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Nadira Berman

Your Complete College Application Checklist

Applying to colleges is a confusing and stressful process. When I was a junior, I didn’t even know where to start. If you’re having trouble keeping track of the numerous tasks you need to complete, refer to the following list. I know it seems like a lot, but don’t worry too much! Take it step by step and you’ll totally be able to get everything done before the deadline.

Teacher recommendations for your college application

One of the first steps you should take is figuring out which teachers you want to write your recommendations. Pick teachers that know you really well, rather than teachers that will sound the most prestigious on an application. You want the recommendation to seem genuine. Try to find two recommenders who taught you during sophomore or junior year. Politely ask them to recommend you and if they say yes, make sure to send thank you notes.

Standardized testing

There are many different standardized tests that you can include in your college applications. Some are optional and some are mandatory. First, you’ll need to decide if you’re taking the SAT or the ACT. Almost all colleges require one of these two tests. Most colleges also require you to take at least two SAT subject tests. AP exams are usually optional, but most competitive applicants will send AP scores.

Common Application essay

The Common App essay is one of the most important parts of your application, as it’s your chance to show colleges your personality. You can tell admissions officers a story, instead of just listing grades and scores. You’ll want to start this essay early, so that you have time to write multiple drafts and edit. The summer before senior year is a good time to start, as you’ll have more free time.

College Application Activities

The Common App allows you to list the activities you participate in outside of your academic classes, which is another way you can show colleges your personality. This section allows you to demonstrate that you are well-rounded. Looking for ideas about what kinds of activities you should include? Check out this post for some tips.


Most colleges require applicants to submit supplementary essays based on prompts unique to each respective school. Many will ask a question similar to “Why do you want to attend our college?” But others will ask more fun, interesting questions such as “If you could have lunch with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?”

These essays tend to be on the shorter side. While you definitely need to put in substantial effort, you don’t need to spend as much time on these as you would on the 650-word Common App essay.
P.S. You can also find a month by month plan from James Madison High School that can help make your college application process a bit easier here.

About Nadira Berman

As a Summer Marketing Intern, Nadira is excited to help high schoolers prepare for the SAT and ACT. As a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, she is considering studying economics. In her free time, she reports for the school newspaper and styles photo shoots for the school's fashion magazine. Besides fashion and journalism, her passions include bagels, smoothies and Netflix.

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