In the mad dash to submit college applications before the deadlines, many students miss critical steps that could determine if their application gets put in the “review” or “toss" pile. To avoid sending off an application with spelling errors, incomplete questions, or wrong information, follow these 13 tips before you hit submit!
1. Print out the application checklists
Most schools have an application checklist you can follow. Keep this with you as you complete each step. When you’re almost done, print it out and cross-reference it with your application before submitting it.
2. Set yourself a deadline before the deadline
Getting your application in well ahead of the deadline is ideal, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. So give yourself your own personal deadline. Try to submit your application at least 48 hours before the real deadline. If it falls right after a weekend, you’ll want to send it even sooner. This gives you a cushion if something goes wrong and you need to contact the admission office.
3. Reread all the instructions
One of the biggest mistakes a student can make on college applications is not properly reading the instructions. Before you start reviewing each application, reread each set of instructions. Then check if the answers you provided match what the prompts or directions ask.
4. Cut the fluff
Check the word count requirements on your essay(s). If the recommended count is 800 words, don’t send 1,200. When listing activities or awards, don’t cram more than one item per line. Keep everything organized and intentional, because more is not necessarily better. Being concise but purposeful is key to a good essay!
5. Don’t rely on spell check
After you proofread your application for content and correct information, go back and reread it for spelling. The last thing you want to do is submit an application listing “callus” instead of “calculus” for your senior math class.
6. Ask a teacher and counselor to proofread
If there’s one step you should reserve time for, it’s this one. Counselors typically have experience with college admission, whereas your English teachers know essays. To be absolutely confident in your essay, have an English teacher review it for grammar and spelling and have your counselor read it over for content.
7. Read your essay to others
When you read your essay aloud to other people, it allows you to hear the words rather than just seeing them in your head. Read it once all the way through to yourself and then read it to people you trust to give you the truth. Allow yourself to stop and take notes as you go so you can edit it prior to sending.
8. Check for extra essays
If you’re using the Common Application, check each school’s website for additional essays. Some colleges require short-response essays in addition to the required admission essay.
9. Make sure you have all supplemental documents
If your application asks for a school report, letters of recommendation, a counselor report, or anything else that requires someone else to complete it, make sure to check the status on each of these before hitting submit. The last thing you want is to send your application on time but have documents missing from your file.
10. Send official test scores
Many colleges require copies of official test scores. If you haven’t sent your scores yet, visit the College Board or ACT websites and request to have your scores sent to all the colleges you’re applying to.
11. Send an official transcript, if needed
Some schools will require an official transcript with your application. Request an official transcript from your counselor’s office, and they will either give it to you in a sealed envelope (do not open it) so you can mail it, or they will mail it for you.
12. Keep a copy for your records
Before you hit submit, print a copy of the application. If you can’t print each page or the entire application, print what you can, or take a picture of each page with your phone. Once you do submit, also print a copy of the confirmation page. This gives you a record of everything you’ve done in case there are any issues.
13. Only submit once
Few schools encourage paper applications, so it’s likely you’ll be applying online. Once you hit submit, you should get an automated response that your application is processing. But sometimes systems time out or freeze, and it’s difficult to determine if your materials went through. If this happens, do not send your materials again. Instead, contact the admission office for further instructions.
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