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    Application Basics

    Five tips for completing application forms.

    1. Follow the Directions Carefully

    Don't skip reading the instructions—they often vary from application to application. Colleges ask for certain information for a reason, and there may also be a specific reason for the order or format they prefer. Check to make sure you've completed all of the sections correctly and submitted all of the required additional materials, including:

    • High school transcripts
    • Standardized test scores (ACT or SAT)
    • A personal essay
    • Letters of recommendation

    2. Answer the Right Question

    This may seem obvious, but students often rush to answer questions without making sure they have a clear understanding of what's being asked. Read the questions multiple times, and check your responses to make sure they match the questions being asked. If the length of one of your responses is really off, that may indicate that you've given the wrong kind of answer to the question.

    3. List in Order of Importance

    When listing your activities and awards, start with the most distinctive. If you've won national, regional, or community recognition for something, make sure that's the first award an application reviewer sees. Next, list the activities you've been involved in the longest and most consistently. And finally, list one-time events or activities and awards that are common to many other students.

    4. Don't Be Late—Submit Early

    Don't wait until the last minute to submit your application and supporting materials. By submitting right at the deadline, you run the risk of rushing through it and making mistakes, or facing essay readers who are overwhelmed and less likely to give yours a thorough read. In addition, it's more likely that last-minute applications could be lost, separated, or misfiled in an admissions office because of the sheer volume of applications they receive. Even online applications still have to be matched with transcripts and recommendations, which takes time and is subject to human error. It's always best to submit your application materials early.