On top of homework, exams and extracurriculars, the college application process can feel like an overwhelming addition to an already packed schedule.

However, if you take charge and prioritize your time, you can find a balance between applying to school and managing your other commitments. You can even save time to spend with your friends — it just takes a little advanced planning.

Here are some strategies to help you manage your time, so you can submit your very best college applications without sacrificing your senior year responsibilities.

Get Organized

Putting together a high quality application takes time, so start early and plan ahead.

Check each school’s website to learn about specific requirements and deadlines, and track what you’ll need for each application in a chart or spreadsheet. It may also help to create a combined checklist of all the materials you’ll need, including essays, tests, recommendation letters and paperwork. You can also use digital tools made for organizing college prep to-lists, like our College Planning Calendar.

Taking the time to map out all of the requirements will ensure you don’t forget any crucial parts of your application.

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Develop a Schedule

Stay on track by marking important submission and financial aid deadlines on a calendar. Consider your current commitments inside and outside of school and think about how much time you’ll have each week to spend on your college applications.

If your schedule allows, add a free period during your first semester so you can dedicate time to applications to ensure you stay on track. You can utilize time during your lunch breaks, holiday breaks or weekends to get application work done as well.

Once you have a sense of how much time you’ll have each week, plan out the work on your checklist and set personal due dates for yourself. You can also set reminders of the deadlines in your planner or on your phone so you won’t forget.

Putting together a schedule in advance will ensure you don’t end up scrambling when your application deadlines approach.

Ace Your Essay

Don’t wait until the last minute to begin writing your essay. It may take you some time to decide on a topic, so start brainstorming as soon as you get the essay prompts.

Once you have an idea, sit down and write a first draft. You don’t have to worry about making it perfect right away — just get something written. Giving yourself time to experiment and try out different ideas will pay off in the long run. Your college application essay should go through multiple revisions so ask parents or teachers to read through your drafts and help you revise.

Request Recommendation Letters Early

Most schools require two letters of recommendation. Brainstorm a list of people familiar with your work and achievements. This might be a teacher, a team leader at your volunteer gig or a supervisor at your after-school job. Whomever you ask, make sure you approach them a few months before the deadline so they’ll have time to compose a thoughtful and personalized note. When the due date nears, follow up with a friendly reminder to ensure the letter is sent.

Schedule Time With Your Counselor

Meet with your high school counselor, in person or virtually, throughout the application process. Keep them up to date on your progress and let them know about any challenges you run into. With all of their experience helping students, they’re an invaluable resource for advice and feedback. Be sure to do a final review with your counselor to make sure you have all the required documents before submitting.

Take Time to Have Fun and Relax

Finally, stay engaged in your after-school activities and continue pursuing your hobbies outside of school. Read a book, take a walk or hang out with friends and family. It’s important that you find time to relax and create lasting memories during your senior year.

With these time management, organization and self-care strategies, you’ll be able to balance your senior year while powering through your college applications.