The Ultimate College Application Checklist

College applications are due VERY soon! As an English teacher who has also worked as a college counselor, I thought I’d put together a detailed checklist to help you out. There’s nothing worse than rushing to apply and then realizing you forgot to do something really important but it’s too late. Don’t let that be you. Follow these steps and you’ll be celebrating your acceptance letters in no time!

1. Don’t Race Through the Application. Fill out your college application online, save it, and come back to it on a different day. Read through it again to double check that everything is correct.

2. Record all classes and marks/grades earned exactly as reported. When they receive your official transcripts they will compare it to what you put on your application so do not fudge the grades even slightly. They take that very seriously.

3. Read your admissions essays/personal statements out loud. This is a great way to catch typos, punctuation errors, lack of sentence variation, run-on sentences, etc. These pesky errors detract from your writing, and they are a strike against you. They show a lack of care and a need for quality control.

4. Have at least 2 people read your personal statements. Reach out to current or former teachers, parents, older siblings, or knowledgeable friends who will give you helpful, honest feedback. Ask them to check for:

  • grammatical errors
  • if you fully addressed each prompt
  • if you’re showing not telling (describing a life changing moment and painting a picture of what happened and how it impacted you rather than simply listing what you’ve done, which is already included in your application)
  • if it transitions well from one paragraph to the next
  • if it reflects a piece of who you are and shows your uniqueness so that no other person could have written this essay
  • if your conclusion sums up your main points and ends on a strong note

Remember: your grades and scores show your intelligence and hard work, your extra-curricular activities and honors/awards show your accomplishments, but your essay should show your personality, your ability to reflect, and your maturity as an individual.

5. Revise your essays and read them out loud again. I know, this sounds repetitive but I can’t stress enough how important it is to put this much effort into polishing your essays so that they really represent pieces of you as if the admissions staff is listening to you in an interview.

6. Sign, Seal, Deliver! Sign, submit, and pay for your applications. Save any confirmation email or receipt you may receive. Send additional materials needed (transcripts, letters of recommendation, ACT/SAT test scores, other essays if required by a particular school).

7. Write thank you notes to your recommendation writers. Actual letters or cards are much more personal than just saying it or writing it in an email. Take the time to do this since they made time to help you.

8. Plan Ahead. Write down the priority deadline for financial aid, the regular financial aid deadline, and submit the FAFSA. Research scholarships and grants, organize them by deadline, and complete their applications. It may seem like extra work, but it’s extra money and it’s free! Also, check out: How to Keep College Debt Down and if you’re in California read: Understanding Different Types of Loans and Cal Grants

9. Keep Moving Forward. Keep earning good or even better grades in all of your classes. Continue taking honors, Advanced Placement, or online college classes to show you’re serious about going to college. If you do well on the AP exams, you can earn college credits so you’re saving yourself hundreds of dollars.

10. Make Time to Have Fun! Now that the worst is over, it’s time to have fun and try to stop worrying because let’s face it: that doesn’t change anything or speed up the months of waiting. Make the most of right now by balancing all you have to do with all you want to do.

For more info, check out:

College Board’s College Application Checklist



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