Your student's college application checklist


Admission requirements. Deadlines. Application fees. While making their college application stand out might not be easy, getting through the application process can be. 

Due to COVID-19, your student's school year likely isn't what you expected it to be. But even in these unusual times, they can still plan for college application season. There’s so much to remember and consider when applying to college. Much of the process has not changed, and following are some of the most important steps you and your student can take to make sure everything is completed in a timely fashion and things go as smoothly as possible.


1. Plan to submit the application well before the new year.

Most college admission applications open by the end of October. If your student applies during the fall, they’ll likely get an early decision. Otherwise, they should aim to submit their application before January. 

2. Choose letter of recommendation writers.

Your student should identify two or three trusted people to write a letter of recommendation for them. Teachers, coaches, student club advisors or other school administrators are good choices. Your student’s recommendation writers will likely submit their letters directly to the university. Your student should inform them about the process and confirm deadlines, and will be notified when the recommenders submit their letter online as part of your student’s application.

3. Talk with family and friends about their personal statement.

Senior year of high school is a busy time for most teens. If your student’s to-do list has become a bit overwhelming and they can’t seem to figure out what to write about in their essay, remind them that they can reach out to family and friends. They will likely be able to identify things about your student and recollect experiences that would be good content for a personal statement. Together, you and other family and friends will be able to reminisce about memories and situations with your student, comparing details that they can translate into a very personal and compelling story.

Once they finish writing their statement, it’s a good idea to have someone else read through it as well for editing purposes.

4. Make sure test scores have been sent. 

When your student signs up to take the SAT or ACT, they’ll be asked to identify schools they want their test scores sent directly to. If they missed a school or two, they can add them to their list. They’ll just have to update their schools using their online student test account.

5. Request high school transcripts.

College applications require an official transcript of your student’s high school grades. Official transcripts are sent directly to the university your student is applying to. If they attended multiple schools in different districts they may need to request multiple transcripts. They should talk to a high school counselor at all schools they attended to request their transcripts. 

Your student should not be afraid to follow up with the high school if the university admission team does not receive their transcripts within the specified time frame. If necessary, transcripts can usually be requested directly from a third party, such as Parchment and Need My Transcript. Both organizations work with high schools to provide transcripts for a fee.

6. Double check their application.

Before your student submits their application, they should proofread, proofread, proofread. A good rule of thumb is to reread their personal statement after not looking at it for a day or two. Your student will also want to make sure they didn’t leave anything blank. Their goal should be to submit a mistake-free application. They’ll have to enter high school and any previous college information, so they should be sure to have that on hand when they begin their online application.

7. Be prepared to pay.

Most college applications require an application fee. Your student should talk with their high school counselor about potential fee waivers.