Oct   2013



10 Things to Do Before You Submit Your College Applications

Associate Dean of College Counseling, Cranbrook Kingswood School

Many high school seniors are spending most of their nights and weekends creating the perfect college application, and now that it’s late October, many are anxious to hit "Submit." Applying to college is exciting, but before you send your application out, review these important steps—they can be the difference between sending in a good application and submitting a great one.

1. Check the college's website for updates

Colleges have seen some changes and challenges this fall, leading some to change their application deadlines and other options. A quick look at your college’s website will let you know if you have more time to apply or if you need to submit additional information, so take a look.

2. Double check with your letter writers

If your college requires a letter of recommendation, make sure your letter writer knows about the deadline. Most colleges requiring letters won’t read an application without it, and if your letter writer is a teacher, this is a busy time of year, so they’ll need plenty of notice. Touch base with them now and be sure to thank them again for going the extra mile in supporting your college plans.

3. Send your test scores

Just like letters of recommendation, colleges that require test scores won’t read an application without them.  Check to make sure your scores have been sent. If not, contact the ACT or the College Board and get them out right away.

4. Proofread the entire application

It’s easy to think your computer will catch every mistake on your application, but that won’t happen if it doesn’t know the word or if you typed “saw” when you meant to type “was.” Check every word carefully, especially the section on awards and hobbies, since they can include unusual words. If you need to slow down when you check, read your application backwards; that usually does the trick.

5. Let someone else proofread your application

There’s nothing like another pair of eyes to spot mistakes, so find the best speller you can trust to review the entire document—it’s that important.

6. Let your essays sit for a day or two

Too many students get to the end of their essay and love it so much, they decide to submit their application right away—even though it’s 2 a.m. and you might be a little tired. If the writing is really that good, it will still sound good two days later. Let it rest and then check it again.

7. Show your essay to someone

College essays are very private, personal compositions, so it’s easy to understand why you wouldn’t want to share it with someone. But personal writing requires the same flow of ideas any other essay requires, and sometimes the author isn’t the best judge of that. Find a grammar-savvy adult who knows you well, show them the essay, then ask, “Does this sound like me?”

8. Apply well before the deadline

There have been enough college application glitches to last a lifetime this fall, and while we’d like to think there won’t be any more, no one really knows. Give yourself some breathing room and apply at least four days before the deadline.

9. Make sure you hit "submit"

If you’ve been working on your application a little at a time, you’re used to hitting "Save." If you do that now, your application will never get there. Submit.

10. Look for a confirmation email

You should get a notice from the college two to three days after you’ve applied, letting you know they have your application. If you don’t get one, check your online application and your spam filter. If you really sent it and nothing is there, it’s time to call the college.

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About Patrick O'Connor

Patrick O'Connor

Patrick O'Connor is Associate Dean of College Counseling at Cranbrook Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Born and raised in Detroit, he has been a college counselor since 1984, serving students in rural, urban, and suburban high schools as well as community colleges. A past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), he holds five college degrees, including a Ph.D. in education administration, and teaches one of the nation's few graduate courses in college counseling. His hobbies include running, cooking, bridge, watching sports, and returning deposit bottles so he can send his two children to college.

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