Thursday, December 18, 2014

College Application Checklist

By Sangeetha Shanmugham

Many people find that filling out college applications can be a time-consuming and stressful task. There are lots of components to a college application: recommendation letters, a statement of purpose or personal essays, standardized test scores, scholarship applications… the list goes on. Most colleges and universities expect all materials to be sent in by Feb. 1, which means that most of you have about five weeks from right now to perfect your applications before you send them in. You want to make sure you haven’t forgotten any part of your application. So to make your life a little bit easier, we've come up with a handy checklist for you – use it as a guide, and good luck!

1. Application Forms

The most obvious item on our checklist. It never hurts to double check that you've filled out and submitted all the basic application forms for each college you’re applying to. Whether you are using the Common Application or completing a separate form for each school, having these forms submitted on time is absolutely crucial.

2. High School or College Transcripts

College applications are not complete without a record of your grades from high school, or from previous higher learning institutions if you’re applying to graduate school, so ensure that your transcripts are submitted to schools by their applicable deadlines. (If your records are not in English, you must get a certified transcript translation.)

A helpful tip is to track your transcripts until they reach the admissions office. The registrar may delay or misplace your transcripts, so keep following up in case you need to make any last-minute arrangements.

3. Personal Essays and Statement of Purpose

Schools tend to have their own requirements when it comes to personal essays, so make sure you know what is needed for each one you are applying to. It is not uncommon for a college to require additional supplemental essays.

Just make sure that before submitting your essays and crossing this item off your checklist, you have proofread them carefully. Bad grammar and careless mistakes will not impress admissions counselors! We recommend having your essay critically reviewed by a professor or peer; a fresh pair of eyes can do wonders to perfect your essay. 

4. Recommendation Letters

The recommendation letters submitted with your application give you the chance to exhibit personal characteristics and strengths that may not be obvious from reading your transcript or your essay. You certainly don’t want to leave these out!
When asking people to write letters of recommendation for you, be up front about the deadlines. Don’t hesitate to follow up and remind them as the deadlines get closer. You want to mark this off your checklist as soon as possible. 

5. Test Scores

Whether you are taking the SAT, GRE or TOEFL, you want to make sure your scores are submitted to colleges by their required deadlines. Many schools have score submission deadlines separate from their college application deadlines, so check with each school you are applying to for verification. Remember, you spent a great deal of time and money to take these tests, and they are rendered useless if they don’t make it in time. Most admissions committees can’t review your application without them.

6. Financial Aid Documents

Last but not least, make sure you complete and submit all the required forms and documentation for financial aid and scholarships (if they’re an option). Many schools are known for providing international students an opportunity to apply for scholarships and financial aid. However, their deadlines often differ from the final deadline. So check with each school you’re applying to so you don’t miss out on available sources of funding simply because you weren’t aware of the deadlines.

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While this checklist covers the most important things you will need to do for your college applications, there may be more, depending on what schools and programs you’re applying to. Check with each college and, if anything is missing, add it to this checklist to ensure you comply with all the application requirements and get everything in by the correct deadlines.

Good luck!

Sangeetha earned her master’s degree in media studies from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in communications from New Jersey Institute of Technology. A permanent transplant, Sangeetha has lived in multiple cities around the world, which has sparked her interest in international education. In her spare time she enjoys frequenting independent record stores, baking and watching old Monty Python sketches.


  1. If i send my financial documents along with my other docs like transcripts, LOR, SOP etc, Will the university still consider me for Scholarship? as i have already shown that i have the money to support my education.


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