Organizing Your College Applications
So you’ve refined your search and decided on a short list of colleges. Exciting! Now what?
You have to actually apply. A little scary, we know!
The most difficult part of the application process is ensuring you have submitted all the pieces you need. Aside from the obvious (the application, transcript, test scores), admissions offices may request: a school report, letters of recommendation, a student conduct or honor code agreement, and any department-specific application materials.
If your head is spinning, don’t worry. We have some ideas on how to keep it all straight.
Be sure to read the admissions requirements for each school
- Most freshman admissions sites have a checklist of materials needed for a complete application. Note that each item may have a different deadline from the main application deadline, so it’s important to keep track of those!
- Whenever possible, if there’s an “optional” submission, treat it as required. Any additional opportunities to share references or personal statements will help make your application more robust and personal.
Request supplemental materials early
- Don’t wait until the last minute to request transcripts, letters of reference, or any other item that cannot be sent by you or your student. Give your school, teacher, or guidance office as much lead time as possible to send your materials.
- Many colleges request a school report—a document that explains your school’s grading and disciplinary system. This is sent by your counselor along with your official transcript.
- Keep a spreadsheet for all of your applications, with different tabs for each college. Try to keep your system uniform by having columns for whether a school requires a certain item, and whether you have submitted it. (For example: does the school require letters of recommendation? If so, how many? Have you sent the information needed for your recommender to submit your letter?)
- Prioritize early deadlines. This may seem obvious, but universities frequently have a merit scholarship deadline as well as a general application deadline. Getting your application in for the earlier deadline usually means you will be automatically considered for any merit scholarships the school offers, without having to seek them out.
When in doubt, pick up the phone
- Websites can provide a wealth of information, but they can sometimes be confusing, and they cannot answer questions specific to the unique situation your student may be in. If you’re not sure about the deadlines or whether your student is required to submit certain materials, call the admissions office directly and talk to a representative. They will be happy to help answer questions or connect you with someone who can.
Knowing your deadlines and being prepared—regardless of what system you use to track your progress (checklist, spreadsheet, whiteboard, you name it)—will help you prioritize and ensure you don’t miss any opportunities. Best of luck with the applications!