I am currently in the process of filling out graduate school and job applications. While these are not the first applications I have ever filled out, I wanted to share three things that you can do beforehand that will make the whole process less stressful. Whether you’re applying to community college, undergraduate college, graduate school, professional school, or a job, these tips will help make things simpler for you.
- Keep a list of all your extracurricular activities.
Colleges want to know what you did, who you did it for, and how long you did it. They want to know all of the intricate details of your extracurricular activities. You need to make a “master list” of all of your extracurriculars – starting in high school. Depending on how long your list is by the time you’re filling out applications, you may not use all of the information. But you will be able to answer any question the college may ask you about your extracurricular activities. Your list needs to include: what you did, the organization/person you did it for, the location, start and end dates, and even a brief description of what you did. Make sure to list any clubs/interests/hobbies, service projects, volunteer work, awards, and honors. Remember, when filling out college applications, too many details are better than not enough. Once you’re in undergraduate school, DON’T stop keeping track. If you have even the slightest wish of going to grad or professional school, there are some universities that will want details of your extracurriculars. Some jobs may even want a list of awards and honors. It may seem to be a daunting task, but if you can keep up with it, it will save you a lot of headache in the long run.
- Keep a list of all the technology that you use.
One of the jobs I applied to had a section that said “List all applications and software that you have used”. The only thing I could come up with was Microsoft Word, even though I know that is NOT the only software I know how to use. I then spent the next couple of hours trying to remember all of the software I had used in the past three years. Going through every lab I had taken, every course, and every extracurricular activity, I was trying to remember what software I had used. I looked at what was installed on my computer, but that didn’t tell me everything – oftentimes, colleges pay for software licenses that are only good on the laboratory computers. I was able to come up with a decent answer, but I know I had not listed every piece of software I had ever used. During your time through high school and college, you should keep a list of all the technology, applications, and software that you use. You may not be asked for the information, but if you are, you will already know the answer.
- You’re going to need at least three references.
Most places ask for three references. And depending on how many you’re applying to, you could need quite a few letters of recommendation. Make sure not to spread your references too thin by asking them to write you 30 reference letters. If you’re going to need that many, have a few other people that can serve as references for you. Also, make sure to send your references a spreadsheet of the places you’re applying to, listing: the company/school, who the letter needs to be addressed to, how the letter is sent to the organization, and when the letter is due. They’ll appreciate the organization and it will help them avoid missing a deadline. If you’d like some tips on asking someone to be a reference for you, check out this article.
You may think it silly to keep a list or record of everything that you do throughout high school and your undergraduate education, but believe me, it will save you time in the long run when you start applying. This information is useful until you have real work experience (like, you’ve had a job in your desired field for the past 10 years). Whether you’re applying to grad school, professional school, or a job in your field, they’re bound to ask you one of these questions. And instead of trying to think about it for hours like I did, you’ll be able to have all of this information at the tip of your fingers, making the whole application process go a lot smoother.
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