Filling out a college application

College application
Don’t rush through the application. Take the time to do it thoroughly and correctly.

By Jill Byers

WOOSTER, Ohio — The college application process can be a tedious one, but it’s important to take it seriously.

The student should be the one completing the application, not the parent. While it’s fine to work with a parent, the student needs to be involved to know what’s been done and how it was done.

Take your time

Don’t rush through the application. Take the time to do it thoroughly and correctly. A mistyped birth date or Social Security number creates a wrong file, and the cleanup of that is more trouble than it’s worth.  An uncapitalized name entered into the online application may mean every letter from then on might have your name spelled that way.

Essay writing

Don’t write essays on your phone — or by using the same casual, shorthand style you use on Facebook, Snapchat, or text messages. Write it in Word or some other text software, use real English with proper capitalization and punctuation, and spell-check it, too. Then cut-and-paste it into the online application. How you present yourself matters.

Get organized

Save those application log-in codes, usernames, and passwords. You’ll want them, for example, to check on the status of your application if there’s an online system to do that. Make a folder — including an email folder — for your college information. You’re going to get lots of mail throughout the year; make a plan for how you will save it.

You might not be ready to apply for campus housing when you get the email link to the housing contract, but you need to be able to find that email when the time comes.


Deadlines do matter, and early birds do often get better worms. It’s easy to get the online application done and think you’re finished, but you’re not.

You still need transcripts, application fees paid (if you haven’t done that online), and often official test scores sent directly from the ACT or SAT testing agency. Be sure to tell your school counselor that you need your high school transcript sent to each college you applied to.

Start a resume early

Keep a list of activities, accomplishments, extra-curricular/co-curricular activities, volunteer/service activities, work experience, honors/awards. You’ll want that for some applications, especially for scholarships.

Check your email

After you have applied, watch your email. Colleges will likely communicate with you that way, and sometimes only through email.   Don’t miss financial aid, scholarship, housing, or orientation opportunities because you didn’t read your mail.


Understand if the college admits to specific majors or to the freshman class as a whole. Do you start your major immediately, or is there a secondary admission standard to meet part-way into your curriculum?  Be aware if there are specific deadlines for different majors.

Understand how the college makes admission decisions. Do they review for minimum criteria or do a holistic review, considering grade trends, course selection, motivation, etc.?

Is your engagement in the process considered? That is, does how much you show interest impact your admission decision? Doing your research and having an organized system in place will create less headaches and make the application process smoother.

(Jill Byers is an admissions counselor at Ohio State Agricultural Technical Institute, in Wooster.)

More college tips and advice here.


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