Tips for Filling Out College Applications

These 10 suggestions will make the process easier for everyone. 

by Anne Vaccaro Brady

Computer mouseToday, college applications are completed online, a much quicker and simpler method than what most of us experienced. Gone are the days of sitting at the dining room table with a paper form and pen. Read on for suggestions on streamlining the process even more. (Remember to check out my posts on getting organized for the college app process, parts 1 and 2, if you’re not sure how to get started.)

1)   Information your student needs handy: Social Security number, high school transcript, activity sheet/high school resume, senior year class schedule, AP/IB/SAT/SATII/ACT scores.

2)   Plan how to fill out the apps It’s fine to assist, but you should NOT complete the applications yourself. Sure, help type, as long as your student feeds you the required information, or be the person who reviews the completed application before it’s submitted. Stay nearby while your teen fills out her applications in case she has questions.

3)   Confirm that the current version of the essay is on the application Your teen will upload his essay directly to the application where he can view it before submitting. Make sure he verifies that he’s uploading the final version. My kids added the word “final” to the file name when they were done editing. If the essay was revised for a particular college, change the file name for that version to the name of the college.

Some applications have short essay questions requiring answers of up to 150 words. Encourage your student to write it in their word processing program, then cut and paste it into the application.

4)   Have your credit card available It’s how application fees are paid. Some colleges offer an option to send a check upon submission.

5)   Review the completed application again In addition to your student, someone in your household should check over the application before your senior presses “submit.” That fresh set of eyes will spot missing or incorrect information.

clock6)   Don’t submit very late at night With everyone more tired and bleary eyed around midnight, it makes sense that mistakes will be made. If possible, have your student wait until the next day to review her application one more time then submit.

7)   If there’s a question neither of you understands, call the admissions office Admissions counselors prefer to hear from the student, so let yours make the call. Their offices are usually open during normal business hours.

8)   Applications don’t have to be completed in one sitting Your student can and should save as he goes along. Being able to save the application leaves time to find missing information or work on a section of the app before dinner or homework. When he’s ready, your student can simply log back in and review what’s been completed then move on to the next part.

9)   Contact the college if a mistake is made on the application My son realized he’d transposed two of his Social Security numbers on an application right after he’d submitted it late one night (reread number 6). He went to his guidance counselor immediately the next morning who called the college admissions office with him and had the mistake corrected.

10)  Adapt the schedule as necessary Life happens. A busy week might mean pushing back an application or two. Check college deadlines to know which one to move. Sometimes, the opposite happens and applications go faster than anticipated and your son or daughter might be able to complete an extra one in a particular week. Don’t stress, adapt instead.

Now you’re ready to assist your senior with the college application process. Good luck.

Share your tips on completing college applications in the comments sections below.

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2 Responses to Tips for Filling Out College Applications

  1. Jim Dreves says:

    Anne—This is great stuff. It really rings true. I hope all college-bound families read your blog and respond with there own thoughts. It can only help make the process that much easier. Great work!!

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