The Ultimate College Application Checklist
Below is a checklist of everything you’ll need in order to maximize your chances of college admission:
Pick classes to maximize GPA
Avoid unnecessarily difficult topics (Chinese, advanced AP classes, etc.) that you aren’t SURE you can tackle with an A- or better.
Figure out your “one thing”:
What’s the one extracurricular that will be your “main story” in your college application? Avoid extracurriculars for their own sake.
Research your target schools:
Determine a tentative list of “reach”, “maybe,” and “safety” schools. It’s never too early to begin with the end in mind.
Arrange campus visits:
It’s never too early to begin this process – it builds motivation and saves time later.
Decide between the SAT and the ACT:
It’s essential that you study for the right test. Use my guide on the New SAT vs. ACT to make the decision easy.
Begin prepping for the SAT or ACT:
Use my test prep calendar to figure out your goals and daily requirements. The earlier you start, the better you’ll do and the easier it’ll be.
Get special accommodations (if necessary):
Use my guide on special accommodations to figure out if you qualify for extra time and other special testing and academic advantages.
Take your SAT/ACT if you’re ready:
If your SAT/ACT grades match your target scores, take the test by the April/May date in order to have a backup ready in June.
Complete all the steps in the Freshman Year checklist.
SAT Subject Tests:
Find out the Subject Test requirements of all your target schools and begin studying using my guide to the SAT Subject Tests.
Plan your AP classes/exams:
Figure out if and when you plan on taking AP classes and exams (they can also replace SAT Subject Tests at certain schools). Only take them if you know you can do well.
Hone your extracurricular focus:
Continue refining and honing “your one thing” to craft the strongest possible extracurricular profile.
Take the SAT/ACT:
Sign up for an official exam whenever your practice scores match your target goals. Try and complete these exams before Junior Year if at all possible.
Complete Freshman and Sophomore Year checklists.
Plan for the PSAT:
Find out when your school offers the PSAT, and when/if it offers the PLAN, then prep effectively.
SAT Subject Tests:
If you haven’t already made a plan for your SAT Subject Tests, do so now and finish them by the end of the year.
These take time, and must be requested carefully. Request your letters by the middle of your Junior spring.
If you’re getting actively recruited in a sport, reach out to recruiting agents as soon as possible.
Letter of intent:
If you’re getting recruited, you need confirmation. Secure a letter of intent as soon as possible.
Finalize your list of prospective colleges with your school or independent counselor. This will allow you to spend the summer researching colleges and their application requirements/processes.
Utilize your summer:
Use these months to dive into some of the items in the Senior Year Calendar. Getting a head start will make a huge difference in your stress level next year.
Read and complete Freshman, Sophomore, + Junior Checklists.
If you haven’t begun studying for the SAT or ACT, this is now an emergency. Begin immediately.
Arrange on-site interviews with as many schools as possible. Arrange off-site interviews with the rest.
Write your essay:
Start planning your essay and writing drafts immediately. Research the essay requirements of your target schools so you can plan ahead.
Begin applications early:
Download copies or make online accounts for all prospective applications so you know what you’ll need to do.
Figure out the regular and early application deadlines for all schools in question.
Early Action / Decision:
Decide on early action/decision school(s) to which you’ll apply, if any.
Request that your high school transcript be sent to all schools to which you’re applying.
Extra GPA information:
If necessary, request a mid-year grade report sent to all schools to which you’re applying.
Send your scores:
Send all SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, AP, and all other scores required or desired by each school.
Finish and send essays:
Continually rewrite your essays until you’re proud of them – all of them. Then send to your target schools.
Write and submit your supplemental essays for each school. Make sure that they specifically mention the schools to which you apply.
Complete your applications:
Cross your Ts and dot your Is, and make sure everything is flawless and checked for typos, errors, etc.
Get fee waivers for your application(s) (if necessary).
Submit your actual application(s).
Receive confirmation that they’ve been sent and submitted. Make copies of and get confirmation of all applications and application materials.
If you’re allowed to submit extra materials to support your extracurricular profile, do so.
If necessary, submit FAFSA, PROFILE, college aid form, and state aid form as soon as you can to expedite the process.
Meet the deadline to accept your admission.
Accept financial aid offer (if necessary).
Send your deposit to the college of your choice.
Notify all other colleges. Let all the other colleges that accepted you know that you will not be attending to open spots for other applicants.
Write thank you notes to all the teachers who wrote your recommendations and all advisors who helped you to gain admission.