Applying For College

You’ve done your research and taken (or soon will take) college entrance exams like the SAT or ACT. You’ve explored colleges and universities online and perhaps visited a few. You’ve received school recommendations from guidance counselors and others. Now is when things get exciting.

While the application process may seem daunting at first, you’ll find that applying for schools is much more manageable—and even enjoyable—when you understand the process and carefully plan for it. The summer before your senior year is the best time to start the application process, with the majority of the work occurring in the fall of your senior year.

Use the tips and guidelines in this section to make your application the best it can be.


  • Gather materials. Once you’ve decided which schools you want to apply to, get their applications materials by visiting their website or calling them. Some schools will require paper applications, while others will accept applications online. Each school will list the required documents or information you’ll need to include, such as your high school transcript, recommendation letters and test scores. Check also to see if the college accepts The Common Application. Over 600 U.S. colleges and universities do and it’s a real time-saver.
  • Get organized. Figure out how you’ll organize all the information for each school and how you’ll keep track of your application materials. Create a folder for each college with a checklist of what each application requires and the application deadline.
  • ​Plan for application fees. Most schools charge non-refundable application fees that range between $35 and $50. Because you may be applying to between five and eight colleges, those fees can quickly add up. If they become a hardship for you and your family, check to see if the schools are among the 1,300 U.S. colleges and universities that offer a fee waiver. Learn more.
  • Fill out the application. The application form will require basic information about you, your high school performance and more. Keep your responses real and emphasize your uniqueness. If you’re required to include letters of support from teachers, church leaders or others, be sure to give letter writers plenty of lead time.
  • Review everything thoroughly. Before you close the envelope or hit “send,” reread your entire application, checking it very carefully for mistakes. Also, ask a parent, teacher, coach or other trusted adult to read your application. They may spot errors you didn’t see. They may also be able to offer helpful suggestions for how to improve your application. A strong, error-free application says something about the kind of student you’ll be! And while you’re waiting to receive your letters of acceptance, be sure to thank those who wrote letters of recommendation for you.