5 Ways Students Can Prepare for College Applications

Using this extra time you have at home to get ahead on your college applications is just smart. These five quick tips can help you prepare to apply to college!

Despite many schools across the United States closing their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, students can (and should) still spend their time productively. But we understand it’s a little difficult to find the motivation to do much of anything right now. That’s why we wanted to provide you some quick tips for getting ready to apply to college! Here are five ways high school students can work on their future college applications right now.

1. Create a college list

It’s never too early to start building your college list—the list of schools that interest you and potentially align with your needs and goals. Organize your list with school names and the average stats of their applicants, like SAT/ACT scores, GPA, average acceptance rates, etc. Keep your list somewhere convenient like an Excel spreadsheet so you can easily compare a variety of school statistics to your grades and scores. Building a strategic college list will give yourself the best chance of getting into the right college or university for you. 

Related: College Search Spreadsheet Template

2. Begin the common application prompts

For juniors, you can get started on the Common Application now, as the prompts for the 2020–2021 cycle have already been announced. Writing your 650-word personal statement takes weeks (if not months) to get right because you need to brainstorm a topic that gives a unique insight into your life and experiences.

If you’re not sure how to start your essay, there are great online resources to help you do just that! For instance, you can try joining an online course like the ones offered by Moon Prep (you can enroll for free for a limited time). “How to Write a Winning Personal Statement” reveals multiple advanced strategies for crafting the perfect personal statement. The classes cover real-world examples of essays, brainstorming techniques, and common mistakes to avoid so you can feel more prepared to showcase your best self.

3. Prepare your résumé

When you fill out the Common Application, you only have 150 characters to describe each of your activities, which usually isn’t enough space to sufficiently describe all you’ve done. But you can supplement this section by submitting a résumé with your applications.

When describing your activities and accomplishments, use action words and quantify whenever possible. By doing so, it gives context to your dedication and successes and helps admission officers understand your activities a little better.

Related: How to Craft the Perfect High School Résumé

4. Apply for scholarships

High school students of all grades can start looking for scholarships at any time. By applying to three or four awards per week, you can start banking money now to pay for college later.

Start by looking for local scholarships. Check your school’s website, local nonprofits, or businesses to see what scholarships you might qualify for. And don’t skip the ones that require you to write essays! Other students may avoid these, which means it could be easier for you to win. Also, when searching for scholarships, be wary of websites that require you to pay a fee. These types of sites are likely scams—it should never cost money to apply to a scholarship.

5. Sign up for a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

Even if your school is providing digital learning, you might want to consider signing up for an extra online class on a platform like Coursera or edX. Both sites have thousands of courses available, taught by professors from top universities and companies like Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, Google, and IBM. By taking a MOOC, you can learn more about a topic you’re passionate about or discover a new interest. 

Related: 6 Tips to Transition to Online Learning 

Students shouldn’t waste the additional time at home they’ve unexpectedly found themselves with. Take advantage of this opportunity to get ahead on your college applications and continue to build your academic profile.

Have you finished building your college list? Use our College Search tool to find more schools you might want to apply to!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Lindsey Conger

Lindsey Conger

Lindsey Conger is a college counselor and tutor at Moon Prep.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Joan Franklin

Joan Franklin


I love this website and have been using it for years with my students. I originally bought products through Wintergreen Orchard House and appreciated having key facts at my fingertips when advising students. Your site is easy to access and offers a wide array of topics I need as a busy college counselor.



High School Class of 2023

I’m currently a college freshman attending Towson University. My major is Information Technology, and I plan to minor in Electronic Media & Film to achieve my goal of becoming a production engineer. Upon graduating high school earlier this year, I was awarded a $5,000 scholarship from CollegeXpress, which greatly assisted in paying my tuition. Truthfully, this financial reward was the difference in affording my room and board and tuition, along with other expenses for school. My family and I haven’t stopped celebrating my award since it was bestowed on me. I will never forget this opportunity for allowing me to get my foot into my university financially.

Melanie Kajy

Melanie Kajy

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously during my senior year of high school. I started off using the college search to find more information about the universities I was interested in. Just this tool alone gave me so much information about a particular school. It was my one-stop shop to learn about college. I was able to find information about college tuition, school rank, majors, and so much more that I can't list it all. The college search tool has helped me narrow down which college I want to attend, and it made a stressful process surprisingly not so stressful. I then moved to the scholarship search tool to find scholarships to apply for because I can't afford to pay for tuition myself. The search tool helped me find scholarships that I was eligible for. The tool gave me all the information I could ever need about a particular scholarship that was being offered. The CollegeXpress scholarship search tool is so much better than other tools offered, like the Chegg scholarship search. Thanks to CollegeXpress, I was able to apply to tons of scholarships in a relatively easy way!

Ida Akoto-Wiafe

Ida Akoto-Wiafe

High School Class of 2022

I wanted a school that wasn't too far away from home and could provide me with a full-ride scholarship. CollegeXpress helped me put into perspective the money I had to pay to attend those schools, which ultimately drove me to choose to attend a community college first to get used to being in college before transferring to the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, one of the colleges I was able to research further on CollegeXpress.

Courtney Smith

Courtney Smith

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has been a huge help! The website is very organized with finding the right scholarship for anyone and anything. With CollegeXpress, I've been able to find many scholarship opportunities to apply for. Not only that, I'm also able to search for the colleges I have interest in and see what’s required and what scholarships they offer. I've learned a lot from CollegeXpress. They've helped me in many ways to achieve my goals!

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Iona University

New Rochelle, NY