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What’s Your Best Advice for Filling Out My College Applications?

There's a lot to keep track of when you're applying to college. Here are some important to-do's for completing applications, as recommended by the experts.

There’s a lot to keep track of when you’re applying to colleges. But these are the top, super-important to-do’s of the application process.

  • Get organized: When it comes to filling out your college apps, use checklists, spreadsheets, and calendars to keep track of everything and include all the various application elements required of each school. Most importantly, keep track of your deadlines!
  • Stay on top of financial aid: With all the fuss about applying to college, it’s easy to forget you need to file the FAFSA, apply for scholarships, and send in other financial aid forms.
  • Read and follow directions, carefully: From sticking to word counts to answering questions completely, you need to follow instructions to the letter. If not, you run the risk of looking careless and missing important opportunities.
  • Give yourself plenty of time: Start your college applications deadlines, working on the closest first. You need to submit your best work, and you can’t do that if you’re rushing to complete apps the night before they’re due! Spread the work out over time to make the process more manageable by setting aside a few hours a week to work them.
  • Answer all “optional” application questions: They might be related to scholarships, placements, or special academic opportunities. Don’t miss out!
  • Review for errors: We’re talking everything from grammar and spelling mistakes to misunderstanding the directions. Carve out time specifically for editing and careful review—even check the simple stuff like your name and address.
  • Ask someone you trust to review them: Whether it’s an older sibling, a friend, mentor, parent, or favorite teacher, it helps to get another set of eyes on your applications before you send them in.
  • Make sure all materials were received: One missing piece can hold up your whole application. Many colleges have online portals to track your application progress and ensure everything was received on time. If not, all you need to do is email or call your admission counselor.
  • Get help if you need it: Your high school counselor, admission reps, friends, family, teachers, and more are there to support you and answer your questions throughout the application process.
  • Apply for application fee waivers: The cost of sending in an application should never hold you back from your college ambitions. if you think you’ll qualify, look for application fee waivers. If you have questions, talk to your high school counselor, admission rep, or perhaps even a college-related nonprofit like Bottom Line or QuestBridge.
  • Be courteous to admission reps: They’re there to help you and happy to do so, but they’re also trying to support many students at once. Be mindful of their time, respectful, and patient.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for the amount of tips we have on college apps! Check out Our Best Advice for Tackling Your College Applications.

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