Get Organized! How to Set Up Your Online System

Are you a junior beginning to build your college list? Or a senior juggling requests and deadlines from the colleges you’re applying to?

It’s time to set up your system. An online file folder system can be a game changer, allowing you to keep all your essential documents and materials neatly arranged and easily accessible.


How To Get Started

Choose your platform

There are lots of popular options such as Google Drive, iCloud or OneDrive. Find the one that’s easiest to use and suits you best. Check with your school counselor or your family. What do they recommend? It’s good to be in sync with the people you’re working with.

Create a folder hierarchy

Create a central folder and give it a clear and straightforward name, like College Applications 2024 or My College List. Then create a subfolder for each college you’re interested in or are applying to — and make sure everything about that college goes into that folder. This will allow you to easily find all your important documents in one place.

Name files descriptively

Use names that make it easy to identify their contents at a glance. For example, instead of Essay_1, use Central_State_Personal_Statement to indicate both the college name and the document’s purpose. Whatever system you use for naming files, make sure to keep it consistent. Consistency is key to maintaining an organized digital workspace.

Protect sensitive information

Use strong passwords and consider two-factor authentication to make sure your storage system is secure and private. (Applying for financial aid requires that you share private information, including your family’s taxes and Social Security numbers. You’ll want to keep this safe.) Also, you may want to try a password manager. These offer strong security — and you won’t need to memorize multiple passwords!

Stay up-to-date

Regularly update your folders, keep track of deadlines, and communicate with others who are helping you with your college applications. Again, finding a comfortable system is key. What have you been using to keep track of your schoolwork and tests? Perhaps use this same system — but create a new one, just dedicated to your college hunt. Google, Outlook, or an old-fashioned weekly planner all work great to monitor your important deadlines and communications.

Sort your email

Create an email folder for each college you’re pursuing or applying to. Once you start the application process, you’ll get emails with requests and deadlines you can’t miss. Mark those emails as important. It may be best to print them out, so they don’t get lost.

Customize your desktop

Organize your desktop icons, widgets, and shortcuts in a way that makes sense to you. Group similar items together.

Jump in

All set up? Now you’re ready to fill out your applications and start applying for financial aid. Check out our articles below for things you need to know this season about the new FAFSA and financial aid process.


Juniors: Get an FSA ID Now to Prepare for the New FAFSA

How TikTok Can Help You Create Your College List

Creating Your College List? Many Colleges Offer Big Discounts