set your priorities appropriately.

If you find that your usual study spot where you do homework and work on your applications is full of distractions, find another spot where you’ll be able to get your work done with a minimum of distractions. Libraries are terrific, though a quiet corner at a coffee shop can be as well (especially if you need some background noise to help you concentrate).

As for which to focus on, both are important. It is extremely important to keep your grades up, even after you get your acceptances (I’ve seen kids let their 4th quarter grades drop since they were already accepted who didn’t realize that colleges can rescind their offers). Your goal is to get into college with your college applications, don’t sabotage that goal by letting your schoolwork suffer. On the other hand, the applications are needed to get in and good essays are a must. For scholarships, they can be worth anything from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. You don’t want to focus more on one or another. This is one of those times you need to show that you can multi-task, prioritize your time (friends and free time get sacrificed, not the things you need to do) and complete multiple important tasks at once. You’ll need these skills throughout college while balancing several tough classes/projects and a social life (and possibly a job) at the same time. It is tough, it may not be fun, but it is certainly doable. Many have been there before you, many are in the same boat now, know that you will get through it.