Applying for college takes quite a bit of effort, and in many ways, the whole undertaking might even feel like an exam. While it can be intimidating, breaking it all down into smaller tasks can help. In this post, we will take a look at some actionable steps you can take to prepare yourself for the college application process and make sure yours stands out above the rest.

1. Start Early

The importance of submitting your college applications as early as possible cannot be emphasized enough. Getting everything handed in well in advance will ensure the admissions office has received everything. It can also help you avoid the stress of rushing at the last minute, which can lead to careless mistakes. Many colleges also offer early admission plans, although keep in mind that you can only apply to one early admission college at a time.

2. Apply Online

Applying for colleges can be accomplished through snail mail, but online applications are usually the fastest way to apply. Tools like the Common Application platform allow you to keep track of multiple applications at the same time, and in most cases, a lot of your information only needs to be filled out once.

Other platforms include the Coalition Application, the Universal College Application, and school-specific applications. The forms you fill out will, of course, depend on which schools you are applying to.

3. Get Organized

Before you get started, you should get all of your documentation and paperwork ready, so you are not hunting for it in the middle of filling out forms.

You will need:

  • Your basic information and social security number
  • A completed FAFSA
  • Your high school transcript
  • SAT and ACT scores
  • Advanced placement test scores (if applicable)
  • Recommendation letters (if required)
  • Information about your extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or internships.

4. Triple-Check Your Application

Proofreading everything on your application is critical to your chances of acceptance. Make sure you use the same name on each form. For example, if you spell out your middle name on one form, be sure to do the same on all of the forms.

It’s a good idea to have someone else check the paperwork too. Have your teacher, guidance counselor, or parent proofread it before submission to make sure there are no errors.

Depending on the requirements of each college, you will likely need to write either a personal essay or use pre-determined writing prompts. Make sure that your essay is also free of spelling and grammar mistakes.

5. Submitting Your College Application

After you have completed and checked your application, it’s time to submit it for consideration. There are a few things to keep in mind during this final step.

Each submission will have a separate application fee (typically between $50-$90 each), so you will want to be sure you have these funds set aside. If you were eligible for an SAT or ACT test fee waiver, you might be able to get a college application fee waiver.

Transcripts, letters of recommendation, essays, and other elements of the application process may have different deadlines attached. Be sure to allow for plenty of time (typically several weeks) for each of these components to get into the right hands.

Save all documentation and make copies of each application. Make sure to save any passwords or emails in case you have to refer to them again. Keep copies of any checks sent to the school, as well.

Once you have submitted everything, make sure you receive confirmation. If you are sending your materials electronically, you will usually get an email saying they have been received. If you are sending your applications in the mail, it’s a good idea to use USPS return receipt service, so you know your paperwork arrived at its destination.


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