What are Some Tips for Filling out College Applications?

B. Miller

Often, the best tips for filling out college applications are the simplest. Before you even begin to think about filling out college applications, however, you might want to narrow down your list of schools to around five that are the most appealing to you. Applying to many colleges and universities might mean you have to compromise the things you want most in the institution you end up attending. The colleges you apply to should be a good fit academically and socially. In addition, they should be in a location that appeals to you. Making sure your potential colleges are a good fit for you in all of these important areas increases the likelihood that you will stay for all four years.

A college admissions application often must include standardized test scores.
A college admissions application often must include standardized test scores.

Applying for college seems like a daunting process, but it doesn't need to be. There is no need to send applications to 15 or 20 schools. Choose your favorites, research their academic requirements, and apply to those. Filling out college applications goes beyond simply filling in boxes on forms — there are many other helpful tips you can take into account.

A college application.
A college application.

When you begin filling out college applications, one of the most important things to remember is to write neatly or type. An illegible application will end up in the trash. Place your name and social security number on every page of the college application, in case the pages become separated. Check your spelling and grammar carefully, and have someone look it over for you to be certain you haven't included any simple mistakes.

It is a myth that colleges do not look at grades from your senior year; some won't even make an admission decision before seeing those grades. Good standardized test scores are important as well, but remember, you can take them again if you don't feel you performed well enough. Even if your test scores aren't great, a high school transcript that shows you applied yourself and have varying interests may show colleges that you'll be a good fit. It is a good idea to take a few accelerated classes, such as Honors or AP courses in high school, along with some extracurricular activities, to demonstrate that you can succeed at a particular college.

One of the most important parts of the college application is the personal essay. The colleges you apply to may limit the potential topics you write on, or you may be able to choose one of your own. Regardless, be sure to focus on a single theme when writing, and reveal facets of yourself, your life, and your personality that make you unique. If you can, note some of important goals you hope to achieve if you are admitted. As is the case when writing any other essay, it is a good idea to write a rough draft first and get your ideas clearly down on paper; you will then be able to edit and revise and end up with a great essay.

When filling out college applications, you will want to include letters of recommendation from teachers, advisers, or coaches. Make sure to give your teacher enough time to write the letter, and discuss with your teacher ahead of time whether he or she feels as if they know you well enough to write a thorough letter. Remember to provide your teacher with the name and address of the school.

Once you have finished filling out your college applications, it is often a good idea to schedule an interview even if one is not required. Meeting with an admissions counselor gives you a chance to discuss your application in depth, learn more about the college, and present yourself well. Always dress professionally and appear neat and clean for an interview. A great first impression can give you an edge over other applicants, and it can also prove to the college that you can succeed even if you have weaker grades or test scores.

Finally, be sure that every required part of the college application is included. Check to see what the college wants to receive — usually, that includes high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, the actual application filled out neatly and completely, and a personal essay. There is also often a minor fee associated with a college application. If you are applying to a design school, they may request a portfolio of your work.

Some colleges encourage early application for early admission, which is something to consider. Other colleges may not consider early admissions for applications received well ahead of the deadline. Always make note of application deadlines, and if early admission is offered, it can be a great idea to take advantage of that opportunity.

College application essays can help students make a dynamic, positive first impression.
College application essays can help students make a dynamic, positive first impression.

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Discussion Comments

True, Heavanet. But all of this work will help potential college students prepare for life after college, which is often over-scheduled and very stressful.

I agree with you about the article Talentryto. But I don't agree that it's not a daunting process. For young people who may still be busy with high school work, volunteer projects, sports, and part-time jobs, the application process for college can be very stressful to complete on top of other responsibilities.


College preparation is very detailed and often complicated. There are many steps to take long before you apply, then the application process itself is a long process. This article is very informative about how to approach the entire application process, from finding schools to apply to all the way to filling out the paperwork.

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