What to Include in Your College Application

Your college application creates a portrait of who you are and what you can bring to a college. The best way to give colleges an accurate, and useful, picture of yourself is to fill out each application honestly, carefully and completely.

Check with your high school counselor to find out which parts of the application your school sends directly to each college for you. Make sure you know which items you are responsible for sending. Also, find out if your school has suggestions for when to request teacher and counselor recommendations and other application-related items.

It is imperative that you meet all deadlines — those of your school and those of any college to which you are applying. Our college application calendar can give you a general overview of what actions to take when.

Applications vary from college to college, but most require some or all of the following parts:

Application Form

Be sure to check with the colleges you are applying to and find out if they prefer an online application, or if you need to get a printed application form and package from them.

Application Fee

College application fees vary. Most are in the $35 to $50 range. The fee is usually nonrefundable, even if you’re not accepted. Many colleges offer fee waivers for applicants from low-income families. If you need a fee waiver, talk with your high school counselor.So here’s something you should know: If you received a fee waiver for the SAT®, you may be eligible for application fee waivers from some colleges. See the link below for a list of colleges that do not charge an application fee to, or may consider waiving the fee for, students who have received an SAT Program fee waiver.

Learn more about the SAT Program Fee-Waiver Service. Check with your counselor to see if there are other circumstances that might lead to colleges waiving your application fees. For example, you may qualify if you are eligible for free or reduced-fee lunches, or if your family’s annual income is below a certain amount.Counselors know that colleges want to hear about promising students and don’t want the cost of the application to stand in your way. If you think you may be eligible for application fee waivers, ask your counselor to help you look into it.
High School Transcript

Your transcript shows all the courses you’ve taken and the grades you’ve earned starting with ninth or 10th grade. It’s probably the most important part of the application: It’s your academic record.Your high school sends the transcript directly to colleges on your behalf.  It includes a school profile, which helps the colleges interpret your transcript — explaining the available courses and levels.Your school also sends a final transcript, at the end of your senior year, to the college you decide to attend. Your college wants to see that you’ve kept your grades up through graduation; if you haven’t, this may affect your admission.

Admission Test Scores

Many colleges require you to submit SAT® scores, SAT Subject Tests™ scores or both. These admission tests are standard tools for measuring a student’s ability to do college-level work. Scores are sent directly from the testing organization to the colleges.When you sign up to take the SAT, you can choose which colleges should receive your scores, and which scores to send them. Your test fee includes the costs of sending your scores to several colleges. Learn more about how Score Choice™ works.

 Letters of Recommendation

Many colleges ask you to submit one or more letters of recommendation from a teacher, counselor or other adult who knows you well.When asking for recommendations, be sure to do so well before the college’s deadline. You may also want to give a short written summary of your achievements and goals to the person you’ve asked to recommend you.


Your essay often plays a very important role. Whether you’re writing an autobiographical statement or an essay on a specific theme, take the opportunity to express your individuality. This helps the admission officers get a feel for who you really are.


If the colleges you are considering offer interviews, you should schedule one. Requesting a college interview is considered a sign that you are very interested in a college, and that can count in your favor during the admission process.Even if it’s not required, it’s a good idea to set up an interview because it gives you a chance to make a personal connection with someone who has a voice in deciding whether or not you are offered admission. If you’re too far away for an on-campus interview, try to arrange to meet with an alumnus in your community.The interview is also a good time to ask questions, so you can make sure the college is right for you.

Auditions and Portfolios

If you’re applying for a program in music, art, theater or a similar subject, you may have to provide samples of your work to demonstrate your ability. This may mean sending a portfolio, auditioning on campus or submitting a video.

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