Updated: Mar 13
For many students, their first college applications will be sent out for November 1 deadlines.
Below are some tips and tricks for making the final checks before you release that beautiful work out into the universe! It's not a comprehensive application guide, just some heads-up, gut checks, and last steps to help you feel good about getting ready to let it go.
As always, don't forget to thank the folks who helped you get to this point.
Don't let your application be your first point of contact. If you haven't had the chance to visit or meet a rep, and you're not on the contact list, fill out an interest form on the college's admission website (ASAP!) If the site lists area contacts, drop a short email (you can do this after you apply) to the appropriate person letting them know you're out there, interested, and asking a thoughtful question if you have one.
If you're about to apply to a binding early decision program, check your gut. Are you sure this is a place you gladly will surrender all other options to attend? Is that decision well-researched, based on an informed sense of your academic and personal fit, and do admission statistics tell you it's in a "target" or "reasonable reach" range? (Meaning, your record fits solidly in the middle 50% range of recently admitted students, or else is fairly close, and definitely overlaps with students who have been admitted.)
Proofread your essay in a document before cutting and pasting into the application. It is a good idea to read it out loud one time to make sure the language feels authentic, and that the "so what?" of your story is clear. Can you identify what the reader will take away about you and what qualities and perspectives you'd bring to a community? If you've made late edits, consider getting one last read for grammar and coherence from a trusted adult, like an English teacher or counselor.
Make sure you have broken up your writing into reasonably sized paragraphs. Your essay will likely be one of many read in one sitting, on a screen, by tired eyes. Clean, clear sentences and paragraph breaks help your meaning get across without strain.
Do the same with any supplements required. Ask yourself if your response to the supplement is something only you could write, even if the prompt feels generic. The key to an effective supplemental essay is finding ways to show your values and interests, and connecting those to the prompt. If it's a "why us?" essay, make sure you've connected to specific opportunities at the college that you can name.
Use the "preview" function in the Common App to look over the entire application. Make sure the essential information is correct, check spelling and capitalization in Family and Education sections you may have entered quickly a couple of months ago.
Look at how your essay shows up in preview mode. Make sure the spacing you want is there, and unbold the text if it automatically bolded. (This isn't a big deal if you've submitted and missed it.)
Check with your school before adding recommenders into the Common App! If your school uses a platform like Naviance, SCOIR, or MaiaLearning, the recommendations are submitted from there, and adding counselor and teacher emails can disrupt that process in a messy way. You can share a preview of your application with a counselor by adding them as an Advisor, which does not interfere with the submission process. Be sure to check the "enable preview" box.
Be sure to waive your right to access recommendations under the Recommenders and FERPA section. Trust the teachers and counselors that are writing for you. NOT waiving your right could prevent materials from being transmitted, and is definitely a red flag to colleges.
Make sure the colleges you are applying to match up with the colleges listed, and the application deadlines chosen, on any platforms your school uses (Naviance, SCOIR, MaiaLearning).
You'll need a credit card for application fees when you're ready to send. Sign and date your application, take a breath, and push SUBMIT!
You did it! Celebrate with some confetti!