Fall College Planning: Tips for Submitting College Applications
By Erin Barnes on August 07, 2020
The start of a new school year is here. If you’re a high school senior considering applying to college, it’s important to be organized and purposeful in your final preparations. As deadlines for college applications approach, we want to offer you the following tips that will help you avoid common mistakes as you put the finishing touches on your applications.
- Focus on a shortlist of no more than 8 colleges
- Answer the essay questions thoughtfully
- Take pride in your presentation
- Know your high school’s procedures
- Touch base with your recommenders
- Be organized
- Assume responsibility for your applications
- Save copies
- Continue to engage
Focus on a Shortlist of No More Than 8 Colleges
The more applications you submit, the more likely it is that you seem to colleges, counselors and parents to be applying carelessly. Needless to mention the likelihood that “application fatigue” will begin to effect your ability to do a good job with each application. Stay focused on the core group of schools that represent good fits for you. In most cases, eight is more than enough.
Answer the Essay Questions Thoughtfully
Colleges that ask you to write about “why you want to attend” are really trying to determine how well your goals, needs, and learning style align with their learning environments. Avoid writing about qualities and simple facts of the college and campus. Admission officers don’t want to hear about their highly ranked programs, great faculty or beautiful facilities—at least, not in this essay! Instead, reveal to them how/where/why you have found meaningful connections between yourself and their university. Prove to the reader that you “get it”—that you understand how the learning environment in question makes the most sense for you.
Take Pride in Your Presentation
Your application is like a personal statement that needs to state the case for your admission.
- Proofread it carefully.
- Read it out loud.
- Resist the temptation to repurpose information from one application to another.
Know Your High School's Rules and Procedures
Each school has unique ways of supporting the college application process. Give the appropriate personnel time to prepare and complete your supporting documentation. Quite often, schools want information at least a week in advance of the actual application deadlines. Don’t put your college advisor in a bind by waiting until the last minute.
Touch Base with Your Recommenders
Make sure those who are writing your recommendations are kept "in the loop" with regard to key messages you need to convey on your application. Your college advisor and the teachers who are supporting you are important partners in the presentation of your credentials.
The application process involves the management of many moving parts (score reports, letters of recommendations, essays, supplemental forms, etc.). Make sure your part of the application is submitted with the application fee by the posted deadline. At that point, the colleges to which you have applied will create unique data files for you into which any other outstanding credentials will be added as they arrive. Make sure everything gets where it needs to be in a timely fashion. If possible, try to submit your part of the application two weeks in advance of the college’s deadline in order to beat the rush.
Assume Responsibility for Your Applications
At a time when deadlines and requirements are critical, It would be a mistake to assume that someone else has taken care of something for you! It is your job to make sure your application is complete and that it carries the key messages that help to define your life experience—and distinguish your candidacy.
Give yourself extra time to work with the formatting of your essays (no need for panicked melt-downs the night before deadlines!) and get in touch with the regional representatives from the colleges in question for guidance if you run into difficulty interpreting the requirements for their respective institutions.
It might seem like a hassle and old-fashioned, but take the time to make and save copies (hard copy or electronic) of the application materials you submit. You never know when you might need to refer to them.
Continue to Engage
A common assumption seems to be: “They have my application, so they know I’m interested.” Guess again! One of the biggest reasons bright and talented students do not get into target schools has to do with questions about the sincerity of the candidate’s interest. Answer emails that might come your way from those schools. Visit the campus. Direct important questions to the staff person at the university who recruits in your area. Don’t allow the decision-makers to regard you as a “ghost applicant.”