How To Prepare For A College Application

Published on: October 13, 2023
Last Updated: October 13, 2023

How To Prepare For A College Application

Published on: October 13, 2023
Last Updated: October 13, 2023

The criticality of the college application process has increased with the spike in the number of first-year applications colleges receive.

According to reports, 1,244,476 first-year students applied to 841 colleges through the Common App, representing a 21% increase in 2019-20 (1,028,422 applicants).

This trend shows that you must ace your application and leave a lasting impression on the admission committee.

However, preparing a college application requires effort. There are some elements to meet and several documents to submit.

No wonder many get admission essay service from certified writers to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

While seeking professional help may ease the process, a little effort and attention go a long way.

Below I have broken down the process and listed some useful tips to help you get through the process.

Key Materials For College Application

Before you brainstorm college application essay topics, take time and carefully study the application requirements and be clear about the documents you have to produce. Here’s a list of things you should have ready for college application:

  • A complete college application
  • Original academic transcripts
  • Letter of Recommendation (LOR)
  • Personal Statements or application essay
  • Standardized Scores
  • Financial Details
Preparing For Your College Application

Preparing For Your College Application: Step-by-step

Submitting college applications for different institutions take time and effort. It’s a good idea to start months before the deadline, especially if you target early admission.

Generally, students start with the process in the fall of senior year. However, if you want to take the SAT or ACT, your preparation should begin in junior year. For now, let’s start with the steps.

Step 1: Check Your Application Deadlines

Start your application process by listing out the target colleges. You can categorize them under ‘Dream College,’ ‘Target College,’ and ‘Safety College.’

Dream colleges are institutions you’d attend if money or grades were no issue. Target colleges are those where you fit well as an applicant.

Lastly, safety colleges are those where you are confident you’d be selected. Note the application deadline for each college and try to make the most of early admissions.

Step 2: Read The Instructions

Most college applicants overlook instructions and end up making mistakes in the application. Don’t do that. Instead, carefully read the instructions and make notes.

Then, gather all the necessary documents to provide the requested information. Double-check the details and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to keep your options open for scholarships.

Step 3: Sign Up For The Test

Many college applicants take the SAT or ACT in the spring of their junior year. That gives them enough time to retake the test for better scores. If you wish to take the test, study at least 6 hours daily.

Even though it is not a mandatory selection criterion, the scores can come in handy for qualifying for merit-based scholarships or financial aid.

Step 3:  Draft Your Personal Statement

Most colleges in the US ask for one or more college essays or personal statements.

Writing a college essay or personal statement will allow you to express yourself and show the admission committee who you are beyond your grades and scores.

Therefore, don’t rush. Take time to find ideas, outline, and craft the first draft.

As for students applying through the Common App, you can use one personal statement for multiple colleges unless any school provides a different essay prompt.

In case you are wondering what a Common App is, it is an organization that allows students to apply for different colleges through one application. The app has 900 member colleges approximately.

Step 4: Collect Letters Of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation are a key college application criterion. Don’t leave it until the last minute, as your teachers, coaches, or employer must be swamped with requests for the same.

Rather, ask for LORs well in advance so your teacher or the person you have requested for a recommendation has sufficient time to gather information for the letter.

You may have to share your GPA, transcripts, or a copy of your college essay to help your teacher to learn about you and develop a compelling LOR.

Collect Letters Of Recommendation

Step 5: Submit Your Official Transcripts

Almost all colleges ask for official school transcripts to review your academic performance.

If you are a high school student, you can seek help from your guidance counselor to send your transcripts to the college you are applying to.

If you are a high school graduate, fill out a transcript request form available online or in person.

However, if you are a community college student, you can contact your counselor or registrar’s office to share the official transcripts with the university.

You will have to upload the documents or have them postmarked within the given deadline for document submission.

Step 6: Complete The Application

Even though the application mostly asks for general information, don’t rush it. It may include questions that require some thought from your end.

No matter what the question is, be honest with your answers. The admission officers will verify the information you provide.

Also, don’t go overboard with your accomplishments. Your college application should represent who you are.

Be consistent with your tone, language, and format of writing. Use your legal name to match other data like test scores and FAFSA. Triple-check everything so no error hinders your chance of getting selected.

Step 7: Submit Your Application

Before the deadline approaches, check if you have uploaded or submitted everything. Create an application checklist, if needed, to keep track of everything you’ve done and are yet to do.

If you apply online, you’ll get an instant automated response saying the college has received your application with the requested materials. The application fee usually ranges between $50-90 per application.

If you don’t, don’t immediately reapply or resend the documents. Contact the college admissions office to inform them.

Keep a copy of every college application with the ID numbers, confirmations, passwords, and emails from the admissions officers for future reference. Regularly check your email so you don’t miss anything important regarding your application.

Good luck!

Stay on top of the latest technology trends — delivered directly to your inbox, free!

Subscription Form Posts

Don't worry, we don't spam

Written by Allison Langstone

Allison produces content for a business SAAS but also contributes to EarthWeb frequently, using her knowledge of both business and technology to bring a unique angle to the site.