After long hours perfecting your essay, late nights formatting your activities list, and finally clicking the “SUBMIT” button, you might be surprised to learn that there are a few more tasks to complete before your application will actually be reviewed.
How do you know what you need to do, high school senior?
Each college website lists their specific requirements for a complete application. Lists might include the following:
- Official transcript
- Letter(s) of recommendation
- Official SAT or ACT scores
- Other documents, including your portfolio, interview, AP scores, scholarship applications, and resume
At least 2 business days after you’ve submitted your college application, you should receive an email from the college with login credentials to their portal. This is where your “received documents” will be noted and where you can see what’s missing.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to check this portal periodically – you wouldn’t want to miss a scholarship offer! If you can’t log in, call the admission office.
Work With Your High School To Complete Your Application
Gathering and submitting documents can feel tedious, but your application will not be reviewed until ALL your documents are in your file with the university.
Follow your high school’s specific procedure to request your transcript be sent directly to each of your colleges. Some high schools have a paper or electronic form to complete, and maybe a small fee to pay; many use Naviance to request your transcript. Many college guidance offices are busy the first few weeks of school. So they often process transcript requests in September. Follow your school’s procedure, and request your transcripts as soon as school starts so yours will be a priority.
Note: Some universities are moving away from this requirement (University of California, Texas A&M, etc.); however, most universities require an official transcript.
Letters Of Recommendation
If you followed our “Steps to Make Recommendation Letters Less Awkward,” you made the “soft ask” spring of junior year. Now it’s time to follow up!
First, clarify how many and what type of recommendation letters each of your colleges require (or allow). You can find this information on their website or by contacting their admissions office. Some schools give you the option to submit 1; some require 4!
Providing recommenders with a list of your colleges, deadlines, and instructions on how to submit can be very helpful. Many will also appreciate a “brag sheet” or guidance for content to include.
Tip: Give them no less than 4 weeks notice of when you need their recommendation letter.
Remember, it is your responsibility to ensure recommendation letters are received by each of your colleges on time.
Most importantly, follow your high school’s procedures. This is not their first rodeo. They likely have a detailed timeline and process you should follow to ensure your recommendation letters are submitted smoothly. If you’re unsure, call the college guidance office and clarify.
Read more tips on recommendation letters here.
SAT or ACT Scores
Check each college’s requirements first.
Do they have a test optional policy?
Does your college require you to submit all your scores?
Do they superscore or recommend SAT Subject Tests?
Are you required to submit scores in order to be considered for scholarships?
Will they allow you to “self-report” your scores?
If you are submitting your test scores to colleges, order them directly through the College Board or ACT (for a fee). You may have already ordered these scores when you registered for the test, so double check to see where you’ve already sent them. Scores can take up to 10 business days from the time you order them to the time they are processed at the college.
Other Requirements (And Some Optional Requirements)
Some majors have specific requirements that you’ll need to submit. Architecture might require a portfolio; Theater will likely ask you to audition. Selective majors may ask you to answer specific questions (i.e. Texas A&M Engineering or UT Austin Social Work). While components such as an interview, resume, or ZeeMee profile might be optional, doing these things show the admission committee you are really interested in attending their school.
I cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring your applications are complete before your deadlines… This is your responsibility.
Log onto the college portals or contact the admission offices to confirm they have everything. Even if you follow the directions perfectly, this process is not error-proof (believe me, I worked in admissions!).
Applying to college can feel like a lot of moving parts in an already busy season of life! Bright Futures college counselors are here to help you prepare for, navigate, and manage this process smoothly.
We streamline the college planning and application process (and have a little fun along the way)!