Tips for a Smooth College Application Experience

Applying for college can be an exciting, yet daunting time of life for students graduating from high school. Times are always changing, which means the college application process now may differ greatly from a decade ago. Depending on the school you wish to apply for, requirements may vary as well. Once you have put together a list of the top schools you are interested in, it’s time to complete an application for each.

College Application Tips

“Overall enrollment at postsecondary institutions grew from 25% in 1970 to 40% in 2014 among young adults between the ages 18 and 24.” National Center for Education Statistics

With more people applying for college these days, it’s more imperative than ever to find ways to differentiate your applications to stand out from the crowd. College admissions departments go through hundreds of applications each day, and there’s a degree of sameness to them. With that said, it’s important for students to push beyond what the school offers when working through the application process. Here are some tips to help you get started on the right path!

Familiarize Yourself With Deadlines

The last thing you want to do is miss the opportunity to potentially attend a school you like simply because you missed important deadlines. We recommend starting applications early enough to complete them well before the due dates. Keep in mind that deadlines are typically between January 1 and February 15, but if you are applying for early admission, the deadlines may be earlier.

Ask for Recommendations Early

Waiting until the last minute for anything in the college application process is not recommended, and this is especially the case when it comes to recommendation letters because they involve another person(s). Get ahead of the curve and avoid becoming part of teachers’ stress pile of recommendation letters. By asking early, your teachers will have plenty of time to craft a strong letter for you with fresh minds. It’s a win-win situation for both parties! In addition to teachers, you can also reach out to coaches for recommendations if you are part of a sports team at school. Diversity goes a long way in showcasing a student’s versatility and well-rounded nature!

Read Instructions

Most hiccups that occur during the college application process result from not following the instructions fully. We encourage you to take the time to read instructions thoroughly, and maybe even make an easy-to-follow checklist of things to do while you’re at it so that you can stay on track.

Have Standardized Test Scores Ready

Depending on the school, you may have to submit standardized test scores. Find out whether the schools of your choice prefer the SAT or ACT, and take the exams if you have not yet already. With a little bit of research online, you should be able to find out what the “competitive scores” are for the schools you are interested in. Aim to get close or within the range to increase your odds of getting accepted.

Tackle the Essay

Essay prompts may vary depending on which school you are applying for. If you are applying for multiple, it’s smart to get started on this step early so you have plenty of time to proofread, revise, and ask around for feedback. You want your personal essay to not only reflect who you are as a person, but also demonstrate your strengths & passions, and provide an interesting edge so you stand out from other candidates. Before submitting, ensure that you have addressed each part of the prompt to the best of your ability.

Don’t be afraid to express who you are. However, save the overly opinionated statements and thoughts on controversial topics for another time, as these can have a negative effect in a college essay. When crafting a solid college essay, focus on your personal interests, career aspirations, and life goals. Having these shows that you are a good leader and are always striving for more.


Minor things like spelling errors or grammar mistakes should be combed through and fixed. Proofreading will go a long way in making a positive impression, and make your essay better!

Be Genuine

It’s easy to try and come up with a miracle answer that you think the college admissions department is looking for. But, at the end of the day, being real is most important! You want to be accepted to an institution for your true merits and strengths. With that said, do your best to polish up your application without sacrificing originality and authenticity.

Provide All Requested Information

Take the time to be thorough when going through college applications. Leaving blank fields or providing incomplete responses can make it look like you were not paying attention. Attention to detail is key! If you haven’t already, this is also a good time to request copies of your high school transcripts to be sent to the schools you are applying for. Notify your counselor’s office of application deadlines so that they do not arrive late.

Keep Copies of Everything

With so many components to college applications, it can get messy if you don’t stay organized in the process. Keep copies of your applications, recommendation letters, test scores, essays, and transcripts as you go so that you can easily reference them later if ever needed, or if they somehow get lost in transit.

Confirm Receipt of Application Materials

Before the deadline, it may be to your benefit to contact each of your schools to make sure that they have received your application. This way, if anything is missing, you have time to supply it immediately for consideration!

Wrapping It Up

Getting a head start and taking measures to stay organized along the way can make the college application process much easier and smooth sailing. By doing what you can to make this time feel less overwhelming, you can focus on what matters and complete the applications with a clear mind!