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Dot Every i and Cross Every t: The College Application

Written by Lee Gonet

“Hello? Admission’s Office?”




“I am calling on behalf of my son who just received a rejection notice. It was my fault his application was late. We’ve had such a busy year, and I lost track of the time. I forgot to get the application filled out, and then I noticed that we had missed the deadline. Would you please make an exception?”


This parent actually wanted me to support her opinion that the school unfairly rejected her son’s application!


A student who cannot follow deadlines, fill out applications, or make phone calls will not succeed in the college world. Usually, this type of student shows up to class late, forgets to turn in work, and eventually drops out of school. Sadly, this same student will think the “system” failed him. Why? Because Mom always had his back and he never learned to stand on his own. Therefore, I am writing the rest of this article directly to students.


The Application

Fill out a form online, pay your fee, and click send. Sounds simple, right? Well, that’s only the first step. This just begins your file, which is enhanced with each additional piece of information needed to complete your application.

Following directions explicitly, filling out all areas completely, and proofreading are very important. I cannot stress these points enough. After all, if you can’t fill out a form correctly, why would a school risk accepting you? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 59% of college freshmen graduate, and dropout rates reflect poorly on schools.

I also strongly recommend copying your applications and maintaining your own college files. These records will not only ease the decision-making process later, but also be available if the school misplaces your application and needs additional copies.



The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is required by most colleges. It helps each school create demographic profiles and make financial aid decisions. If you are hoping to receive need-based aid, the sooner you complete the FAFSA the better.


Early Decision

If you have your heart set on a particular school, receiving an early acceptance will save you time and money. However, if you are considering different colleges and/or need financial aid, you will want to apply to several schools and weigh the benefits and offers of each.



Remember that your applications are not complete until all of the required items are received by the applicable deadlines. Regularly, check your personal webpages, which each school creates, to see if your information has arrived, and make a final call to confirm.

  • July-October Early Decision Applications

  • July-March Applications

  • October-January FAFSA

  • October-February Scholarships

  • March-July Acceptance


Extracurricular Activities

Individual interests reflect the values and different personalities of students. Colleges desire well-rounded applicants who will enhance their student populations. If you followed my advice in July’s issue (, you already have a detailed resume, which can be sent with your application.



When you request a written reference, provide an addressed, stamped envelope, your resume (more information = a better letter), and plenty of time for the person to respond. Favorite teachers receive many requests, and looming deadlines can be overwhelming for instructors, too!



Requirements vary by school. You may not have to write one at all, or you may have to write two. You may have a character limit or a word limit (note the difference!). However, become comfortable writing about yourself because essay topics will always be personal.


Transcripts & Test Scores

You must request these records from the issuing institutions because colleges will not. Additionally, some deadlines are before completion of your fall semester, so consider taking ACT/SAT tests, AP classes, or dual-enrolled courses throughout your sophomore and junior years, so these accomplishments will be evident on your initial applications.


A final piece of advice: write down your log-in information (username and password) for each college, and keep the information in your file. Can you imagine having to call the college because you are locked out of your account?!

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