Application guide for first-year students

Get tips and best practices to give yourself the best chance at success.


What is Common App?

Each year, more than 1 million students apply to more than 1,000 Common App member colleges worldwide through our online college application platform. Learn more about applying through our first-year application by following our step-by-step guide below.

Gather materials

The information you’ll need to complete your applications

Filling out your application takes time.

And if you have to keep interrupting your progress to find information, like a certificate for a continuing education course or the address of your last internship, it can take even longer. Get a head start by collecting this information before you begin.

In the Education section you will enter your high school grades and current courses. Some colleges also need you to self report your high school transcript. You can check out your Courses & Grades section to learn more.

You can share your interests and who you are outside of the classroom in the activities section. You can share information about things like work, hobbies, clubs, and community engagement. And don't forget, family responsibilities can be important to share as well. This is the place to show colleges what makes you unique!

You may self-report scores for any standardized tests in the Testing section. Every college has different testing requirements. Some colleges will always need your test scores. Other colleges may be flexible or have a test optional policy. Be sure to check the Testing policy of the colleges on your list.

Many colleges collect this information in the Family section for demographic purposes. We will ask for your parents occupation, employment status, and education level. If applicable, we will also ask which college(s) they attended and how many degrees they have earned.

The Activities section isn't the only place to show your passion and where you excel! You will also have the chance to share any academic honors or achievements from high school.

Create an account

Get started at any time

Creating a Common App account is easy and should only take a few minutes.

You can create a Common App account even if you don’t plan on applying for another few months or another few years. You can answer questions in the Common App tab and build a college list at any time.

  • If you haven’t yet attended college, select “first-year student”
  • If you have college credits from dual enrollment high school courses, you should still select “first-year student” 
  • If you have already attended 1 or more colleges after graduating high school, select “transfer student”. We also have a separate transfer student guide to help you out. 
  • You check regularly
  • Does not use inappropriate language 
  • You will have access to after you graduate from high school 
  • We will need some basic information about you like your name, home address, phone number, and date of birth.
  • Be sure to use your legal name as it appears on official school documents and standardized tests. This will make sure colleges can match documents to the correct person.
  • At the end, you will adjust your communication preferences and accept the Common App privacy policy.
  • Select "create account" and you’re done!

Account rollover

Common App accounts can roll over from year to year!

With account rollover , you can start exploring Common App and save answers to questions in the Common App tab at any time.

Add colleges

Start building your My Colleges list

Once you’ve created your account and explored the colleges that accept the Common App, you're ready to start adding colleges.

The College Search tab is where you will search for and add the colleges you want to apply to. If you have a school in mind you can search by name. If you want to keep exploring, you can use the more filters button. Some filters include:

  • State or country
  • Distance from a zip code
  • Enrollment term
  • Application deadline
  • Application fees*
  • Writing requirements
  • Standardized testing policy
  • Recommendation requirement

Adding a college is easy! You may add a college using the add button in the search results list. You can also select a college and add them using the "Add to My Colleges" button from their info screen.

Once you've added colleges, you can see them on your Dashboard and in your My Colleges tab. Keep in mind you may only add up to 20 colleges. You may adjust your list of colleges at any time. Once you've submitted, you will not be able to remove those schools from your My Colleges list.

* While some colleges may charge an application fee, others have no fee to apply. And, many will offer fee waivers under certain circumstances, including financial need, veteran status, and more. 

A request to the college to remove the application fee. Using either the Common App fee waiver, which your counselor must confirm, or a college-specific fee waiver, you will not be required to pay the fee to submit your application.

Coed is a term used to describe a college or university that offers the integrated education of male and female students in same environment.

Engage supporters

Collaborate with counselors, teachers, and more

All colleges need things like official school forms. Many colleges will also ask for letters of recommendation.

Counselors, teachers, and recommenders will submit these kinds of forms on your behalf. Here are the types of recommenders you can invite in the Common App.

Counselors share their perspective using the context of the entire graduating class. They also submit the School Report and transcripts.

Parents will only need to submit a form if you apply using a college's early decision deadline. They will fill out part of your early decision agreement.

Teachers give a firsthand account of your intellectual curiosity and creative thought.

Other recommenders are usually non academic recommenders like coaches, employers, and peers. They give insight into your interests and activities outside of the classroom.

Advisors do not submit any forms. They track and check in on your application progress.

Every college gets to choose their own recommendation requirements. You can find more details on each college's "College Information" page.

If you're planning to apply this school year, you can start inviting recommenders. If you don't plan on applying until next school year or later, skip this step for now.

How to invite and assign recommenders: 

From the My Colleges tab select a college and open their "Recommenders and FERPA" section.

If you have not done so already, you will need to complete the  FERPA Release Authorization .

Invite recommenders using the invite button from each section. You may also use the "Invite Recommenders" button at the top.

Select the type of invitation you would like to send. For each invitation you will need information like their name and email address.

After you add a recommender, you can view their info using the Manage Recommenders button.

Note that teachers, parents, and other recommenders will not receive an email invitation until you assign them to a college. To assign these recommenders, go to their section within this screen. Select their name from the dropdown and use the assign button.

If your high school uses Naviance or another partner software, you will not invite your counselor or teachers here. There will be instructional text on this page explaining what to do next. You will still add other recommenders and advisors using the steps above.

In general, each college has their own recommendation requirements. For example, one college may need two teacher recommendations. Some colleges may not want any teacher recommendations. Colleges can also determine what kinds of other recommenders they want. Some may allow for any recommender type, whereas others only allow an employer recommendation.

Understanding requirements

Keep track of each college’s unique application requirements

It's important to stay organized as you work on your applications.

Each college needs you to complete common questions and add counselor. Beyond that their applications vary. Each college can determine their unique requirements for:

  • Application Fees
  • Personal Essay
  • Courses & Grades
  • Test Policy
  • Writing Supplements
  • Recommendations

Here are some places where you can find each college's specific requirements:

Each college's Explore Colleges profile provides lots of information about the college. You can find details on application information, campus culture, scheduling visits, and more.

In the My Colleges or College Search tab, you can learn more using a school's college information page. Here you can see requirements for testing, writing, deadlines, and more.

The  requirements grid is a comprehensive PDF that lists all the colleges that use the Common App and their requirements. You can also find the grid within the application.

We maintain a list of all Common App colleges and  their essay prompts . This resource will help as you begin planning your essays. For more help on planning essays, check out our essay planning worksheet.

You can save answers to Common App tab questions year over year. So you can get started on things like your personal essay or the activities section at any time.

Responses to questions in your My Colleges do not stay year over year. Only get started on things like college-specific questions, writing supplements, or portfolios if you intend to apply this school year. For more info, check out our account rollover FAQ .

Plan essays

Organize and plan for your writing prompts

Sometimes writings essays can feel like the biggest part of your application. With a little bit of planning, organizing, and drafting, we can help you make this task more manageable.

As you work on your applications you can find essays or short answer questions in three sections:

Colleges can either make the personal essay optional or required. In the writing section of your Common App tab, you will see a table that lists each college's requirements.

Many colleges include short answer questions or essay prompts within this section. You can find specific information about each college's individual writing prompts  here .

Some colleges use a separate writing supplement. Not all colleges have a writing supplement. Some colleges only request this supplement based on how you answer other questions. You can find more information about writing supplements on the Dashboard or your My Colleges tab.

Counselor tip

Tools like Google Drive can be very helpful when planning or writing essays. When you’re ready to apply, you can upload the text of your essay(s) using the Google Drive icon in any of Common App’s writing questions.

Use our essay best practices FAQ for more help.

Submit your application

Review and submit your application

Submission is a three-step process: 1) Reviewing your application. 2) Paying the application fee (if applicable). 3) Submitting your application.

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  • Knowledge Base
  • College essay
  • How to Apply for College | Timeline, Templates & Checklist

How to Apply for College | Timeline, Templates & Checklist

Published on October 18, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Most US college application deadlines for undergraduate programs are between late November and mid-March, and you should start thinking about applying for college the summer before junior year. Your application should typically include the following:

  • Personal information, extracurriculars, and awards
  • Transcripts
  • Standardized test scores
  • Recommendation letters

In this comprehensive guide, we show you how to organize deadlines and stay on track throughout your college application process.

We’ve also created a free Google Sheets template that you can use to organize and track your college applications.

Table of contents

College application timeline, research schools, apply for financial aid, take standardized tests, write college application essays, complete college applications, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.

Use our timeline to make sure you’re on track with all the different parts of your college application.

College application timeline

To save the timeline and refer back to it throughout your application process, you can download the PDF below.

College application timeline (.pdf)

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Most students apply to several different schools. After researching schools and deciding which ones you’ll apply to, you should keep track of their deadlines and requirements.

Make your college list

Begin compiling a college list the summer before your junior year. Start researching schools based on their academic programs, financial aid packages, clubs and activities, and geographical location.

You should have a final list of your top schools by the second semester of your junior year, so you can plan for college visits that same semester. To maximize your options, aim to apply for eight schools:

  • Two reach schools where it might be difficult for you to get accepted
  • Four match schools where you have a good chance of getting accepted
  • Two safety schools where you feel confident you’ll get accepted

Visit schools

Take time to do on-campus or virtual visits to prospective schools, but avoid visiting in the summer, when less faculty and staff are available to meet on campus. For highly selective schools, you should consider visiting campuses during the second semester of your junior year to meet and demonstrate interest to admissions officers and professors before you apply in the fall.

You can attend in-person or virtual college fairs to talk with current students and alumni. High school visits, where admissions officers from universities visit high schools, are also useful to learn more about a particular university.

Consider where you’d feel most happy learning and living based on the school and class sizes, academic programs, and geographical location.

Note requirements and deadlines for each school

In the summer before your senior year, note all deadlines and requirements for your prospective schools in a college tracker spreadsheet .

Choose early decision, early action, regular decision, or rolling admissions

In August or September, you should choose an admissions plan for each university. Most students choose the regular decision process, with deadlines spanning from late November to mid-March.

Early decision (ED) and early action (EA) plans allow students to apply for and receive admissions decisions earlier than regular decisions. Some schools’ early decision and early action rounds are less competitive, admitting a higher percentage of students than in regular decision rounds. However, you should only choose early decision or early action if you have thoroughly researched schools and are committed to attending a particular college.

Early decision is binding: you must attend that college if accepted, unless the financial aid package is insufficient. Some universities offer two rounds of early decision deadlines (ED I and ED II), one in fall and the other in winter. The ED II round in winter gives you more time to prepare a stronger application package, research and visit colleges, and explore financial aid options.

Early action is non-binding: you have until the May 1 deadline to choose which college to attend. It also allows you to explore more financial aid packages from schools you are accepted to. Some highly selective private schools offer restrictive early action, which is also non-binding, but prevents students from applying ED/EA to other private schools.

Students should prepare application materials for other schools’ regular decision deadlines if their early decision or early action applications are rejected.

Some schools also offer rolling admission , which offers a flexible six-month application window and a decision response around four to eight weeks after submission. However, rolling admission favors early applicants, since admission stops once the class reaches capacity.

You can alleviate some, or even all, of the financial burden of college by applying for federal student aid, application waivers, or scholarships from schools, corporations, or charitable foundations.

Apply for the FAFSA

As early as October 1, you can file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for loans, grants, and work study. Your Student Aid Report (SAR) should be mailed to you about four weeks after you file the application.

International students should check with the US Department of Education for financial aid opportunities.

Apply for application fee waivers

An application fee waiver removes the application fee, typically for students who demonstrate financial hardship. You or your guidance counselor can request an application fee waiver.

Complete scholarship applications

Ask your school counselor, local community groups, and prospective colleges about scholarship opportunities as early as the beginning of your junior year. Throughout your high school career, continue compiling a list of scholarship opportunities in a scholarship application tracker spreadsheet.

Highlight overlapping essay prompts, so you can write one essay that covers multiple prompts. Sometimes you can adapt your main college essay into a scholarship essay. However, remember to tailor each essay to the prompt.

Start filling out scholarship applications, gathering required documents, and writing scholarship essays in the summer before your senior year. Throughout your senior year, apply for as many scholarship applications as possible; many students don’t take advantage of scholarship opportunities.

Register and take your standardized tests in your junior year to allow sufficient time to prepare for the test and retake it if necessary.

Take the SAT or ACT

To practice for the official test, you should register for and take the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) or the Pre-American College Test (PreACT) in either your sophomore year or the fall of your junior year.

Take the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT) in the spring of your junior year to allow sufficient time to retake the exam in the fall of your senior year if needed. Register for the SAT or ACT at least a month before your testing date to avoid late registration fees.

Due to the COVID pandemic, some schools no longer require students to submit test scores. However, you should still take the SAT or ACT and aim to get a high score to strengthen your application package.

Take Advanced Placement exams

If applicable, take your Advanced Placement (AP) exams in May of your sophomore, junior, and senior years. Depending on the school’s policies, if you score a 4 or 5 on an AP exam, you can earn college credit for certain first-year courses.

Your college application essays give you the opportunity to personalize your application. Colleges look for an essay that differentiates you from others and demonstrates your positive traits. Start brainstorming topics and drafting your essays the summer before your senior year to give yourself sufficient time for revising and receiving feedback.

If you’re struggling for time, check out our tips on writing your college essay fast .

Write your main college admissions essays

It’s a good idea to start working on your essays the summer before your senior year. Some essays can be reused or revised for different schools, depending on the prompt—though you might have to adjust its length if different colleges have different word count limits. The process of brainstorming and writing the first draft typically takes one to three weeks.

Write supplemental essays

Start writing any supplemental essays (such “Why this college?” essays and diversity essays ) in August or September of your senior year. Be careful when responding to these prompts, which are usually more specific than main college essay prompts. As with your main college essays, revise and get feedback on these essays.

Revise your essays and get feedback

Start revising your essay after you’ve written your first draft. Most students go through multiple drafts and take about two to four weeks to revise and get feedback. Remember to take breaks between editing stages.

In August or September of your senior year, get feedback from two to three people—ideally people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college application essays. You can also get help from an essay coach or editor. Scribbr essay coaches can help.

Explore the essay coaching service

Begin creating accounts and filling in your personal information on college application portals the summer before your senior year. Start collecting and requesting official documents and recommendation letters at least three to four weeks before the deadline.

Create accounts on college application portals

After creating a prospective college list, create accounts on their respective application portals in the summer before your senior year.

The Common Application , with over 900 member universities, is the most popular. The Coalition Application, with more than 150 member universities, offers resources to help all students gain access to college.

Some schools, such as the University of California system, MIT, and Georgetown University, have their own application portals.

Fill out your personal information, extracurriculars, and awards

It’s a good idea to start a list of your extracurriculars, awards, jobs, and leadership experience in your sophomore year. Throughout your high school career, keep adding to your list, which can also be used to build your resume if needed.

Upload your essays

If you paste your essay directly into the text box, remember it won’t retain formatting like italics or bold text. Sometimes, dashes or other characters might alter the word count, so check that you’ve respected the word limit after inputting your essays.

If you have to upload a file, make it a PDF. Use a simple standard font, like Times New Roman, and format spacing to 1.5 or double space.

Send your high school transcripts and test scores

As soon as you complete your part of the application, ensure your school counselor sends your transcripts to the right colleges. Make sure your SAT, ACT, and AP scores have been sent to the correct schools. Some schools allow results to be self-reported, while others require official score reports from testing organizations.

Request letters of recommendation

Many colleges require one to two letters of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, coach, or employer who knows you well. As early as the end of your junior year, you should unofficially notify teachers or counselors of upcoming requests to give them sufficient time to write a thoughtful personalized letter during the summer.

Once you have completed your portion of the online application, send an official request through the application portals and check whether your recommenders have submitted their letters two to three weeks before the deadline.

Write your resume

Some schools require you to write a resume. While you may not have much or any work experience, you can highlight your educational career. Include your academic achievements, awards, projects, and leadership positions. You can also include any work experience, internships, or summer programs.

Review your application

Before submitting, double-check that all necessary materials are included.

Here’s a checklist you can use to track your progress through the application process.

College application checklist

I’ve researched schools and made my college list.

I’ve done on-campus and/or virtual visits to prospective schools.

I’ve chosen application plan deadlines for each school.

I’ve organized deadlines and requirements in a college applications tracker .

I’ve filed my FAFSA.

I’ve submitted scholarship applications.

I’ve taken my standardized tests.

I’ve written my college application essays .

I’ve created accounts on application portals.

I’ve filled out my personal information, extracurriculars, and awards.

I’ve requested my test scores be sent to the correct colleges.

I’ve requested my transcripts be sent to the correct colleges.

I’ve requested recommendation letters.

I’ve paid application fees or applied for application waivers.

I’ve checked that my application has all the necessary documents and information.


It looks like your application is ready to submit. Good luck with getting accepted!

If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Academic writing

  • Writing process
  • Transition words
  • Passive voice
  • Paraphrasing


  • How to end an email
  • Ms, mrs, miss
  • How to start an email
  • I hope this email finds you well
  • Hope you are doing well

 Parts of speech

  • Personal pronouns
  • Conjunctions

You should start thinking about your college applications the summer before your junior year to give you sufficient time for college visits, taking standardized tests, applying for financial aid , writing essays, and collecting application material.

In general, for your college application you will need to submit all of the following:

  • Your personal information
  • List of extracurriculars and awards
  • College application essays
  • Recommendation letters.

Different colleges may have specific requirements, so make sure you check exactly what’s expected in the application guidance.

The college admissions essay accounts for roughly 25% of the weight of your application .

At highly selective schools, there are four qualified candidates for every spot. While your academic achievements are important, your college admissions essay can help you stand out from other applicants with similar profiles.

To maximize your options, you should aim to apply to about eight schools:

  • Two reach schools that might be difficult to get into
  • Four match schools that you have a good chance of getting into
  • Two safety schools that you feel confident you’ll get into

Apply early for federal student aid and application fee waivers. You can also look for scholarships from schools, corporations, and charitable foundations.

Depending on your prospective schools’ requirements, you may need to submit scores for the SAT or ACT as part of your college application .

Some schools now no longer require students to submit test scores; however, you should still take the SAT or ACT and aim to get a high score to strengthen your application package.

Aim to take the SAT or ACT in the spring of your junior year to give yourself enough time to retake it in the fall of your senior year if necessary.

College deadlines vary depending on the schools you’re applying to and your application plan:

  • For early action applications and the first round of early decision applications, the deadline is on November 1 or 15. Decisions are released by mid-December.
  • For the second round of early decision applications, the deadline is January 1 or 15. Decisions are released in January or February.
  • Regular decision deadlines usually fall between late November and mid-March, and decisions are released in March or April.
  • Rolling admission deadlines run from July to April, and decisions are released around four to eight weeks after submission.

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College admissions

Course: college admissions   >   unit 4.

  • Deciding when to apply: Early vs regular decision
  • Filling out the college application: Common application walkthrough

College application checklist

  • Applying to the right number of colleges
  • Receiving an admissions decision: Admit, deny, or waitlist

Submitted by you

  • Personal Information – Input your name, email address, phone number, high school, college credits already earned, standardized test scores, citizenship information, etc.
  • Extracurriculars – Explain what you’ve done outside of class, and how much time you devoted to it.   In addition to traditional extracurricular activities, remember to include part-time jobs or other obligations like taking care of siblings.
  • Summer Activities - Explain summer jobs, internships, or other enrichment opportunities.
  • Essays – Submit the essays that you’ve written.
  • Honors – List any honors you've received along with the context.  How many students competed for the honor? How many students received it?  Why is it important?
  • Disciplinary Infractions – Detail information on any suspensions or expulsions.
  • Application fee  – Pay for your application to officially submit it.  If the cost is too high, speak with your school counselor or the college's financial aid office; fee waivers are often available so that you can submit the applications for free.

Submitted by your school counselor

Submitted by your teachers, one final note, want to join the conversation.

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Good Answer

A College Application Checklist

High school students can use this college application checklist to stay on task from freshman year through senior year.

Follow a College Application Checklist

Teen student studying on laptop

Mark off key high school milestones like creating a resume, planning a testing calendar and visiting colleges. (Getty Images)

Prepare for a great high school experience. You'll be able to grow inside and outside the classroom while making sure you're ready to apply to college in a few years.

Use the Common App to Apply to College

Cole Claybourn Sept. 18, 2023

college application requirements checklist

Although the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted opportunities for standardized tests and shifted many college visits from campus to online, college hopefuls can remain curious, investigate virtually and continue to work toward future goals. Careful planning and good choices over time make for strong options later. Use the following college application checklist to stay on track.

Freshman Year

Faced with more challenging high school class work, you'll need to pay attention to what your new teachers expect from you and look for ways to work harder and smarter. Grades are important in ninth grade , but seek balance so that you are challenged without being overwhelmed. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Get involved. High school is not a four-year audition for college, but rather a time to develop yourself. Beyond grades, social connections and extracurriculars are important. Use part-time jobs, community service, arts and music, robotics clubs and other activities to engage with others.

Read voraciously. Dive into books, newspapers, magazines and blogs. Explore subjects that engage you. Additionally, check out TED Talks, YouTube videos and free online courses .

Find mentors. Look for knowledgeable people who can offer helpful advice: teachers, coaches, counselors and friends. These relationships can pay off in other ways, too. People like to help students they know.

Schedule downtime. That means turning off electronic devices. No phones. No screens. We all need time to daydream and think about ourselves and our place in the world.

Identify ways to relieve stress. For high school and college, you'll need a model for success that is sustainable, and that includes finding healthy ways to manage stress and getting enough rest.

Sophomore Year

Focus on better understanding your strengths and interests – and how to develop them.

Challenge yourself wisely. Strive for strong grades and take on new challenges inside and outside the classroom. Ask for help if needed; avoid overtaxing yourself. Balance is the goal.

Speak up in class. Learning at the college level is about an exchange of ideas between professors and your peers. Critical thinking and the ability to articulate your thoughts and ideas are skills that contribute to college success.

Sleep. The typical 15-year-old brain needs eight to 10 hours of sleep to function at 100%.

Refine your route. Look ahead to 11th and 12th grade courses of interest and plan on any prerequisites. Take advantage of rigorous courses that are in line with your academic path.

Learn from the masters. As you take inventory of your own interests, find people who work in related areas. Listen to their stories. A 20-minute conversation with a professional could even turn into a fruitful internship opportunity.

Create an activities list. Keep track of your hobbies, jobs, extracurriculars and accomplishments. This will form the basis of your resume and will be essential in preparing for college interviews and applications as well as for possible jobs, internships and summer programs.

Make your summer matter. Work, volunteer, play sports, travel or take a class. Research summer programs and internships to move beyond the scope of your high school courses. Plunge into an activity that excites you.

Settle on a testing strategy and test-prep plan. Use your PSAT scores and other practice tests to help you identify the right test for you, specifically the SAT vs. the ACT . Not a great test-taker? With so many colleges now test-optional , the tests are something you may want – but not need – to take.

Consult your parents. Talk with them about expectations for college, including how much your family can pay. It's much better to discuss costs at the start of the process.

Junior Year

Your grades, test scores and activities this year form a large part of what colleges consider for admission. Prepare for your exams, do your best in class, and stay active and involved.

Plot out your calendar. Talk with your parents and school counselor about which exams to take and when. If your 10th grade PSAT scores put you in reach of a National Merit Scholarship , concentrated prep time might be worth it. Then take the SAT or ACT. As many colleges that are test-optional will likely remain so, good scores can help but aren't a must-have. You may be able to use AP exams to show intellectual rigor instead of, or in addition to, the ACT or SAT.

Immerse yourself in activities. It's your turn: Junior year is the time to fully engage in and become a leader in extracurriculars you enjoy both in and out of school. These are opportunities to grow intellectually and socially and to show you are dedicated and play well with others.

Build your college list in the spring. Once you have a sense of your grades and get your test scores, if any, talk to a school counselor and assemble a list of target, reach and likely schools. Use tools to aid your research. Explore college websites and other resources such as , which is the U.S. Department of Education's financial aid website, and the U.S. News My Fit Custom College Ranking tool. And clean up your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts since admissions folks may check them out.

Visit, and connect digitally. Ideally, you can check out a few campuses in person. If not, make use of COVID-improved college websites and webinars. Attend college fairs and information sessions if possible. Grab the admissions rep's card and follow up via email with a thank-you note or with questions whose answers aren't already available on the college website.

Get recommendations. Right after spring break, ask two teachers with different perspectives on your performance if they will write letters for you . Choose teachers who will effectively communicate your academic and personal qualities.

Write. Reflect on your experiences and strengths as you prepare to write your college essay . Procrastination causes stress, so aim to have first drafts done by Labor Day of senior year. Share them with an English teacher, parent or counselor.

Senior Year

Colleges look at senior-year transcripts, so keep working hard in your classes.

Finish testing. If necessary, you can retake the SAT or ACT in the early fall. Check the admissions testing policies of your prospective colleges. Are they test-optional or do they require you to submit SAT or ACT scores? It may be strategic to share scores with some schools but not others.

Know your deadlines. Many colleges have multiple deadline options. Consider the implications of early action and early, rolling or regular decision – and confirm the rules and deadlines for financial aid – so you can plan accordingly.

Apply. Craft your essays with a well-thought-out narrative. Fill out applications carefully. Review a copy of your transcript. Have you displayed an upward trend that should be discussed? Does an anomaly need context? Discuss any issues with your counselor. Leave yourself time to reread essays and clean up any errors.

Follow up. Check that your colleges have received recommendation letters, records from your high school and your SAT or ACT scores from the testing organization. A month after you submit an application, call the college and confirm that your file is complete.

Confirm aid rules. Check with each college for specific financial aid application requirements. Dates and forms may vary. You're typically required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA , which needs some information from your parents.

Make a choice. Before committing to a college, try to visit or even revisit the schools where you've been accepted. Talk with alumni and attend an accepted-student reception. Then make your college choice official by sending in your deposit.

This story is excerpted from the U.S. News " Best Colleges 2022 " guidebook, which features in-depth articles, rankings and data.

10 Steps to Choosing the Right College

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College Application Checklist

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College applications deadlines are almost here! Before you submit, run through the following checklist to make sure you have all the pieces of your college application ready.

For essay reviews and more guidance on the college application process,  sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

1. Personal Information :

Whether you are using the Common App, the Coalition App, or a school-specific college application, make sure you fill out your personal information section. Start a few days ahead of time so you can ask your parents, your advisor, or someone else for help if you have any questions.

2. Activities List, Extracurriculars, and Honors :

On the Common App, activities list descriptions are limited to 150 characters, so it’s helpful to try writing them out on a separate document first. Make sure to highlight your accomplishments, the lessons you learned, and the traits you developed during the activity. The Common App also allows you 50 characters to describe your position information. Be sure to indicate there if you were the president, founder, or held another leadership role.

3. Test Scores :

SAT and ACT scores are less important this year since COVID-19 has made testing so difficult to schedule. However, if you are planning on sending test scores, make sure to send official score reports or self-report your scores on the application. Be sure you know what each school requires. Some encourage self-reported scores (where you only submit score reports after you are accepted and if you decide to attend that school), while others require you to send the official score reports when you apply. Don’t forget about SAT Subject Tests if you took them!

4. Recommendation letters :

You should have already asked your counselor and your teachers for recommendation letters. If you haven’t already received a notification that your recommenders have submitted their letters, send a polite email to check in with them as soon as possible. You are allowed to submit your college application before your recommenders submit their portions, but they must be submitted by each school’s deadline.

5. School-Specific Questions:

Universities usually want more information than what you enter in the personal information section of the Common App. Make sure you have filled out all of their individual sections. Oftentimes, these include questions on your intended major, your interest in special programs like honors colleges or dual degrees, and whether you have family members who attended that university.

6. Essays :

On the Common App, most schools require the main Common App essay (about 650 words). Many schools also require supplemental essays. Coalition App schools also often require individual supplements (sometimes instead of a personal statement, and sometimes alongside a personal statement). Schools that manage their own application systems (like Georgetown or MIT) also have multiple essays. Check out blog posts from Admissions Experts to get advice about writing essays for specific schools! Hint: it’s best to fill out your whole application a few days in advance of the deadline in case you discover any “surprise” essays—sometimes they only appear after you have selected preference for a particular major program or college within the University.

7. COVID-19 Essay and Additional Information Section:

This year, the Common App includes a space to write up to 250 words explaining how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected you. This can be about your family, your academics, testing, or anything else relevant. In addition, the Common App includes an “Additional Information” section where you can address anything that didn’t fit elsewhere in your application. Usually, it’s best to address any circumstances that affected your academic performance (such as physical or mental health issues or a financial situation with your family), explain a transfer between high schools, or detail additional responsibilities (such as childcare or working to support your family). Don’t repeat any information that you report elsewhere in the application, and don’t link to examples of published work or other projects. Admissions officers will likely not have time to read them, and adding unnecessary information may hurt your application.

8. Portfolios:

Some schools allow you to submit a portfolio exhibiting your artistic or musical talents. This is usually required if you are applying to a fine or performing arts program. If you aren’t applying to a specialized program, you can often still submit this as a supplement. However, it is only advisable if you have a particularly strong art or music sample. Most admissions officers refer portfolios to professors in relevant departments. For example, if you were to submit a sample of paintings, it would be reviewed by an art professor, not by an admissions officer. If you do choose to submit a portfolio, make sure to send high quality scans or recordings.

Each school requires an application fee, usually around $40-50 but up to $75 per university. If this is a hardship for you and your family, determine whether you may be eligible for a fee waiver. Generally, these are available to students whose families fall within certain income brackets, receive federal/state/local public assistance (including public housing and free or reduced school lunch), or who receive a fee waiver for the SAT or ACT. If you’re not sure, you can also talk to your school counselor who can fill out a fee waiver form for you.

10. Financial Aid Information :

For domestic students, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid if you are hoping to receive need-based aid. It is not necessary to submit this by the application deadline, but try to submit it as early as possible. The earlier you submit, the earlier schools will be able to give you an idea of the financial aid package (including loans, grants, scholarships, and work study) they can offer you. If you’re hoping to attend one of your early schools, having that information as early as possible can help you decide whether or not you need to also apply to schools during the regular decision round. If you’re applying to a highly selective school, you will also need to fill out the CSS Profile through the College Board in order to provide more contextual information about your family’s finances. Note that the CSS Profile is not free, so if you need a fee waiver, be sure to check your eligibility and talk to your school counselor.

Final Thoughts

If you are applying to a school that is not on the Common App, Coalition App, or a university system application (such as the UC App), take extra time to make sure you aren’t missing any additional pieces. Keep in mind that some schools, like Georgetown, require you to submit an application fee before you fill out the rest of the application, so starting early is to your advantage.

Remember to try and submit your application in its entirety a day or two ahead of the deadline in case the application server crashes on November 1st or your school’s early deadline. Congratulations on making it this far, and good luck!

This informational essay was written by Brynlee Emery, Georgetown University Class of ‘19. If you want to get with your application from Brynlee or other Admissions Experts , register with today.

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The Ultimate College Application Checklist: From Freshman to Senior Year

Deciding to go to college is undoubtedly exciting, but it can be overwhelming to think about all the work it takes to get there. When you’re at the very beginning of your high school years, how can you know that you’re setting yourself up for success down the road? When you’re starting senior year, how can you stay on top of the many deadlines and requirements for college applications? With so much to do, it’s hard to know where or when to start! 

To keep you on the right path, we’ve created the Ultimate College Application Checklist. Follow along from freshman to senior year to make sure you’re focusing on the important things when it comes to preparing for and applying to college.

Freshman Year

  • Learn how your school calculates GPA. Different schools use different scales and methods for calculating that one big number. For example, you will probably earn extra points for taking advanced classes — but how many? Take a look at your school handbook or talk to your teachers or counselors to figure out what goes into your GPA.
  • Maintain good grades. While college can feel far away if you’re only starting high school, your freshman year grades are still important. Be sure to take a mix of classes that challenge you and also allow you to explore your interests.
  • Get involved in meaningful extracurricular activities. When it comes time to apply for college, the admissions committee is going to want to see what makes you unique, not just what grades you made. Choose extracurricular activities that interest you not only to start building your resume, but also to make new friends, be a part of your community and have fun!
  • Search for scholarships. Even with financial aid, college can be expensive. Scholarships, or award money you don’t have to pay back, can help you cut down on cost. Start with Niche’s How to Pay for College video for tips on finding scholarships from multiple sources.

Sophomore Year

  • Meet with your school counselor to go over your class schedule and goals. Your school counselor is there to help you every step of the way on your journey to college. Meet with them to make sure you’re taking good classes for your skill set and goals.
  • Keep up those good grades!
  • Stay involved in your extracurriculars. There may be leadership opportunities for upperclassmen in your clubs or organizations, so be sure to stay involved during sophomore year. You’ll thank yourself later!
  • Create a Niche account to start researching colleges. You can start reading reviews of colleges you already know about or you can explore colleges you haven’t heard of. The possibilities are endless!
  • Take The Niche College Quiz for personalized recommendations. You tell us about yourself, your priorities and interests, and then we give you a list of colleges that would be a great fit. After you’re done, visit your suggested schools’ profiles to research and add the ones you like to your list.
  • Research potential majors. While you don’t have to know what you want to study when you apply for college, it’s good to have some general ideas. Watch our How to pick your college major video to get started and use our guide to college majors to research your options.
  • Take the PSAT if your school offers it. This is a great way to kick start your test prep because it’ll show you which parts of the SAT you’re already strong in and which parts you should focus on when you study.
  • Continue scholarship search. Keep using those tips you learned in the How to Pay for College video !

Junior Year

September – February

  • Begin test prep and take the PSAT to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. If you haven’t already taken it, now’s the time. When you take the PSAT during your junior year, you’ll be considered for the National Merit Scholarship Program, which means you may have a chance to gain national recognition and receive a scholarship.
  • Attend college fairs. Virtual or in-person, college fairs can be a great place to acclimate to the college search process. Here’s our guide on making the most of college fairs.
  • Build your college list on Niche by adding 5-10 schools. Keeping the colleges you’re considering in one place will help you research and compare them. Include lots of safety, target and reach schools for now and narrow them down later. Consider factors like location , tuition, reputation, size and if the school has a strong program for your intended major (if you know it already). Check out this blog post for more tips on how to start your college list .
  • Find out which colleges on your list are test-optional and create a testing plan. While the shift to test-optional or test-blind policies was initially a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges still have them in place years later (as of fall 2023, the number is approximately 2,000). Look at the schools on your list and each of their admissions requirements to decide which tests, if any, you want or need to take.
  • The SAT is generally offered March-June and October-December. Get a rundown of the SAT basics here.
  • The ACT is offered February-December. Learn more and sign up on the official ACT website.
  • Not sure which to take? Here’s our quick comparison of the SAT and ACT.

February – June

  • Sign up for campus visits and/or virtual tours. Colleges can seem like a dream on paper, but there’s not always the same feeling once you get there. When you visit, get a feel for academic offerings, campus layout, dining options, dorm situation and social scene. To make the most of your visits, plan them properly . If you can’t go in-person, explore virtual visit options.
  • Meet with your school counselor to review your college list and senior year schedule. Your counselor can help you figure out which schools are safeties, targets and reaches if you’re unsure, and they can also make sure you’re all set for a successful senior year.
  • Research majors and related careers. It can be easy to get stuck focusing on your day-to-day, but it’s important to zoom out and think about the bigger picture every now and then. Our How to pick your college major video has tips for you as you consider what to study and what kind of career to pursue after college.
  • Take the SAT/ACT and retest (if necessary). Before you show up on test day, check out our tips and tricks . We’ve got plenty of suggestions for proper test prep to help you earn your ideal score. If you don’t like your score, set a new goal, hit the books and try again in the fall—or superscore it . Still need help? There are plenty more test prep resources.
  • Keep your grades up! Junior year grades are the most closely analyzed by college admissions teams. Give that extra effort so you’re putting your best academic self out there.
  • Request recommendation letters. Ideally, ask your junior year teachers or, if you know your intended major, a teacher who teaches a relevant subject—and ask months ahead of your deadline so your recommenders have plenty of time. We have some pointers for getting counselor recs , too. Check out our guide to all the things you should consider when asking for a letter of recommendation.
  • Continue scholarship search.
  • Read student/alumni reviews on Niche to see what colleges are really like. One of the best ways to figure out what a college is really like is to talk to people who actually went there—and reading reviews on Niche is like talking to hundreds of them at once.
  • Narrow down your college list. Start deciding which schools you’re most interested in. Be sure to keep a good balance of reaches, targets and safeties!
  • Get summer experience. Spend your summer wisely by volunteering, getting a job, job shadowing or participating in a summer college program or camp. Your best bet to impress schools is to do something relevant to your interests, skills or goals.
  • Make an activities/honors list. As you begin filling out college and scholarship applications, a high school resume will be extremely helpful . List your activities, accomplishments, awards, volunteer work and actual work experience from freshman year until now. Mention the tasks you accomplished, skills you gained and/or leadership roles you held. Creating an all-purpose brag sheet can also help you prep for your personal essay, scholarship apps, alumni interviews and more.
  • Brainstorm personal essay ideas . This is your time to share something about yourself that the admissions team can’t know from your resume alone. It’s a big task, but our How to write a college essay video can help you get started—and finish the job.
  • Start planning out your finances. It can be a touchy subject, but it’s best to hash out the financial responsibilities with your parents or other members of your support system before you get too far along in your search. Go back to our How to pay for college video for a refresher on all things financial aid and budgeting, or work your way through our financial aid checklist for the most productive convos.
  • Many application portals open Aug. 1st! You’ve prepared for so long, and now’s the time. Keep an eye on the schools on your list so you know when their application portals will be open.
  • Finalize your college list. It’s time to narrow down your list to only the schools you’re actually applying to. Be strategic: Choose at least two safety schools, several target schools and one or two reach schools.
  • Create application account(s) (ex: Common App, Coalition App, ApplyTexas, UC Application). Each application account serves different colleges, so do some research to see which application is accepted by which schools on your list.
  • Review applications to note requirements, essays, deadlines, etc. While there will probably be a lot of overlap, some schools may have unique supplemental questions you need to answer, or different materials they require. Make sure to keep a list of everything you need for each college on your list so you don’t miss anything.
  • Get your materials together (resume, unofficial transcript, etc.). You may need to contact your school’s administration office or school counselor for some of these items, so it’s important to know what you’ll need early in the process.
  • Draft your personal essay. Put pen to paper—well, fingertips to keyboard. For a little inspo and insight, go back and watch How to write a college essay or check out our guide to acing the college essay .

Direct Admissions

In the fall of your senior year, you officially become eligible for Niche Direct Admissions ! Through this program, colleges can offer you acceptance and a scholarship based on your Niche Profile — no application needed. Just create or log into your Niche account, make sure your profile is up-to-date, start exploring Direct Admissions colleges and add the ones you like to your list. That’s all it takes to be considered! For more details and to see our FAQs, visit this page .

Senior Year

  • Follow up with your recommenders. Follow our guide to reminding your recommenders and you’ll have your letters of recommendation in no time.
  • Begin online portion of applications. Start filling out what you can, and take note of the supplemental materials you’ll need to send in after you finish the online portion.
  • Retake the SAT/ACT (if needed). If you weren’t happy with your previous SAT score, now is the time to take it again.
  • Complete your CSS profile for non-federal financial aid. Here’s the most up-to-date list of schools that require a CSS profile. And here are all the ins and outs on how to create a CSS profile—and why.

October – November

  • Tell your school counselor you’ll need your transcript and/or a recommendation letter for EA/ED/Priority deadlines (if necessary). Protocol varies at each high school, but you’ll want to request them at least two weeks before they’re due. For the whole spiel, check our comprehensive guide on requesting transcripts for college. Not sure whether you’re interested in applying early action (EA) or early decision (ED)? We can help you decide which admission types best fit you.
  • Review all application materials for errors or missing pieces.
  • Submit EA/ED/Priority applications and send any supplemental documents (transcripts, letters, test scores) required. Most early application/early decision deadlines are Nov. 1 or Nov. 15. The Common Application early decision deadline is typically Nov. 1.
  • Set up your account for each college’s portal to ensure your materials have been received. This is important for several reasons—it’s where you’ll be able to see if your application has been received, where you’ll be notified if you missed any documents and often where you’ll find your admissions decision when it’s ready.
  • Create an FSA ID. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA ) determines your eligibility for financial aid. Even if you think your family won’t qualify, submit a FAFSA. You never know what you might receive, and FAFSA also often determines your eligibility for work study jobs on campus. Create a username and password (FSA ID) on the FAFSA website to get started. You’ll be able to file in December.
  • Tell your school counselor you’ll need your transcript and/or a recommendation letter for regular deadlines (if necessary). Again, you’ll want to request your transcripts at least two weeks before they’re due (and ideally, you requested your recommendation letters months before!). For the whole spiel, check our comprehensive guide on requesting transcripts for college.
  • Complete and submit FAFSA.
  • Review EA/ED acceptances. If accepted, celebrate! If deferred, send a letter of continued interest. If rejected, review your application and its essay, and decide whether to make improvements for future applications.  
  • Submit regular deadline applications and send any supplemental documents (transcripts, letters, test scores) required. Before you do: Read our last-minute reminders. Most regular decision deadlines are Jan.1 or Jan. 15. The Common Application deadline is typically Jan. 1. After hitting “submit,” there are still a few things to wrap up.

January – February

  • Submit mid-year grade reports (if necessary). Some colleges require mid-year or second semester grade reports. If this is the case, make sure your counselor has the necessary forms.
  • Apply for scholarships. The internet is your friend—most of the time. Here are really easy and inventive ways to use Google to fuel your scholarship search.
  • Prepare for any interviews you may have. Many schools set up interviews between applicants and alumni. If you have this opportunity, do all the prepwork for a successful interview , including how to navigate a virtual interview.
  • Review EA/ED/Priority acceptances. If accepted, celebrate! If deferred, send a letter of continued interest. If rejected, review your application and its essay, and decide whether to make improvements for future applications.

March – April

  • Review acceptance letters and financial aid packages. First, celebrate any acceptances you received! If deferred/waitlisted, reach out and write a letter of continued interest. If rejected, send an appeal letter. And if you need help understanding your financial aid offer, we’ll walk you through it with our Understanding financial aid award packages video .
  • Decide on your top schools.
  • Keep applying for scholarships.
  • Make your final decision by May 1 — and celebrate! Yes, you did it! After you notify your school that you’ll be attending in the fall (and let the other schools know you’re heading elsewhere), it’s time to celebrate!
  • Submit your deposit and housing application. 
  • Sign up for orientation.
  • Send in your final transcript. 
  • Thank your supporters for all of their help. Let your friends, family, teachers and counselor know where you’ve decided to go. They’ll be so happy for you! A note, a gift, a high five—just show them how much you appreciate their support. Here’s a rundown of all the people you should be thanking. Congratulations!

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When it comes to extracurricular activities, there’s no set rule concerning how many you should be involved in or how involved you must be.

Here you’ll find information about how best to be prepared to meet with your college/career counselor so that they can help you achieve your goals. They were really helpful when I was going through the college application process.

Direct admissions is all about colleges coming to students instead of the other way around. If a college knows they would welcome a student like you based on your grades and other credentials, you shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to get in.

Important Addresses

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Harvard College

University Hall Cambridge, MA 02138

Harvard College Admissions Office and Griffin Financial Aid Office

86 Brattle Street Cambridge, MA 02138

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Search and Useful Links

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Application Requirements

We look forward to learning about you through your application.

Here you'll find a detailed explanation of each admission application requirement. Most of the information here applies to both first-year and transfer applicants. Don't forget to reference our Application Tips for guidance on filling out the Common Application.


We accept the Common Application  and the Coalition Application by Scoir . Both are treated equally by the Admissions Committee. Complete and submit your materials as soon as possible to ensure full and timely consideration of your application. If you use the Common Application, you must submit your application before your supporting materials (Secondary School Report, Teacher Recommendations, etc.) can be released to a college. Until you submit your own application sections, no part of your application will be transmitted to the Harvard Admissions Office.

Submitting Your Application

Receiving confirmation of your application.

After you submit your application, we will send an email confirmation with a PIN to access the Applicant Portal. We begin sending these daily application confirmation emails in mid-September each year. Most applicant receive their confirmation email the day after they submit their application online. Applications sent in the mail will take up to two weeks to process.

If you have not received your confirmation email, please check your spam/junk folder for messages from [email protected] or [email protected]

If have searched your inbox and still cannot find your confirmation email, we encourage you to check the application system you used and ensure you clicked "Submit" and not just "Save".

If you still cannot locate your application confirmation email, please contact us . Choose the category “Admissions” and then the subject “Applicant Questions (if you've already submitted your application)” in the drop-down menu, or call 617-495-1551.

Paying the application fee or requesting a fee waiver

You may pay your application fee online with a credit card via the Common Application or Coalition Application, Powered by Scoir websites.

You may also send a check or money order to Harvard College Admissions, 86 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Please include the applicant’s name with the payment.

Fee waivers: We are committed to making the application process accessible for all students. If the admissions application fee presents a hardship for you or your family and you plan on applying for financial aid, the fee will be waived. Please follow these instructions to request your fee waiver . Requesting a fee waiver will not disadvantage your application in any way.

Completing the Harvard supplement questions

Complete the Harvard Questions with the Common Application or Coalition Application, Powered by Scoir. This includes the following five required short-answer questions, each with a 200 word limit. 

Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard?

Briefly describe an intellectual experience that was important to you. 

Briefly describe any of your extracurricular activities, employment experience, travel, or family responsibilities that have shaped who you are.

How do you hope to use your Harvard education in the future?

Top 3 things your roommates might like to know about you. 

Additional application questions

What if i am homeschooled.

Each applicant to Harvard College is considered with great care and homeschooled applicants are treated the same as all other applicants. There is no special process, but all relevant information about your educational and personal background is welcome. In addition to the application, all applicants are required to submit a transcript (which can be created by the family member or agency overseeing your schooling), and recommendations. If the application fee presents a hardship for your family,  simply request a fee waiver .

Hear from Harvard students who were homeschooled, in the Harvard Gazette article ‘ Homeschooled en route to Harvard .’

What if I need to make updates to my application after I submit it?

Do not resend your application in order to make updates. If you need to update your identification or contact information, or send updates, additional information, or corrections, please do so via the  Applicant Portal .

Misrepresentation of Credentials

Be completely accurate in your application materials. If we discover a misrepresentation during the admissions process, you will be denied admission. If you have already been admitted, your offer will typically be withdrawn. If you have already registered, your admission will normally be revoked, and we will require you to leave the College. Harvard rescinds degrees if misrepresentations in application materials are discovered.

The determination that an application is inaccurate or contains misrepresentations rests solely with the Admissions Office and will be resolved outside the student disciplinary process.

School Reports and Teacher Recommendations

Midyear school report.

When you apply, your school counselor will often send your transcript with few or no senior year course grades included. That is why the midyear school report is required - to allow us to review your performance in the first half of your senior year coursework .  The midyear school report must be completed by your school counselor or other school official. Please request that the midyear school report is completed and returned to our office as soon as possible. 

Midyear School Report FAQs

What if i'm applying restrictive early action and i don't have my midyear grades yet.

Restrictive Early Action applicants are not required to submit the midyear report by the November 1 deadline. If you applied Restrictive Early Action and are deferred to Regular Decision, please submit the midyear report and transcript in February, or as soon as your midyear grades are available.

I'm an international student and my academic year is different. Do I still need to submit the midyear report?

If you study the IB curriculum or the A-level curriculum, then we expect that your school will send predicted grades, based on your current classroom work and the results of any internal or mock exams you have taken up to that point. If your school does not issue official or predicted midyear grades for your final year of school, then you do not need to submit the midyear report form, although the item may remain on your checklist.

What if I have already graduated from high school?

If you have already graduated from high school, you should ignore the midyear report requirement (though the item may remain on your Checklist in the Applicant Portal) and simply ask your school to send a final school report if you have not already done so.

Teacher Evaluations

Ask two teachers in different academic subjects who know you well to complete the Teacher Recommendation forms (which includes an evaluation form and a letter of recommendation). If you wish to submit additional letters of recommendation, you can do so after you submit your application. In your application confirmation email, there will be a personalized link to send to your recommenders.

What courses should I take to prepare for applying to Harvard?

There is no “one size fits all” rule about which curriculum to study during secondary school years. Students should challenge themselves by taking courses deemed appropriate by their teachers and counselors. But some students believe that “more is always better” when it comes to AP, IB or other advanced courses.

While some students prosper academically and personally by taking large numbers of such courses, others benefit from a more balanced approach that allows them additional time for extracurricular and personal development. Even the best students can be negatively affected by taking too many courses at once, and might benefit instead from writing, reading or research projects on subjects of great interest to them.

To learn more, read our Guide to Preparing for College. To avoid the “burnout” often seen among secondary school students, please refer to our article, Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation .

Is there a specific math requirement?

Applicants to Harvard should excel in a challenging high school math sequence corresponding to their educational interests and aspirations. We recommend that applicants take four years of math courses in high school. Ideally, these math courses will focus on conceptual understanding, promote higher-order thinking, and encourage students to use mathematical reasoning to critically examine the world. Examples include rigorous and relevant courses in computer science, statistics and its subfields, mathematical modeling, calculus, and other advanced math subjects.

Students’ math records are viewed holistically, and no specific course is required. Specifically, calculus is not a requirement for admission to Harvard. We understand that applicants do not have the same opportunities and course offerings in their high schools. Moreover, many programs of study at Harvard do not require knowledge of calculus. We encourage applicants to take the courses that are available to them and aligned with their interests and goals.

Students intending to study engineering, computer science, physics, mathematics, statistics or other fields where calculus is needed may benefit from taking calculus in high school. However, students at Harvard can still pursue such fields by starting with one of our introductory calculus classes that has no high school calculus prerequisite. On balance, we encourage all students to master foundational mathematical material instead of rushing through any of the more advanced courses.

Final School Report and Transcripts

All admitted students who choose to enroll are required to send a Final School Report and transcript as soon as their final grades become available – no later than July 1. The Final School Report and transcript should be completed and sent by a school counselor or other school official through Parchment/Docufide or Scrip-Safe International, if your school has access to these submission options.

IB students should send their final results as soon as they are released in mid-July. We will expect to see final A levels results by mid-August.

Standardized Test Scores

For the College Classes of 2027-2030, students may apply for admission without standardized test scores. Please read our announcement for more details on the application changes for the upcoming cycles. 

If you choose to submit standardized tests, you may submit the SAT or ACT (with or without the writing component). While the College Board no longer offers Subject Tests and they are not a requirement for applying, you may submit Subject Tests taken in the last 5 years. If you choose to submit Subject Tests, it is more useful to choose only one mathematics test rather than two. Similarly, if your first language is not English, a Subject Test in your first language may be less helpful.

Standardized Testing FAQs

How do i let harvard know whether i would like my application reviewed with or without test scores.

When you apply for admission, you can choose whether or not our review of your application will include your standardized test scores (SAT and ACT).

  • If your scores already are on file before you apply and you choose at the time of your application to proceed without scores, we will not consider those scores. 
  • If you initially chose an application review without scores and would now like to include scores in your file, you may make this request by submitting the "Change to consideration of test scores" form on your Applicant Portal. 
  • If you ask that our review includes your scores, either at the time of application or after you apply by submitting the form in the Applicant Portal, they will be part of your application throughout the admissions process.

Can I self-report my test scores?

Yes. Applicants may provide self-reported SAT and ACT test scores (including Subject Tests, Advanced Placement, IB, etc.). Admitted students who decide to enroll at Harvard College will be required to submit official test scores.

How do I send my test scores?

You are free to use the College Board Score Choice option or the similar option offered by the ACT. Our official codes are 3434 for the College Board SAT Reasoning Tests and 1840 for the ACT if you are submitting official test scores as part of your application.

  • How to send your SAT scores
  • How to send your ACT scores

Are there test score "cutoffs"?

There are no score cutoffs, and we do not admit “by the numbers.” For the ACT, we will evaluate your highest composite score and any other scores you choose to share with us. We take into account your educational background when reviewing your scores.

Should I prepare for standardized tests?

Opportunities to prepare for standardized tests vary greatly for students of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Research indicates that short term test preparation usually has little effect, but the free “test prep” now offered by the SAT and the ACT might make a significant difference for students who follow their programs for extended periods of time. Such free programs could help to level the playing field for students from under-resourced schools by providing the academic skills that will serve them well on standardized tests and also in college. Students can also do well by studying widely and deeply over a long period of time on their own with the help of family, school, or community organizations.

What do standardized tests and grades indicate about academic preparation for college?

Standardized tests provide a rough yardstick of what a student has learned over time and how that student might perform academically in college - but they are only one of many factors considered. High school grades in a rigorous academic program can also be helpful in assessing readiness for college courses, but the thousands of secondary schools around the country and the world employ various high school curricula and a wide range of grading systems - and some have no grades at all. Other students have been homeschooled or prepared for college by taking part in multiple schooling opportunities both in person and electronic.

Given the wide variation in how students prepare for Harvard – as well as the fact that most applicants and admitted students have outstanding academic records – it is difficult for high school grades to differentiate individual applications. That does not mean that high school grades are unimportant. Students who come to Harvard have done well day to day in their high school studies, providing a crucial foundation for academic success in college, including a 97% - 98% graduation rate.

SAT and ACT tests are better predictors of Harvard grades than high school grades, but this can vary greatly for any individual. Students who have not attended well-resourced schools throughout their lives, who come from modest economic backgrounds or first-generation college families have generally had fewer opportunities to prepare for standardized tests. Each application to Harvard is read with great care, keeping in mind that talent is everywhere, but opportunity and access are not.

Does Harvard accept SAT Subject Test scores?

As announced by the College Board, Subject Tests and the essay portion of the SAT have been terminated, except in certain special circumstances. See the  College Board's announcement for more details. Harvard admission officers review all material that an applicant submits, so if you have already taken Subject Tests or the essay portion of the SAT, you may still submit it along with your other application materials.

How do I choose whether to submit my standardized test score?

Choosing whether or not to submit test scores is a personal decision for every applicant. There are many reasons why students do not submit test scores, including expense. In general, though, anything that might give a more complete or positive picture of an applicant can be helpful. Even if you feel your test scores do not fully represent your strengths, perhaps because of a lack of resources at your school or limited opportunities to prepare for or take the tests, you could note this fact in your application to provide context. There are no score cutoffs and we do not admit “by the numbers.”

Why can't I view my standardized test scores in the Common Application?

Since Harvard College is not requiring applicants to submit standardized test scores for the 2022-2026 application cycles , your standardized scores will not display in the Common Application PDF preview, even if you have chosen to submit them. However, if you entered your test score information and would like it to be considered, that data will still be transmitted to us with your application and we will review it. You can verify this by viewing the Application Checklist in your Applicant Portal. You will see a green check mark if we have received your standardized test scores.

How will Harvard evaluate the new digital SAT?

The College Board's shift to a digital delivery of the SAT will not impact the way in which Harvard reviews test scores within applications. For the College Classes of 2027-2030, students may apply for admission without standardized test scores. Students who do not submit standardized test scores will not be disadvantaged in their application process. Please  visit the College Board FAQs  for more information.  

Supplemental Materials

Our standard application materials typically give us ample information for making admission decisions. However, we recognize you may have truly exceptional talents or achievements you wish to share, and we want you to have every opportunity to best represent yourself.

At the discretion of the Admissions Committee, supplementary materials—such as music recordings, artwork, or selected samples of academic work—may be evaluated by faculty. These materials are entirely optional.

Material Types

How to submit documents and articles.

Scholarly articles, research, creative writing or other documents of which you are the primary author should be submitted in the Upload Materials section of the Applicant Portal . This is the most efficient and direct method of submitting these materials, because they will be added directly to your official application. All submissions should include a list of any individuals with whom you collaborated in the production of the work. If appropriate, please identify your research sponsor, mentor, and/or laboratory or research group leader and provide a short description of your particular contribution to the work.

How to submit media (video, audio, or images)

You may submit optional supplementary media materials (e.g. videos, audio recordings, or images) electronically via Slideroom . Details for submissions in art, dance or choreography, musical performance or composition, will be found on the Slideroom website. There is a small submission fee, but if this fee causes you economic hardship, you may request a fee waiver at the point of submission. You may also contact us to request a fee waiver.

Should I submit other academic materials?

Harvard accepts other standardized tests or other academic credentials if you choose to submit them. In any admissions process, additional information can be helpful. For example, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, A-levels, national leaving examinations, national or international contests, early high school assessment scores such as the PSAT or pre-ACT, or courses taken outside your school during the school year or summer are just some examples of information that could be submitted. Subject Tests and the essay portion of the SAT have been terminated, except in certain special circumstances. Harvard admission officers review all materials that an applicant submits, so if you’ve already taken Subject Tests or the essay portion of the SAT, you may still submit them along with your other application materials.

Learn More About Harvard

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Related Topics

Not sure how to fill out the admissions application to Harvard? Here are some helpful tips from our admissions committee.

First-Year Applicants

Here's everything you need to know about applying to Harvard College as a first-year applicant.

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Cornell Undergraduate Admissions

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Let’s Get Started

Are you ready to embark on your Cornell journey? We have compiled the information you will need on this page. The Undergraduate Admissions staff is available to provide support along the way.

First-Year International Applicants

Transfer applicants, first-year domestic applicants, special populations, advice for applicants, first-year application timeline.

Expand the information below to learn more about each aspect of the application and your Cornell journey.

Are You a First-Year Domestic Applicant?

First-year applicant.

First-year domestic applicants will complete high school during the current academic year and hold one of the following United States citizenship or residency statuses:

  • U.S. Citizenship
  • U.S./Dual Citizenship 
  • Permanent Residency (approved — not pending)
  • Undocumented Students with and without DACA 
  • Students whose permanent resident status is pending are considered international students. If your pending status changes to approved during the application process, please let us know and we will update your status.

Students enrolled in concurrent high school and college courses are considered first-year candidates. 

Students who graduated from high school but have earned fewer than 12 credits at a college or university are considered first-year candidates. If you have earned 12 credits or more, you should see our instructions for how to apply as a transfer student here . For domestic students, Cornell University practices need-blind admissions and meets the full demonstrated financial need of admitted students. 

International applicants can find instructions for how to apply here .

Choose Early Decision or Regular Decision

Early decision .

Early Decision is a binding commitment for students who have selected Cornell as their first choice. Students may initiate applications to other colleges under nonbinding plans but must withdraw those applications if admitted to Cornell. Students who apply Early Decision submit their application and $80 application fee or fee waiver by November 1, submit supporting materials by November 15, and will learn their admissions decision by mid-December.

Cornell’s Early Decision Agreement is on the Common Application under Cornell University > Application > Questions > General. Students do not need to submit a separate agreement from their counselor.

All admission decisions are final. There are three possible admission outcomes from Early Decision:

  • Admit: Admitted applicants must withdraw all other college applications, may not submit any additional applications after accepting the offer, and must accept Cornell's offer of admission by submitting an enrollment deposit by early January.
  • Defer:  Deferred applicants are reconsidered in the Regular Decision pool and are no longer subject to the Early Decision binding commitment.
  • Deny:  Denied applicants will not be considered in the Regular Decision pool.

Those admitted under Early Decision who demonstrate financial aid eligibility and submit all required materials by the deadline will receive a financial aid award at the time of admission. Students may be eligible to be released from the early decision agreement if the financial aid award does not make a Cornell education affordable for applicants and their families.

Cornell University will honor any required commitment to matriculate that has been made to another college under an Early Decision plan.

Regular Decision 

Regular Decision is a non-binding decision plan. Students who apply in Regular Decision submit their application fee and $80 application fee or fee waiver by January 2, submit supporting materials shortly after that date, 2 and learn their admissions decision by early April.

All admission decisions are final. There are three admission outcomes from Regular Decision; the admission committee will:

  • Admit: Admitted applicants must submit an enrollment deposit by May 2 if choosing to enroll at Cornell.
  • Waitlist:  Applicants who are offered a place on the waitlist may elect to be considered for admission if space in the class becomes available.
  • Deny:  Denied applicants can re-apply as transfer candidates in future admissions cycles.

Those admitted under Regular Decision who demonstrate financial aid eligibility and submit all required materials by the deadline will receive a financial aid award at the time of admission.

Choose Your College or School

Which one of cornell's colleges and schools is right for you.

You will apply to only one undergraduate college or school at Cornell. Explore each of our undergraduate colleges and schools at the links below and see which fits you best before filling out your application:

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • College of Architecture, Art and Planning
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Human Ecology
  • Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy
  • Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration
  • Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations

Applicants cannot change the college to which they have applied after they have submitted the Common Application.

Explore our Majors

Review the College and School Admissions Requirements

Read the requirements.

When applying to Cornell University, you'll choose the undergraduate college or school within the university that is the best fit for your interests and talents. While there are general recommendations and requirements for students applying to our university, each college and school has its own unique recommendations and requirements.

Complete the Required Application Components


Submit the online Common Application . 

Application Fee or Fee Waiver

Pay the $80 nonrefundable application fee or submit a fee waiver.

At Cornell, we are committed to making the application process accessible for all students. We will waive your fee if the application fee presents a hardship for you or your family. Please follow the Common Application instructions to apply for a fee waiver. You may submit any of the following types of fee waivers:

  • The Common Application Fee Waiver that can be submitted online as part of the Common App;
  • The College Board College Application Fee Waiver that is sent to students who used a fee waiver when registering for the SAT;
  • The ACT Waiver of College Admission Applications Fee that may be obtainable from your school counselor if you used an ACT fee waiver;
  • The NACAC Application for Fee Waiver Form completed by your school counselor; or
  • A letter from your school counselor or a representative from a social service or community agency, stating that the fee would cause financial hardship;

If you cannot apply for a fee waiver by one of these methods, please email the Undergraduate Admissions Office at [email protected] . Mail fee waiver documentation to:

Undergraduate Admissions Office Cornell University 410 Thurston Avenue Ithaca, NY 14850

High School Transcript

Official high school/secondary school transcripts must include grades from 9th through 11th grade and list in-progress 12th-grade courses. Early Decision applicants are encouraged to submit first marking period grades when available. Applicants will be required to submit mid-year grades from 12th grade when available.

Your high school should submit official high school transcripts via the Common App or through an online ordering system or eTranscript service. 

Counselor Recommendation

The counselor letter of recommendation highlights a student's accomplishments within the context of their high school. The letter should come from a student’s school counselor, college counselor, principal, or headmaster. Applicants will not be disadvantaged if their high school structure and counselor’s caseload does not allow students the opportunity to build a personal relationship with their counselor.

School Report

Your counselor or designated school official should submit this Common Application form or your school’s own report form on your behalf.

Teacher Evaluations

The two teacher recommendations highlight the applicant’s academic strengths and contributions in the classroom. 

Mid-year Report Transcript

Your counselor or designated school official should submit your mid-year grades from 12th grade, when available, through the Common Application. We understand that some students with schools on trimesters may not have any new grade information to report at the time of submission, and therefore do not need to send a Midyear Report.

Complete Your Cornell Writing Supplement

Cornell writing supplement.

Before submitting your Cornell Common Application, you will also need to write and submit your Cornell First-Year Writing Supplement. Please note that each college and school at Cornell has a different supplement. 

You cannot change the college or school you applied to after submitting your application. 

Submit Additional Application Items (If Needed)

Standardized testing.

  • SAT & ACT:  Cornell has suspended the SAT/ACT testing requirement for 2023 and 2024 applicants .
  • SAT Subject Tests:  These tests are not required or expected for admission to Cornell University.
  • AP Exams, IB Exams, or AICE Exams: Students may opt to self-report AP, IB or AICE exam scores in the testing section of the Common Application.
  • Predicted IB Diploma and A-Levels: Students enrolled in IB and A-Level curricula whose schools submit predicted scores for admission consideration are expected to complete their exams and submit their final results.

Alumni Meetings

  • Applicants can request an optional, informal conversation with a Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador by indicating their interest via the Common App Writing Supplement and/or their Cornell Application Status Page.

AP/IB/Dual Enrollment

  • Advanced Placement (AP) Exams: Cornell generally awards credit for Advanced Placement (AP) exams with a score of 4 or 5. For more information, please visit the AP Credit page .
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) Exams: Cornell generally awards credit for International Baccalaureate (IB) examinations for students scoring 6 or 7 on higher level exams. Please visit the International Baccalaureate (IB) Credit page for more information .
  • International Exams: Students who complete various international exams–including A-Levels, Cambridge Pre-University Examinations, German Abitur, and French Baccalauréat–may receive credit. For more information, please visit the International Credentials page .
  • Transfer/Dual Credit: The Registrar of an enrolling student’s Cornell college/school evaluates courses taken at other accredited colleges or universities (or their foreign equivalent) and are appropriate to the Cornell curriculum for potential transfer credit. Transfer credit will not be awarded for courses included on a student’s high school transcript and used to satisfy high school graduation requirements, i.e., dual credit courses. For more information, read our FAQ on how Cornell handles dual enrollment coursework .

Supplemental Materials

  • Architecture: Required portfolio and interview 
  • Art: Required portfolio
  • Design and Environmental Analysis: Required design supplement
  • Fashion Design and Management: Required design supplement
  • Landscape Architecture: Required portfolio
  • Music: Optional musical recording supplement for applicants who believe that their musical abilities will enhance their application

Access Your Application Status Page

Application status page.

When we receive your application, we will email you about establishing an online application status account. This email message will be your confirmation that we have received your application. 

Information for Homeschooled Applicants

Homeschooled applicants.

Cornell welcomes applications from students who have been homeschooled. Homeschooled students have the same application requirements and review process as all applicants and are expected to complete the same curriculum requirements as students from traditional high schools. Each homeschooled applicant is encouraged to provide clear, detailed documentation of their curriculum, assessment tools, and learning experiences. Homeschooled students are encouraged to submit a curriculum description and list of educational texts and materials used.

Letters of Recommendation

All applicants, including homeschooled students, must submit the School Report (Counselor Letter of Recommendation) and two Teacher Evaluations. Cornell recommends someone not related to the student complete at least two of the three required letters of recommendation. 


We understand that your transcript may look different from a traditional high school one. However, your transcript should include a list of courses by grade level and performance indicators (such as letter grades or GPA).

If you have completed coursework at one or more traditional high schools, colleges, or universities, submit an official transcript from each institution.

Information for Native and Indigenous Applicants

Native and indigenous applicants.

Native and Indigenous students as well as their advocates, supporters and communities are encouraged to reach out to the Diversity Outreach team to connect with us and learn more about the living and learning opportunities and networks for support available to undergraduate students at Cornell University.

You can reach your point of contact within Undergraduate Admissions at [email protected] .

Cornell University Land Acknowledgement

Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' (the Cayuga Nation). The Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York state and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' dispossession, and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogo̱hó:nǫ' people, past and present, to these lands and waters.  

Information for Applicants Who Are US Military Veterans and Current Service Members

Join our community of veteran scholars.

Cornell invites veterans and current members of the military to join its growing community of veteran scholars. 

There’s never been a better time for those who’ve served in the military to consider Cornell. The veteran community is strong and growing, thanks to a renewed commitment to recruit, enroll, and support those who’ve served. 

Cornell’s commitment to military service and those who’ve served isn’t new; it dates back to our founding as the land grant university for New York and the Morrill Land Grant Act requiring every land grant institution to include military training in its curriculum. We are proud of our students who have graduated from Cornell and gone on to serve in the military and we are proud of our veterans who made the choice to attend Cornell after they have served our country. 

Veteran Admissions and Enrollment Support

Cornell’s Military/Veteran Admissions and Enrollment Services team includes staff and trained student veterans who work to support veterans and current members of the military from the prospective student phase through the applications for admission , financial aid , veteran education benefits , and the enrollment process. 

Please reach out to us at [email protected] . We look forward to working with you!

Financial Aid and Veteran Benefits

Cornell meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students and military/veteran applicants are encouraged to apply for financial aid , regardless of their veteran benefits eligibility. Cornell also participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program , the supplement to the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill® education benefit. For more information about veteran education benefits, please visit the University Registrar website .

For more information about financial aid, please contact the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment at [email protected] .

Learn more about the veteran community . 

Information for Applicants Interested in ROTC

Educating military leaders has been a tradition at cornell university for 150 years..

Cornell's long and prestigious military history started with the Morrill Act of 1862. Cornell's founding and designation as New York State's Land Grant University imparted to it the responsibility to provide military training and education programs. Cornell formally established a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) unit in 1917. Cornell graduates have served with distinction in every major conflict since the Spanish-American War. Cornell commissioned more officers in World War I than any other institution in the United States including the military academies. During World War II, Cornellians again responded, with more than 20,000 serving in the armed forces in every theatre of war.

Learn more about ROTC at Cornell here . 

Information for First-Generation College and Low and Moderate Income Applicants

First-generation college and low and moderate income applicants.

Cornell strives to live up to our “any person” ethos, ensuring access to all qualified domestic undergraduate students, regardless of income, assets or family circumstances. Cornell offers financial aid packages that cover the difference between the cost of attendance (which includes living expenses in addition to tuition) and what a family can reasonably be expected to afford.

First Generation College Students and Students from low and moderate income backgrounds as well as their advocates and supporters are encouraged to reach out to Undergraduate Admissions to connect with us and learn more about the living and learning opportunities and networks for support available to undergraduate students at Cornell University.

Information for Applicants with DACA status/Applicants Who Are Undocumented

Daca/undocumented applicants.

Undocumented students with and without DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status as well as their advocates and supporters are encouraged to reach out to Undergraduate Admissions to connect with us and learn more about the living and learning opportunities and networks for support available to undergraduate students at Cornell University.

You can reach your point of contact within Undergraduate Admissions at [email protected] .

Information for United World College Applicants

United world college applicants.

Students attending one of the United World College (UWC) secondary schools around the world as well as their advocates and supporters are encouraged to reach out to Undergraduate Admissions to connect with us and learn more about the living and learning opportunities and networks for support available to undergraduate students at Cornell University.

You can reach your point of contact within Undergraduate Admissions at  [email protected] .

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  • College Application Requirements Checklist: The Ultimate University Admissions Guide
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  • January 3, 2023

A high school student completing their college application requirements checklist.

Filling out and submitting college applications can be nerve-wracking, but if you plan ahead of time the process can be much easier. While there are tons of things to do before you submit that application, a visit to your high school counselor is a great way to get some of the help you need, but you shouldn’t rely on them for everything. Instead, it’s a good idea to proactively do some research and college application prep planning on your own as well . Different schools require different items to be submitted during the college application process , which is why thoughtfully curating your college list (the schools you want to apply to) and learning of their college application requirements checklist will set you up for the most success and make applications as stress-free and successful as possible. 

What Should You Include With Your Application?

Regardless of the school you’re applying to, there are certain items that need to be included when you send in your application. The first thing you need to be aware of is the application deadline, and learn for sure if that deadline is a regular deadline or an early decision (or early action) deadline. This is crucial, as the different types of admissions have both differing deadlines, as well as differing implications, and you want to make sure you’re pursuing the type of admission that will prioritize your top choice schools to increase the odds of acceptance, which may mean early decision for your dream school, early action for your safety schools, and regular decision for your other schools. Below are a few of the things that most colleges require you to send in with your college application.

  • An application form that is filled in completely and signed
  • All standardized test scores (ACT, SAT, possibly SAT subject tests)
  • Your official transcripts from high school
  • A supplemental essay to allow admissions officers a chance to get to know you better
  • Letters of recommendation – aim for at least 3 (two core subject teachers and a supplemental recommendation often works well)
  • Information on any extracurricular activities you participate in
  • A school profile (if the high school provides one)
  • The required fee or a fee waiver

Of course, in addition to SAT or ACT scores and recommendation letters, some schools will require one or more extra items and additional information, especially if you’re an international applicant. In fact, an international student often has a completely different application form and numerous additional materials that have to be submitted along with that form. Regardless of the type of prospective student you are, it’s important to learn everything that the school is expecting you to send to them along with your application.

While we’re on this subject, if you’re still taking AP exams, make sure you send them that information as well (or arrange to have the testing center or exam board forward those scores to your schools of choice), along with any unique characteristic that you have , including if you are fluent in a foreign language. 

Admissions counselors want to know everything about you, and the more things you have that set you apart from the other students, the better off you’ll be. Make sure you include everything that you spend time on, including extracurricular activities , volunteer work , and anything else – even if it doesn’t seem all that important. Oftentimes these non-academic outside-the-classroom differentiators can be the difference of acceptance or rejection for students who are on the verge of admission to more selective schools, so they’re well worth highlighting on your resume and in your personal statement.

First Things First

One of the first things you should do before you do anything with your application is to write down all deadlines and dates in your calendar, or put them on your virtual calendar. After all, you’ll need to be aware of your deadlines at all times, as well as reminders about what you need to do next. A very detailed calendar is needed so that nothing important is overlooked or forgotten. Make sure the following dates are recorded:

  • Any application deadlines for Regular Decision (RD), Early Decision (ED), Early Action (EA), and if applicable, Rolling Admission
  • All regular and federal student aid deadlines, including Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), CSS profile, scholarships, etc.
  • Dates that standardized tests are given (SAT, ACT)
  • Dates for college admissions tests, if the university you’re applying to has its own entrance exam

You also have to get all of your financial information together, whether you’re paying for your schooling yourself or you need some type of need-based aid or federal student loans. In addition to other required documents, you’ll likely need proof of your parents’ income, which includes their most recent tax returns, as well as bank statements that show them their cash balances and maybe even investment information. Some schools need items such as W-2s and the CSS Profile as well, but this will vary with each school.

Things That Impress College Admissions Departments

Making sure your undergraduate application looks its best is important , especially if you’re applying to a prestigious school with a lot of competition. The college admission process can take a while, but while you’re paying extra attention to required items like your academic records, your next letter of recommendation, or your official high school transcript, there are some proactive and supplemental things you can do to increase the odds that you’ll get admitted, and they start with these:

  • Pay Close Attention to Your Supplemental Essays

Supplemental essays give your college board a chance to get to know you a little better, but keep in mind that they not only want to hear about your academic and extracurricular life, but also about your personal life. What motivates you? What are your main goals in life? What do you like to do in your personal time? While first-year applicants might not consider these things important, they can make a big difference when it comes to getting into the college of your dreams.

  • Go Ahead and Self-Report or Submit Your Test Scores

ACT and SAT scores can be self-reported by prospective students to many colleges, but you’ll have to check with them first to see how they want you to submit this information. If the school allows for self-reporting of these scores, you can keep the scores on file at those colleges and then formally submit the fee once you get the notice that you’ve been accepted. Many colleges will accept the scores without the fee until they make the decision regarding your admission.

  • Always Double Check Everything

Before submitting an undergraduate admission application, always double- and triple-check all of the application materials to make sure that (1) everything is there, and (2) everything looks spectacular. Make sure that everything requested is there, all required documents are signed, everything is grammatically correct and error-free, all additional paperwork is there, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) waiver is attached. Everything has to be impeccable if you want the admissions counselor to take your application seriously, especially as the admissions process becomes more selective and the successful candidates pool more competitive.

Getting Organized Helps With the Application Process

If you know how to use a computer and create a spreadsheet, this will help a lot if you’re applying to several different colleges. You can also create folders to put away brochures and any notes you take for each college, which can denote any special programs you might want to apply to, academic programs you may highlight in that university’s application, or any specific requirements they’ve mentioned to gain admission into their honors program. Remaining organized is the best way to keep track of everything going on until you start getting accepted by colleges. Under the folder or spreadsheet should be the following information :

  • Name of the college
  • A copy of the completed application or a link to the online application if applicable
  • The type of deadline (regular, early, rolling, etc.)
  • The application fee or application fee waiver
  • Any application requirements (essay, additional documents, etc.)

As soon as you learn of any deadlines or have a question answered by the school, you’ll want to make a note of that in your file. The process of submitting applications to various colleges can be hectic and time-consuming, but if you’re organized and write down everything that happens along the way, it’s much easier for everyone involved. It’s also a good idea to give your parents access to these files so that they can know the status as well.

Presenting the Right Image

When you are applying to colleges that are extremely competitive, anything you can do to make yourself stand out will end up making a difference in the end. The school official in charge of your application will go over everything with a fine-tooth comb, so you have to make sure all of your T’s are crossed and your I’s are dotted. The final admission decision takes everything into consideration, not just test scores or essays, but that doesn’t stop the fact that you can do certain things to make yourself look better in their eyes.

If you have any type of unique situation, such as a disability of some sort, you need to research your schools even more thoroughly. If you have trouble walking, for instance, you might want to choose smaller campuses or schools with better disability services. If you already know what you’re going to major in, you should try to find schools that have extra high-quality programs in that area. Naturally, the earlier you start looking into these things, the more time you’ll have to make sure everything you submit to these colleges is just perfect.

Keep in mind that time is not your friend when applying to college, especially as you reach your more hectic junior and senior years of high school. If you can start in your freshman or sophomore year of high school, you’ll have more time to get everything done on time, which helps ensure you won’t forget anything important, and you’ll successfully set up a promising academic record. It’s never too early to begin your college application requirements checklist, and your future self will thank you for being so proactive today. Furthermore, the earlier you begin, the more time and headspace you have to seek out scholarships and awards that can make paying for college much more tolerable, the benefits of which you’ll feel for years to come.

When to Start Applying for College: College Application Deadlines

When to start applying for college

Thinking about when to start applying for college can be an exciting and overwhelming process. College is a great way to further your education and pursue your passions. It is also important to make the right decision for you. The college application process can be time-consuming and confusing, but find tips to guide you on your college application journey below.

When Do You Start Applying to Colleges?

So, when do you start applying to colleges? College applications should be on the radar of juniors in high school. This doesn’t mean that you need to start applying right after you finish your sophomore year. Start researching and visiting schools to find what interests you during this year. Starting early can help give you a better idea of what you want to do in college and ensure you stay up to date on important deadlines.

We recommend beginning the application process during the summer before your senior year. Starting in the summer gives you plenty of time before a majority of deadlines near the beginning of winter. If you want to be more proactive, you can even begin some college applications during your junior year. Ultimately, you should start as soon as possible to give yourself more time to make the right decision. Applying sooner means you hear back sooner, which gives you time to confirm your decision or explore all your options.

Some schools even offer early decision, in which you can send in your application before their standard deadline. This application helps to express your interest in the university. This is great for those who know where they want to go, because reduces the amount of work you’ll need to do for the rest of your time in high school. Some of the tips you can explore in this article are:

College Application Requirements Checklist

College application deadlines, how to get into college.

Before you start applying for college, it’s important that you complete this checklist:

  • Complete SAT, ACT, or AP Exams (If required)

Discuss Letter of Recommendation

Review application form, draft essay topics, stay focused in school, speak to your college counselor, visit colleges, complete sat, act, or ap exams (if required).

Exams like the SAT and ACT are a popular way for colleges to set guidelines for applicants. Recently, most of these exams have become optional as many colleges no longer require scores to be reported. This does not necessarily mean you shouldn’t take these exams. They act as a solid college aptitude test, however they do not define your ability to be successful in college. Review Western’s application requirements for first-time freshmen .

AP Exams are also not necessary for some colleges. Be sure to check the school’s website for more details. Even if these scores are not factored in your application, they are a great way to start accruing college credits and help guide a decision on your major.

Letters of recommendation are an essential element of the college application requirements checklist. Recommendations help admissions officers read between the lines of numbers and letters from the standard portion of the application. These letters are personal as they come from people who know your personality and ambitions well. They help paint a more holistic picture of who you are as a person.

Be sure to reach out to people who have played a crucial role in your life and academics. Great examples are teachers, coaches, employers, or any other role models who you feel comfortable reaching out to. Be cognizant of the schedules of whomever you ask and remind them of the deadline to ensure you have this piece ready for your application on time.

Once an application opens, review the questions and materials necessary to complete the form. Understanding what is required of you to complete the application is a crucial part of the college application requirements checklist. You’ll be more prepared if you read through the application to start brainstorming answers to the questions. Plus, you can gather and attach the necessary documents without scrambling last-minute.

The essay is an important part of the college application requirements checklist and the application itself. Here is your time to explore a topic of your interest and explain its importance to you. An essay, like the letter of recommendation, allows the admissions officer to get to know you better and see you beyond your high-level academics.

Take time to read through the essay question and start brainstorming ideas and writing drafts to convey the message you intend. Find your tone and voice: do you want to sound funny, serious, or adventurous? The possibilities are endless, and you have the power to craft your story. If you are struggling to come up with ideas, search some solid examples online.

It can be exciting to think about going to college, which may lead to distraction from your current academic responsibilities.  The college application offices review your academic history through your high school graduation. Colleges have the power to rescind offers due to the actions and academic standings of incoming students. Finish out your high school career strong while looking into your next school and its programs.

An extremely powerful resource highly recommended on the college application requirements checklist is to talk to your school’s college counselor. These counselors are equipped to help find students a good match based on their academics and interests. Building a relationship with your college counselor can unveil valuable information in deciding which schools to apply to, based on location, size, cost, and more.

college application deadlines

College counselors are great resources, but you can also reach out to friends and family who are current or former college students to gain insider information about specific schools. Choosing where to go to college is a personal decision and thorough research helps you gain confidence in your selection.

One of the most crucial guidelines of the college application requirements checklist is to get out and visit different colleges. It is almost impossible to get a feel for a school without touring and visiting. Walk around the campus, ask questions to your tour guides, and take time to explore the campus for yourself.

We recommend starting tours early to visit as many schools as you would like. Schools drastically differ depending on the region, programs, culture, and student body. Be sure to know what interests you and find a school that feels like a great fit. If you have friends or family at a school, try to have an overnight college visit to see the school from a student’s perspective.

There are seemingly an endless number of college applications, so it’s difficult to juggle all the different dates. Know when to start applying for college by keeping track of college application deadlines. Here are a few important dates to remember at Western:

Many college applications open around the beginning of August, providing students with a couple of months to complete the applications and send them in. One of the most popular applications is the Common Application. For schools that accept this application, be aware of the open date, Aug. 1, and close date(s), Jan. 1 or Jan. 15. Research which application the schools you apply to accept and note the dates they are due. College application deadlines may change over time, so stay up to date on whichever application you complete.

Early Action

This application is a great option for students who like to complete their work early and are eager to hear back about the application decision. Early action is not binding, but it expresses interest and informs the application officer that you are enthusiastic about their institution.

If you are applying to reach schools, this option is a great choice as you’ll also find out the status of your application before the deadlines of submission for many other schools. This offers flexibility for students to complete more applications. In the event of being waitlisted or declined, you definitely have enough time to apply to another school.

Early Decision

Early decision is the perfect option for students who are completely committed to attending a specific school. This form of application is binding, meaning there can be negative consequences for accepting early but choosing not to attend. The early decision application shows your dedication and commitment to your school. There may or may not be an impact on your application status with early decision. Be aware that you are applying to a school before viewing your financial aid offer, this can be a concern for students who may depend on financial aid. Some schools will help you explore your financial aid options with early decision.

Rolling Admissions

Rolling admissions open generally around the beginning of fall allowing students to submit their application anytime between the opening and closing of the application. Students who are prompt with their applications can submit them at any point while the application is open. There are no direct benefits to when you apply, whether that be earlier or later, but admissions offices may appreciate those who are mindful of college application deadlines.

Applying sooner in the open period may mean you find out the status of your application sooner as fewer applications are processed versus the end of the period when all applications are submitted. If you don’t have a specific preference for a school but are eager to get answers, rolling admission is a great option.

Regular Decision

Regular decision is the standard option for most students. This type of decision gives students the most amount of time to complete their application. The deadlines for schools offering regular decision is usually sometime around January to February. Students will typically hear back between March and April. There is also a requirement on the school’s end to inform students by May 1st, at the latest.

For students who are unsure of where they would like to attend, regular decision is a great tool to apply to many colleges at once. This application allows students to research the schools and determine where they could see themselves.

There is no step-by-step recipe on how to get into college, but there are steps to take prior to applying. By no means is this a comprehensive guide, but it should offer valuable tips to help you stay ahead and apply to colleges. Make sure that college is the right decision for you and aligns with your career goals.

Knowing when to start applying for college and how to get into college can be a daunting decision. Make sure to take the appropriate amount of time to ensure this is a choice you are ready to make. There are many alternatives to going to college right after graduating high school. Some of those options are:

  • Taking a gap year
  • Working an internship
  • Pursuing a trade
  • Traveling and exploring
  • Pursuing a passion or hobby

Get Ready to Apply

Now that you know the steps to take, start to think about colleges that interest you and the programs they offer. It’s never too early to start thinking about when to start applying for college. College is a great way to further your education and pursue a field of interest.

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It's important to remember that the tuition and fees displayed here may be higher than what your out-of-pockets costs will be. One thing to know: There are options to help make college more affordable. Financial aid, scholarships, grants and work-study programs are a few of those.

2023-24 academic year tuition and fees

Review the following in-state and out-of-state tuition and fees, as well as housing and dining estimates, for the 2023-24 academic year. Once you have details on your estimated tuition and fees, financial aid awards, scholarships and other tuition assistance amounts, use our Comprehensive budget plan (2023-24) to estimate your out-of-pocket costs for the academic year.

*View footnotes regarding undergraduate tuition and fees . 

The tuition rates for master's, doctoral and first-professional programs at VCU are outlined in the 2022-23 tuition and fees document .

Part-time enrollment

For most graduate and professional studies programs, students enrolled in 8 credits or less are charged tuition and fees at the per-credit-hour rate. If you are planning to enroll on a part-time basis, multiply the per-credit-hour rate by the anticipated hours of enrollment.

Full-time enrollment

Post-undergraduate programs are considered full-time at 9 credits. Most programs are assessed a flat tuition rate for enrollment in 9 to 15 credits. A graduate student enrolled in more than 15 credits during any semester will be charged an overload tuition fee.

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There are many options for reducing your financial responsibility for graduate school at VCU. To learn more, check out our graduate funding opportunities .

2023-24 academic year costs explained

The tuition and fees shown in the table are based on 15 credit hours per semester and 30 credit hours for the academic year. Tuition is charged at a per credit hour rate. Room charge is based on a double occupancy in Rhoads Hall and the dining rate is for the 200 swipe with $225 dining dollars meal plan. 

Remember to add any additional fees based on the selected major or program .

Note : New first-year students add $225 and new transfer students add $150 for Transition Fee to the total shown in the table. The Transition Fee is only charged in the student’s first semester of enrollment.

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Apply as an international student.

Are you ready to study with the University of Adelaide? Find out what steps you need to take to apply.

The following information is for students applying for an undergraduate or postgraduate coursework program. This includes current students and applicants who are applying as part of an approved articulation agreement.

Information on how to apply for postgraduate research degrees can be found via the Adelaide Graduate Research School .

Before you apply

Check the application closing dates.

Some programs have early  closing dates . Applications received after the closing date will be considered for the subsequent year or intake.

Learn about additional application requirements

For current additional application requirements please refer to the "Admission and Fee Information" tab in  Degree Finder  for the desired course. You can also visit  Admission Requirements  to learn about English language requirements and additional application information.

Prepare your documentation

All academic documents, professional qualifications and English translations of these documents, MUST be original documents or certified as a true copy of the original. Read more about  correctly certified documents .

Application checklist

Attach the following as PDF files:

  • Academic transcripts and graduation certificates for all school and tertiary studies you have undertaken (original language and certified English translations)
  • Official English testing results from IELTS, TOEFL, Pearson or Cambridge CAE/CPE (if applicable)
  • Syllabus of subjects if you wish to be considered for advanced standing (credit transfer)
  • Any professional qualification or memberships you may have
  • A copy of your passport and visa (if applicable)

Depending on your region or country of citizenship, you may be required to apply through a registered University of Adelaide education agent.

Applications with an agent

We have a wide network of agents around the world who can assist you with the preparation and submission of your application to study at the University of Adelaide as well as with your student visa application. Search for  agents in your country .

Citizens requiring an agent

  • The Middle East
  • North Africa
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka)
  • Phillipines
  • Latin America.

Nominate or change agent

To nominate or change agents you will need to complete the  Nominate or Change Agent - Request Form  and forward the completed form to  [email protected] . The new agent can also submit the form on the student's behalf, however, it must be signed by the student.

Applications without an agent

If you are not applying through an agent, you can Apply now via the Applicant Portal  of our International Application System.

If you have an application saved or submitted in the Applicant Portal, you can login to do the following:

  • Retrieve, edit and submit an application.
  • Upload documents.
  • Pay the application fee.
  • Accept and pay a deposit for an offer. 

More information

Select the headings below for more information on the application process for undergraduate and postgraduate coursework degrees.

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It is important to note that you will need to apply for a student visa once your application is successful. Please read the details on  immigration and visas  to make sure that you understand these conditions and accept them.

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If you will be under the age of 18 when you commence your studies at the University you must meet special conditions, as specified by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), to be eligible to be granted a student visa. You may live with an eligible relative as defined by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, or if you will be 17 years of age enter into a Guardianship Arrangement with the University. Read more about  visa regulations for students under the age of 18 .

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