One of the most stressful things for most high school seniors is putting together and sending out college applications. Between writing essays, doing your homework, participating in sports, and all of the other things you’re doing during your senior year, it probably seems like the college application is just one more thing to make you anxious and take up hours of your time. But fear not: I’ve got some tips for you on what you need to do before sending out your college applications.

1. Clean up your social media profiles

Earlier this year, Harvard rescinded admission offers to at least 10 students because of their participation in a private Facebook group where offensive and hateful memes were posted. Even if your social media isn’t that bad, you should still update your privacy settings, clean out your friends list (do you really know thousands of people with whom you’d be comfortable sharing your closest secrets?), and delete anything that reeks of middle-school drama. Admissions officials will search for your name on the internet and on social media, so take care of your online presence before you send out your college applications.

2. Ask for letters of recommendation

Don’t wait until the day before you need to mail out your application to ask your favorite teachers, coaches, or other adults for letters of recommendation. If you want your recommenders to be able to make a thoughtful case for why you’re so awesome, you need to give them time to write their letters. As a bonus, planning ahead for letters of recommendation will leave a favorable impression, and their good feelings will show through in the letters they write for you.

3. Take (and retake) the SAT

If you’re not happy with your SAT scores, set up a time to retake the test. SATs are offered several times each school year, so you should have at least one more chance to get a better score. Make sure you know when and where the exams will be held. Before you go, read up on how you can ace the SAT.

4. Get started on your essays early

You may be accustomed to writing your essays the night before they’re due, but if you’re really honest with yourself, you know you’re not doing your best work when you’re stressed and not well-prepared. The essays that go with college applications are the one place where you can make a strong case to the admissions office that you belong at their school, so you’ll stand a much better chance if you take the time to write, rewrite, and share your work. Get my tips on creating a killer college application essay.

What tips do you have for helping students prepare for sending out their college applications? Please share them in the comments!

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