What You Need to Get Started
The first step in the application process is the college application itself. In order to be able to complete your college application, you're going to need access to basic documents about yourself and your high school. You'll be asked about your full legal name, permanent address (your primary parent's house address) and your area of academic concentration (in high school if there is one, as well as the concentration you aspire to within college). You'll also be asked about your high school's address, your GPA and any other schools or classes you have attended since the ninth grade.
You'll be asked about both of your parents or primary guardians. If you have only one, simply give a short explanation of why. If a parent has passed away, you simply write, "Deceased." If you don't want to explain the absence of another parent, you may simply write "N/A" for not applicable. Yet, you'll need more details on the FAFSA.
Extracurricular activities and academic honors will also need to be explained in detail on the application. Be sure to make a list of all of those and gather details from the instructors before attempting the application. You'll also be asked about your work experience.
Although you will be asked about it, you don't have to enter information on your race or ethnicity, place of birth, social security number and your first language. Keep this in mind when filling out the application. No school should hold it against you if you opt not to put down any of those facts.
You will need an official high school transcript for each college where you send an application. You should request this as soon as you compose your application. It isn't usually possible to send this with your application package, along with everything else, as the school wants to receive it sealed from your high school in most cases. Be sure to ask your college or look at its website for the process recommended by your college. You want to consider this as part of the application process and give it top priority, as your application won't be processed without transcripts.
ACT and SAT Test Scores
The college of your choice will want to know either your ACT or your SAT test score (sometimes both). If you indicated a school to which you wanted your scores sent, you may already have a hand up when you go through the application process to that school. However, when filling out your application, you'll need those records to supply the information on the application itself. You'll likely need your individual scores on each section for the application.
Letters of Recommendation
You will need letters of recommendation for your college application. The must also be sent separately, although they are part of your application. You'll need to ask 3 to 5 adults who have a professional relationship with you for a recommendation. These can be academic teachers, coaches, dance teachers, tutors, principals and others. It needs to be someone who can speak on observing you, your talent, work ethic or some other positive aspects that show what you can bring to the school as a college student. This cannot be deferred or neglected as part of the application process. You need to make sure that your references have those letters of recommendation in the mail as you send in your application.
What to Submit With the College Application
When you go to send in the application packet itself, you need to double check to make sure that the entire application is filled in to the best of your ability (aside from the personal questions that are optional, if you don't want to include those). Don't leave any mandatory section blank.
Your personal essay (and sometimes essays) must be included. They should be written to the exact word count and specifications as asked for on the application. Double check this. Although a school looks at many aspects when deciding on an applicant, following basic instructions is essential in presenting a great first impression. You'll also need to include your personal statement.
If you are applying for early admission, you want to include all the specific requirements for that, which usually includes a specific application as well. If a college allows unofficial transcripts, include your high school transcript.
You must include the application fee, as likely specified on the application and on the school's official website. You should use a check or money order only, unless credit cards are accepted. Never send cash through the mail with a college application.
Don't forget the basics when completing your college admissions application:
- Polite, professional and enthusiastic cover letter
- Application with all necessary sections completed
- Letters of recommendation sent separately
- Official transcripts sent separately
- ACT or SAT scores written and official records sent
- Application essay or essays
- Statement of Intent
- College application fee