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What to know

•  Strong credentials lose power in applications if their presentation is weak; however, weak or average credentials gain power if the presentation is strong.

•  No matter who you are or what you have done, admissions officers can only know about and make a decision about your admission from what you say (and others say about you) in the application.

•  There are no perfect applications, nor are there perfect applicants. However, every person has the potential to complete an application that catches the eyes of admissions people.

•  If you have a question about an application, first try to find the answer on your own. If you are using The Common Application or Universal College Application, go to their respective websites. Other students, your high school and/or private counselor are also sources. Some college admissions offices are very helpful, particularly when it comes to technology issues.


What to know

•  Before filling out an application, ask yourself:  What do I want admissions people to ”get” about me? How can I distinguish myself from other applicants? What is important to me? What makes me interesting, unique or different from other people?

•  Every aspect of the application must be attended to and answered with great care.

•  Describe and explain everything on your application. Unless told to do so, don’t use one-word answers.

•  Never let your words come across as complaining, whiney or “poor me.”

•  Here are the steps to complete an individual undergraduate admissions application: 

1.  Determine which school you want to apply to and what kind of application it uses: its own application, the Common Application.

2.  Through the college’s admission website or the Common Application Requirements Grid, find out what and when forms must be completed

3.  Complete all the forms for which you are responsible

4.  Complete the sections that relate to the School Counselor, Teachers and other recommenders

5.  Identify the essay questions

6. Decide on a focus for your application and topics for the essay questions

7.  Write, edit and upload (or cut and paste) essays onto the online application

8.  Gather and send end any supplemental materials (e.g., activities resume, art portfolio, etc.)

9.  Submit and/or send all application materials by the due date

10.  Contact College Board and/or ACT about sending test transcripts to the college

11.  Have your high school and other academic transcripts sent to the college

12.  If available, make arrangements for an admissions interview

13.  Two weeks after all application materials have been sent, check with the college to make sure all your materials have been received

14.  Make sure the Mid-year Report is sent to the college after first semester grades come out

•  What Matters

✔  Neatness, accuracy, and the lack of mistakes

✔  Making photocopies of everything

•  What To Avoid

✔  Not following application directions

✔  Submitting materials late


What to know

junior year

Fall Semester

• Take the October PSAT

• Take a practice SAT and ACT to see which better suits you

• Junior year is most critical for getting good grades. Get a jump-start first semester and then do the same second semester

• 11th grade is when to develop leadership positions, do something special, and lay the groundwork for such in your senior year

• Begin thinking about your college list and making contact with the college reps assigned to your high school from every college

Spring Semester

• Decide when you are going to take the different admissions tests. Practice on your own or if possible, sign up for test tutoring and have all of tests completed by June of your junior year

• Make plans for what you will do the summer before your senior year. Many colleges will be asking about this on their applications.

• Put together an activities resume.

• Begin getting serious about a college list; research colleges through guidebooks and the Internet

• Use Spring Break to visit some colleges

summer before senior year

• Narrow down your college list to 8-12

• Update your activities resume.

• With your resume in hand, identify activities, talents or interests about which you can

• Make plans to visit colleges during the summer and/or fall and interview at the colleges that offer them

• Sign up for any SAT I, Subject Test or ACT tests that you need to take in the fall

• Decide if you are going to apply Early admissions.

senior year
Follow the above list of What To Do, 1-14, for all of the colleges to which you are applying.


When to do it

Completing college applications is an overwhelming job for even the most brilliant, resourceful, organized students. It’s important for you to understand the scope and the stress that comes with this demanding process.

In our minds, the college application process is a family activity: students are the lead players, while parents are the supporting cast and cheerleaders (and, of course, the people who pay the bills). Students are at their best when their parents are helpful (but not pushy), available (but not over involved), resourceful (but not demanding), interested (but not critical), enthusiastic (but not overbearing), open (but also know how to hold their tongues even when they don’t want to).

College admissions is an intense time for any family, but the payoff is big: a happy, involved student who gets to spend four exciting years at a college he or she loves.

by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz
Excerpted from adMISSION POSSIBLE® (Sourcebooks, Inc, April 2012)

If you want to know more about this and other admissions topics, read
Getting into the Best Colleges for you
. Order it here!



adMISSION POSSIBLE® is committed to every student having access to the best college admissions advice available free
of charge, regardless of family background, financial resources, geographic location or attendance at a public or private school.

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