1.) Start filling out apps early, especially if you need scholarship money. The Common App opens August 1. Start then. Some universities and colleges require you turn the app in by November 1 for scholarship consideration. That gives you time to get it right.
2.) Work on your essay the summer before senior year. Make sure you write about something that is new to your reader. Don't write about things that are already in the rest of your app. Give them something new to get to know you. I know kids who got into college because their essay was "compelling". I like it when students write about things that differentiate them from other students.
Ex: You are one of nine kids in your family. What does that look like from your perspective? How does that impact your character and life? You could talk about advocating for yourself, working as a team, being responsible at an early age...Be specific.
Essay prompts are listed here:
3.) Have someone proofread your full app before you submit it. Check for spelling errors, incomplete data and again be specific. Don't just say you are in a club and your title. Tell your reader what you learned from it, why you like it.
Surprisingly, the college application process can be fun and rewarding if you stick with simply being you. Give yourself time, and stay organized. Also make sure you pick some safety and on-target colleges to keep yourself focused and encouraged. Simply google "average gpa and SAT (or ACT) for University of _____ or ______College. A bunch of sites will come up, including the college, as well as Prep Scholar, one of my favorites. Do not get discouraged from these sites; they are only intended to give you some idea where you stand. Ask your counselor if you need help identifying colleges that are a good match for you. You got this! :)