Steps You Might Miss in the Application Process

You have hit submit on your college application and that feeling of “I did it” comes over you. Then a few days later you log into your applicant portal only to see big red X’s saying you missed something causing your heart to race. Sometimes these X’s don’t impact the application deadline and you have some time to get them submitted. Sometimes, missing these items pushes you from early admission into the regular pool. Its important to submit your applications as early as possible to give you time to check application portals to ensure you have completed all the steps. Colleges, especially those highly rejective ones, are also adding more and more steps to make the process complicated. Here are some tips, best practices and advice to make sure you are ready.

  1. Know the requirements: Check the college website, the common application or school application and make sure you understand everything you have to submit. If you need letters or recommendation or forms from a counselor, ask early. Common requirements include
    • 1-3 essays (some majors have additional essays)
    • 1-3 letters or recommendation (some schools have specific teachers they require like english or math)
    • A school counselor form, recommendation or secondary school report
    • Your transcript
    • Your test scores if not applying test optional-check if school accepts self reported scores or if you have to send official. If official order from Collegeboard or ACT at least 4 weeks in advance.
    • An application fee (some colleges are free, some charge up to $80 to apply)
    • Financial aid forms and possible scholarship essays
  2. Start the school specific questions early-Lots of students start the main portion of the Common Application over the summer but wait until they are almost ready to submit to start the school’s actual questions (found under “My Colleges” on the Common Application). However, answering certain questions (like adding a second major or selecting a selective business school) can trigger particular essays. Start these questions early so you see all the requirements you may have to complete (For example adding a second major at Purdue creates a new essay, applying to the Ross School of Business at Michigan opens two new essays that are not easy to write).
  3. Create an applicant portal account: After you apply make sure you are reading the emails from all the colleges where you submitted applications. If you applied using the Common Application you will need to make an account on the colleges applicant portal to manage your application. Follow the steps to create the account. Use the same password on all the sites and share it with your parents. You will be in and out of these sites the next few months.
  4. Check the portal for new requirements: Many schools add new requirements to the portal or new opportunties. This might include
    • A Self Reported Academic Record (SRAR)-the SRAR is a long, annoying form where you have to enter all your courses and grades even if you schools ends a transcript. You can complete it here and link it to schools who require it. We suggest doing this early verses waiting to get the SRAR in the portal. Schools that require the SRAR can be found here
    • An invitation to join an honors program that requires more essays
    • A optional (not really) 2 minute video to submit in place of interviewing (Brown, University of Chicago, Babson, Wake Forest, Claremont McKenna, Goucher, Colby, Washington St. Louis and many others have started doing this)
    • An additional essay required for admission (Grinnell and Hamilton have these)
    • Quarter or semester grades (they want to see how senior year is going)
    • Scholarship invitations which require more essays
    • An optional alumni interview (always do what’s optiional at highly competitive places to show your interest)
  5. File your financial aid forms on time
    • Most schools require the FAFSA but may have different deadlines for when it is due
    • Some schools also require the CSS profile, a collegeboard form that has a fee to file per school.

Requirements change from year to year. It is always best to review the college’s website early and often to make sure you are meeting all their requirements. Missing a step can prevent you from being admitted. Schools that need students will be more flexible. Schools with very low admission rates will not.

If you need help navigating the admission process please reach out. We are starting to work with juniors now for the 2024 application cycle. Book a free consultation here.

Published by Kate Coffman

Kate has worked in admissions, financial aid, college and career readiness for over twenty years. She most recently served as the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Franklin College. Kate has also worked in admissions at Butler University and Indiana University. Kate has presented at numerous schools and conferences helping families, educators and those who work with youth understand how to be college and career ready, how to apply to college and how to afford their education.

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