The Application Puzzle – Making Sure You Have All the Pieces

Often times, the requirements of a college application can vary just as much as your college selections. Since our recent blog posts have focused on individual parts of the college application process, we wanted to cover how to check to make sure everything gets submitted before the deadline. First, the application itself: the main, and sometimes simplest, component. It should reflect your specific college goals as well as your biographical information, grades, and activities. There may also be a few short answer questions and there is usually a fee.  Don’t wait until the last day to submit your online applications because the system typically runs much slower with everyone scrambling to meet the deadline. Essays are next and usually written within the application.  Not all colleges require them, and some ask for multiple essays. The essay topics can vary widely from school to school, but keep in mind that the main objective is to show a side of yourself that is not already reflected within your application. You don’t want to just rehash your resume or talk about how spectacular their college is—the admissions officers are already aware of that. Speaking of resumes, having one on hand can help you fill out the activity section of your application quickly, and can also be a good supplement to your application if they ask for more detailed information – some colleges may even require one. Most colleges also require an official high school transcript. You’ll want to coordinate with your high school office early to ensure your transcripts arrive before the application deadline. It is more common they can be sent electronically, but you should provide the envelope and postage for each if they are sent through the mail. And, for students with college or dual credit you will also need to submit college transcripts. As for standardized test scores, your official SAT or ACT score report (no college will require both) needs to be sent directly from the respective testing agency to the college.  Since these can take several weeks to arrive, plan accordingly.   Many colleges also require recommendation letters from teachers and/or high school guidance counselors.  Consider teachers who taught one of your core subjects or the field you plan to study at college.  Of this group, choose those who know you best and have time to write a thoughtful letter.  Recommendation letters can be a great supplement to your application even if they are not required.   It is your job to make sure your letters are submitted on time and do not send more than three unless otherwise specified.    Some colleges may also offer or even require an interview as part of their application process. This may mean traveling to the college or meeting a representative at a location closer to home. The formality of the interview largely depends on the college, although you should always dress nicely, show up early, and do your research on the school beforehand. Students pursuing certain majors such as art or film may need to submit a portfolio of their work. Students pursuing theatre or music may need to audition with a certain number and/or style of pieces. Student-athletes may be required to send in a tape of their games or tryout for the team. Generally, students should strive to submit all the pieces of their application by the posted application deadlines, if not earlier. However, it is not uncommon for colleges to have separate, later deadlines to submit standardized test scores and/or supplemental materials. Students should be vigilant in knowing all deadlines and application policies as they can vary widely from college to college. It is also recommended that students check to make sure everything has arrived before the deadline.  Many online applications or college website portals allow you to check this information on your own.  They key to this process is organization and preparation. There are a lot of pieces to keep track of and a lot of deadlines to meet.  CAA clients should call us with any questions or if they need us to review their applications, essays, or resumes.  Remember, we are here to help through the entire process.