College Application Checklist

The college application is the ultimate deciding factor in the future of your scholastic and career achievements. You’ve spent months researching and visiting schools, attending college fairs, and speaking with college representatives. After narrowing your college search to three to five of your top college choices, it is time to apply. College applications vary depending on the school, but most require detailed information about your academic history. Organize the process with lists, and don’t wait until the last minute to complete your college applications.

The Application

Typically, a standard college application will have you fill out a brief history of your life, education, employment experience and extracurricular activities. Read the application thoroughly at least once before filling it out. Before you begin filling out any applications, compile a list of your entire academic achievements and extracurricular activities to make sure you are not leaving anything out.You want to be sure you understand all the questions on the application, especially because you don’t want to have to cross out any ink on your application, as this looks like you are rushing through the document.

Records

Each college application will require you to include a copy of your high school transcript. Your transcript is the official record of all the courses you have taken throughout high school, as well as the grades you received in finished courses. Your transcript is used to make sure you meet a minimum grade point average requirement.

Request a high school transcript from your high schools's administrative staff. If you are a current high school student, make sure that you obtain this by the first semester of your senior year. You may have to fill out a release form that will allow your high school to send your transcript to various colleges you are applying to, so give yourself plenty of time to do so. You don’t want to keep college admissions boards waiting on your transcript.

Tests

Many college applications require you to submit your standardized testing scores . These tests allow college admissions boards to see an unbiased indicator of your basic knowledge. You should have taken your SAT and ACT during your junior or senior year of high school.

You are in control of who sees your test scores and when. You can decide to have your tests sent to the schools you are applying to as soon as they are available. On the other hand, you have the option of receiving the scores yourself first, so that you can decide whether or not to retake the exam.

Essays

Most colleges require an admittance essay as part of the college application. Topics can range from "Why you want to attend college?" to sharing an important event in your life that shaped who you are. Colleges will often ask you to write an essay explaining a difficult event or hardship and how you worked to overcome that obstacle.

Whatever the topic, it is important to take your time when writing your college essay. Think about the topic you want to cover, construct an outline, and then write a rough draft. Ask a teacher or guidance counselor to read your essay and provide feedback. After several drafts, have someone proofread the essay to be sure there are no typos and then send it in.

Some colleges make the essay portion of the application optional. If this is the case you should complete an essay to show your dedication to the respective college you are applying to. If your essay needs to be submitted separately from your application, follow up with the admissions board to be sure they received it.

Recommendation Letters

During your junior or senior year of high school, start asking teachers or school administrators for a letter of recommendation. If you are a non-traditional college applicant, consider requesting a recommendation letter from a past or current employer. This will give them (and you) time to complete the letters for when you are applying to college. The letter should discuss the nature of your relationship with the person writing it, as well as an evaluation of your skills and abilities. Each letter should attest to your work ethic and personal discipline to give a college admissions board an idea of the type of student and worker you are.

Choose teachers and employers you trust to write you a recommendation letter. The person should also have a clear knowledge of your skills and abilities as a student or worker, but should not be a family member. Keep several copies of these letters and never mail an original copy in with your application.

The college application process is important, but it shouldn’t be daunting. Allow yourself plenty of time to complete each application and include all the necessary components in an organized fashion.

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