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College application checklist

There are multiple parts of a completed admissions application, and each college requires something slightly different.  Included below is a comprehensive list of what could be required in an application, along with who will often be required to make the submission.

Submitted by you

1) The Application – Some colleges have their own unique application form.  Others use the Common Application, which can save you substantial time by allowing you to apply to multiple schools through a single portal. Regardless of the format, colleges often ask for the following on the application form:
  • Personal Information– Input your name, email address, phone number, high school, college credits already earned, standardized test scores, citizenship information, etc.
  • Extracurriculars– Explain what you’ve done outside of class, and how much time you devoted to it.   In addition to traditional extracurricular activities, remember to include part-time jobs or other obligations like taking care of siblings.
  • Summer Activities- Explain summer jobs, internships, or other enrichment opportunities.
  • Essays – Submit the essays that you’ve written.
  • Honors– List any honors you've received along with the context.  How many students competed for the honor? How many students received it?  Why is it important?
  • Disciplinary Infractions– Detail information on any suspensions or expulsions.
  • Application fee – Pay for your application to officially submit it.  If the cost is too high, speak with your school counselor or the college's financial aid office; fee waivers are often available so that you can submit the applications for free.
2) Standardized Test Scores – In addition to listing your SAT and/or ACT scores on your college application, you will be required to submit official score reports.  These must come sent directly from the College Board (SAT) or the ACT to the college.  You can select colleges to receive your scores while you are registering to take the tests, or you can do it later when you get your scores back.  Many colleges also ask that you submit results for AP or SAT Subject tests that you've taken.

Submitted by your school counselor

3) Official High School Transcript – The official transcript lists each of the classes you have taken during your time in high school, along with the grades and credits that you have earned.   The transcript is usually sent directly from your high school to colleges by your school counselor, so be sure to inform him/her of each of the colleges where you are applying along with the relevant deadlines.
4) Mid-Year and Final-Year Grade Reports – The initial transcript that you submit with your college application only includes grades through your junior year.  Colleges want to make sure that your trajectory in high school continues and that you finish strong, so they typically ask for an update on your grades from your guidance counselor after the first half of your senior year and again once you finish senior year.  Colleges do reserve the right to change their mind about your admission (specifically, reject you after you were already accepted) if your academic performance takes a nosedive.  This doesn't mean that if you get one B in your senior year that you are in trouble, but it does mean that all Cs and Ds in the final semester from a student who otherwise earned As and Bs might be cause for concern.
5) Secondary School Report and/or Counselor Recommendation – The secondary school report allows your school counselor to place your academic experience in context.  They will typically provide information on the number of advanced placement courses offered at your school, your academic strength in relation to your class, the number of students at your school who attend college, etc.  The counselor will also have a chance to provide information about other special circumstances you may have faced in high school and how you add to the academic and social community.  Colleges are trying to understand the big picture based on this portion of the application, and they are particularly interested in knowing whether you made the very best of your circumstances.

Submitted by your teachers

6) Teacher Recommendation – The teacher recommendation is meant to give colleges insight into how you perform academically within the classroom.

One Final Note

Even though several elements of the your application are submitted by others, you are still the person who is ultimately responsible for making sure that all parts of the application arrive on-time.  Be sure to check in with both your school counselor and recommending teachers – the earlier the better – to ensure they are prepared to submit their portions of your college application package.  You can then check the online portal for each of the colleges where you are applying to make sure that they have received all materials in a timely manner.

Source: Expert interviews and National Association for College Admissions Counseling resources

Want to join the conversation?

  • piceratops seedling style avatar for user Chanel-Mae Rodriguez
    I am no where near the age of a senior in high school but i do want to know the upcoming reality of applying. There is a specific college i am planning on attending, I am no way athletic but i do participate in alot of things, can i still get a scholarship without it being a sports one ?
    (10 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user Jon Frank
      There are scholarships out there for... everything! Colleges offer merit-based scholarships, which you can get for being an awesome student :) But you can (and SHOULD!) also look elsewhere for scholarship opportunities. There are so many organizations/companies/etc that offer a variety of scholarships for a variety of things. There is literally a scholarship out there for EVERYTHING. And MILLIONS of dollars get left on the table every year because students don't apply for all of these available scholarships.

      I'd recommend checking out places like scholarships.com and Scholly (it's an app!). They both have HUUUUGE databases of available scholarships that you can apply for. And it's a good idea to start researching these opportunities early. That way, if they have specific requirements, you can start doing all of the things you need to do in order to be eligible.

      Good luck!
      (7 votes)
  • piceratops tree style avatar for user ANANYA
    how do I complete my application form without a counselor and teacher's recommendations?
    (6 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user Jon Frank
      I'm a bit confused by your question. Are you having trouble finding someone to be your recommender?

      You're going to need to get a recommendation in order to apply to college. And those recommendations are VERY important. This is the one chance the admissions committee has to hear from someone other than you... ABOUT you. So you're going to want to ask a teacher who knows you very well. The better the person knows you, the stronger the recommendation will be. You want someone who can speak very specifically about who you are as a student...and a person! So, don't just choose aaaanyone. You want to choose someone who can tell very specific stories about you, and also someone who believes in you and wants you to succeed. That will lead to a much more passionate and powerful recommendation (rather than a vague, boring one that the admissions committee member will forget the moment they finish reading it).

      Here's a bit more advice on asking for a recommendation, in case it is helpful: http://admissionado.com/college/ask-recommendation-letter-2/

      Good luck!
      (7 votes)
  • ohnoes default style avatar for user Emmaleigh  Vandergriff
    I am homeschooled and i am not sure who to ask to write letters of recommendation for me. : ) Also, do you have to apply for Financial Aid or apply to college first?
    (2 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user JC
      You may or may not have looked into this, but there are many opportunities for homeschoolers to interact with other teachers besides their parents. For example, a co-op leader might be a good person to ask for a letter of recommendation. If there is a college/university near you, you could also look into dual enrollment--your professors would be great people to ask for letters of recommendation.
      I'm homeschooled too, so I'm trying to figure out some of the same things.
      I hope this helps.
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Caleb Kline
    I am currently in the summer of my Junior year of High School, about to transition to my Senior year and will be taking the SAT for the first time in November. I'm a little nervous of how well I will do on the standardized test and I am aware that most colleges have a "test optional" policy where it is up to the student to decide whether or not they would want to submit their scores or not. So if a student doesn't do so well on the SAT and still decides to submit their score to the colleges of their preference, would their bad score hinder them from being accepted in the application process? Would it be better for the student to not submit their SAT score if they did poorly on it?
    (5 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user lahsiv41
    Well i come from a country where academics are given way too much importance. So, i tried to find a summer job or internship but they were rejected as they thought that "i was too young and I should focus on my studies." So what can i do?
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • spunky sam blue style avatar for user CZ
      The cool thing about the internet is you can make your own path. I am not sure what country you are in, but consider starting a business, or a youtube channel, or something along those lines in what you are interested in. If I had it all over to do again...and the internet was at its current maturity (it was not when I was in high school) then I would go that route.
      (5 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Jessica Foster
    How do you start college in high school?
    (3 votes)
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  • old spice man blue style avatar for user Srujan Mhase
    Is the teacher recommendation letter to be submitted through the student or directly by the teacher to the admission office? Also, the guidance counselor will be contacted for what reasons and how many times during the time period of application to acceptance (and beyond)?
    (3 votes)
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    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user lrplaid
      If you're applying through the Common Application, the teacher uploads the recommendation directly into the online system. As a student, you have to assign them as a recommender in the Common App. Your guidance counselor will be contacted when you assign them as a recommender and then to submit any additional information they like, but they won't be directly contacted by the school unless there's a special relationship between the school and the guidance counselor. Your counselor would never be contacted with your acceptance, that announcement goes to you.
      (3 votes)
  • marcimus pink style avatar for user Jessalyn Holsworth
    what font do I use for the essay
    (2 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user tomasmx
    I am going to college in 6 years. Any helpful advise? should I start studying now?
    (1 vote)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user kendra
      You should try to get good grades in high school (and middle school, but colleges will mainly focus on high school). Also, once you get into high school, try different extra curricular activities. Find a couple that you like, and stick with them. Colleges love students who have long term commitments! Look into volunteering (again, once you're in high school!). Volunteer somewhere you like, doing something you enjoy, because otherwise it really won't be worth it. Start prepping for the ACT/SAT/PSAT once you're in high school, because colleges will look at these scores! (mainly ACT/SAT) It is never too early to start looking into possible careers, so feel free to start doing that now! Find what you are interested in, and look for careers in that.
      That's all I have! Hope it helps, and good luck!
      (6 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user rileyannemoore
    Hello! I have several questions regarding the application process:
    1. If I read this right, as a senior, I only submit information from my transcript after junior year, including my gpa and class rank?
    2. If an application asks me the number of "credits earned" do I put what my junior year transcript says or the total number of credits I will have completed by the end of my senior year?
    3. Similar question to #2, if I am a dual enrollment student at community college, do I put the number of college credits I have earned so far in high school or what I will have earned by the end of my senior year when filling out an application?

    Sorry for the overload of questions. Hope they're easy to answer!
    (3 votes)
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    • starky ultimate style avatar for user Abijah Zimmerman
      Hi! I'm in the same boat as you, so hopefully I can answer your questions!
      1. Yes, your transcript that you have as a senior is from your junior year, so that is what you submit. Normally the colleges will want your guidance counselor to submit your transcript, not you directly.
      2. Normally an application won't ask how many credits you've earned because your transcript will tell them. If they do ask about credits, it's generally about college credits.
      3. You should put the ones that you will have at the end of your senior year, if you know.
      Hope this helps and good luck!
      (1 vote)