The Ultimate College Application Checklist

Can you believe the size of some of these college applications? Page after page! Essay after essay! I just wish they would cut us some slack… Seriously, if I was able to write an entire novel in a few weeks for a college application I doubt I’d be applying in the first place.

These applications can get pretty intense, and if you have any intention of completing them, you’d better have a plan for what you need to get done and when you need to do it. Luckily for you, Zinch is willing and able to help you figure this all out.

Preliminary Steps:

1). Start Early & Plan ahead.
Time is NOT your friend. Suffice it to say that starting your college application the night before the deadline will get you in big trouble. Many college applications have so many requirements that you’re probably gonna need to start submitting materials weeks before the application is actually due. You’ll kick yourself if you wait any longer than two weeks before the deadline to start this process.

2). Get in the Right Mindset.
This is serious business. It’s one thing when you put off an English assignment to play a little Mario Kart, but if there’s one thing you should not mess around with in your academic career, it’s your college apps. Make sure you are ready to get some work done. This is your future you’re talking about.

3). Be Willing to Prioritize.
As a student who cares about your education, you probably have a lot of other obligations during application season, which means you’re going to have to be willing to make sacrifices. Unfortunately, a ten page paper in Criminology is still probably not as important as your acceptance into college. If it comes down to it, be willing to make the decision.

Now it’s time to start checking off some requirements. Ready? Let the application process commence!

Checklist:

Double Check Requirements
Think you know all of your college’s application requirements? Check again! Better safe than sorry, trust me. Visit the college’s website and make sure you’ve completed every requirement for application submission. Here’s a comprehensive list of helpful articles about completing these requirements.

Now List ‘em Off
If there’s anything you don’t already see on this list, make a checklist of all the requirements you know you need to complete for each college – it will help you stay organized when you’re submitting your materials later on.

Test Again!
If you realize you’re missing test scores or your current scores don’t meet the college’s minimum requirements, take the test again! This includes paying any late registration fees, getting any fee waivers from your counselor, and allowing time to fill out detailed personal information before being able to register for tests.

Know Pointless Facts
Applications have some of the most seemingly pointless questions. Make sure when you’re asked the year your grandfather was hired for his first job, you at least have someone like Mom around who can provide an answer.

Order Your Transcripts Early (Plus an extra!)
If the application requires you to self-submit your transcripts, make sure you have a copy of your OFFICIAL transcript (plus one extra copy) ready to be mailed/faxed/scanned at least a week before the deadline. You don’t want to be denied admission for late submission of materials – believe me, it happens.

Send Test Scores Early
The same rule about transcripts applies to your test scores. Almost every college requires that your ACT and SAT scores be sent to them directly from the College Board and the ACT, not from you. Surprisingly, it takes anywhere from 1-3 weeks for them to actually send your scores to any given college after you order them. This means you need to order your scores to be sent as early as possible! If they aren’t postmarked before the app deadline, the college will usually not accept them.

Get Letters of Recommendation Early
If there’s any less than a month between now and the application deadline, make sure you talk to your teachers and – if the application permits it – other mentors about letters of recommendation ASAP. Not only do you have to depend on them to get the letters submitted on time, but the less time you give them, the less happy they’ll be in their recommendations.

Retrieve Financial Documents!
I cannot stress this enough. If you’re applying for a need-based scholarship or your colleges require financial information in any way, shape, or form, tell your parents to find their recent relevant financial documents right away! For most parents, finding last year’s W-2 and 1040 forms is like trying to find the Hand-Traced Paper Plate Turkey you made in 1st grade. It might take a little longer than you think.

Complete CSS/FAFSA Early
Applications for financial aid through the CSS Profile or the FAFSA are incredibly detailed, long, and time-consuming, so if your college app requires either of these, be sure to finish it way before the application due date. These applications require so much time and attention that waiting to complete them at the last minute is virtually impossible.

Retrieve Community Service Records
Volunteer work and community service are great additions to any application, but they aren’t very meaningful unless you include the amount of time you’ve dedicated to these activities. Go to your advisors for NHS, Student Council, Key Club, FBLA, and DECA and get your records ahead of time. If anything, try not to ballpark your time commitments to community service – colleges may ask for proof later on.

Be prepared to write. A lot.
Once you’re done providing all the necessary technical information for the application, remember you probably still have an essay or two, plus a few short answers, to complete. Give yourself enough time to complete all of these to the best of your ability – they’re what make you stand out the most.

Now that you’ve hopefully got everything ready for your college applications, everything from here on out should be a breeze! If you need to, return to this page as often as necessary, to help keep track of everything you still have left to do.

Is there anything I missed? Leave a comment below if you have any additional suggestions – they are greatly appreciated!

written by
Soeren Walls
November 27, 2012
 

One Response to “The Ultimate College Application Checklist”

  1. John Carson
    September 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    This checklist does a great job at covering all the bases, just make sure you start working on it early! Like it says “time is NOT your friend”, get ahead of the game. If you can, apply for early decision or early action, they’ll both boost your chances of getting into your chosen school.

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