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This is SO Overwhelming!

Sound familiar? Are you a rising senior or a parent of a rising senior already getting overwhelmed by the college application process before school has even started? Is your student reluctant to participate in the process because it’s so overwhelming? Today I want to share with you one of my favorite systems for tackling big projects without feeling overwhelmed by them. It’s perfect for getting your college applications started today.

Small Easy Steps

Whenever I have a big overwhelming task or project I spend time at the beginning listing all of the possible steps that go into it. Then I break those steps down into the smallest possible task. I’ll give you an example:

Step: College Essay

  • Compile essay questions for schools applying to
  • Combine similar questions to limit the number of essays needed, getting it down to as few as possible
  • Brainstorm stories for the final short list of questions
  • Write outlines for the essays
  • Write rough drafts for the essays
  • Peer review the essays
  • Parent review the essays
  • Write final draft of essay
  • Edit essay for grammar and spelling
  • Read final essay out loud
  • Put final touches on essay

Can you think of any other steps or break down further any of the small tasks I listed? Leave a comment or email me.

Make it Fun!

The key to getting your student to participate in this monumental task is to make it fun. Maybe that means listening to your favorite music while completing the task or having a favorite rom com or action flick going in the background. I watched Step Up 2 The Streets about 100 times while writing my senior thesis at Harvard.

Another tool I use to make completing tasks fun is the CARROT To-Do app. It yells at you if you don’t complete tasks and rewards you with points and funny anecdotes when you do. Try anything to make the tasks more enjoyable for you.


With this system, the daunting task of college applications will feel much more approachable and your senior will be much more likely to participate in the process.


Action Steps

  1. Spend the next week breaking the college application process down into as many short easy steps as possible.
  2. Start on the first step and go from there.
  3. If you get stuck or want some feedback, send your list to me at jyeager@post.harvard.edu. I read every email!
  4. If you liked this post, let me know by email or in the comments. I’ll give you more tips for encouraging participation and reducing the overwhelm in my next post!

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