WeAdmit's 6-Step Checklist for Reviewing Your College Applications

Application Strategies
December 8, 2020
When Filling Out College Applications, It’s Easy To Feel As Though You Must Be Forgetting Something…

Thankfully, there are only so many steps in the college application process!

If your student takes the time to prepare and plan out how they will tackle each step of their college applications, it will be much easier for them when the time comes to sit down and fill out the details. This prep work may seem boring or unnecessary at first, but it is actually one of the best ways to make it through application season without stress. So, in this article, we cover the 6 steps your student should take to fill out their applications and present themselves to their future college in the best light.

The Many Components Of A Successful College Application

On the surface, college applications may seem like a complex and never-ending process. Thankfully, your child’s applications can be broken down into a list of easy step-by-step instructions to help keep them on task. While they may have many different applications to juggle, knowing that they have a checklist to follow for each one can take a lot of stress out of the process.

Of course, starting early is one of the best ways your student can feel more prepared to tackle the college application process. Regardless of starting early or late, your student should be aware of what their college application timeline looks like and how much time they will need to complete each application. Starting too late is a recipe for stress and feeling overwhelmed.

Every college application should start with the student doing proper research about the college they are applying to. From there, students gather all the documents they need before moving on to filling out their applications. They should save plenty of time to write, review, and revise their essays as well. Finally, nailing down recommendations and demonstrating their interest in each college should be one of their last steps before they give their applications a final review.

Your Complete College Application Checklist


Students should start their college applications by making sure they are prepared. They should do extensive research into the schools on their reach, target, and safety lists before they sit down to work on applications. When a student has only briefly read over a school’s website or advertising material, this cursory knowledge usually shows in their applications and essays. If you want your student to make a lasting impact, make sure they know what they should highlight about themselves for each application. Our WeAdmit college guides are a great place to start if your student is applying to any of the most competitive schools in the nation.

Additionally, the college application process goes much more smoothly if your child is prepared beforehand. This means that they have all the necessary documents and information they’ll need to fill out their applications beforehand, or they know who to ask at their high school to have them sent electronically to each college they apply to. This includes their high school transcript, ACT or SAT scores, and any other paperwork you think they may need.


Filling out college applications can seem like a huge challenge, but if your student is prepared it can easily be mastered. If your student is applying to schools that accept the Common Application or Coalition Application, they should tackle these applications first. Because these applications can be sent to multiple schools with minor edits for each one, getting these out of the way allows your student to focus on the schools that have their own unique applications.

When filling out their college applications, students should be careful to include their extracurricular and volunteer activities in an order that makes sense for the school they are applying to. For example, if they are applying to a school with a rich history of music but the application doesn’t have enough space to list all their activities, they should prioritize mentioning their 4 years in the choir over their 4 years of tennis. While your student may want to list out all their extracurriculars and achievements, they should always make adjustments based on which school they are applying to to highlight their most important qualities.


Students should give themselves plenty of time to work on their personal statements and college application essays. These offer a unique window into who your student is as a person and an academic that the admissions office can’t get from their application. The prompts should be carefully considered so that your student approaches their essay from the best possible angle. If they are allowed to choose from a list of prompts, they should carefully consider their options and identify which prompt would best showcase their unique story, talents, or achievements.

Likewise, your child should focus on the content of their essay rather than trying to figure out what the “ideal” answer to the prompt would be. Cliches and jargon-filled essays should be avoided; colleges are looking to see what type of student your child will be on campus, not what your child thinks the college wants to hear. Honesty, brevity, and clarity are the key to writing a good application essay.


Letters of recommendation are an important part of your student’s college application. Most schools now require that students submit at least one, if not two, letters of recommendation from teachers of a primary subject like math or English. While these letters are not under your child’s direct control, there are still several things your student should keep in mind when asking their teachers for letters of recommendation:

  • Ask for letters of recommendation well in advance of the deadline
  • Choose teachers who know you well enough to give a good overview
  • Clearly show your gratitude and send a thank-you email
  • Make sure your teachers know where and how they should send their recommendations

It can be extremely nerve-wracking for students and parents alike to have part of the college application process out of your hands. Thankfully, most teachers are used to writing letters of recommendation for their students. As long as your student is respectful, thankful, and gives plenty of time before the deadline, their teachers will likely be delighted to help them apply to the college of their dreams.


Once your student is confident that they’re well on their way to completing their college applications, they should focus some of their attention on demonstrating interest. This is when your student takes small steps toward showing that they are truly invested in a school. This can range from opening every email they send (as this is checked by some admissions offices) to scheduling an optional alumni interview.

However your student chooses to demonstrate interest, make sure that their intentions are genuine and that they are honest. If a school isn’t their first choice, it may not be wise to say as much during an interview or in an email to the admissions office asking questions. Colleges know that students apply to many different schools, but they are looking for students who would bring an enthusiastic and positive vibe to their campus, even if it wasn’t their first choice of school.


One of the most important but often overlooked steps in the college application process is the final review. Before your student submits an application, they should take the time to carefully review it for errors or places where they could improve upon the first draft. This means not just checking for the obvious like typos and misspellings, but also looking at the content of their application. Has your child presented themselves in the best possible light?

Your child should save plenty of time to review, edit, and revise their essays. With fresh eyes, they may be able to spot mistakes or areas of improvement that would help them more clearly answer the prompt. This review time is vital if your child wants to send in the best possible personal statement or application essay.

Keep An Eye On Your College Application Timeline

If your student is worried about how they will handle all the tasks that application season brings, make sure you help them create an organized timeline. If your student walks through the applications step by step, it will feel much less intimidating and stressful. These 6 steps are clear enough for your student to have a clear goal for each, which gives them motivation and direction in what can sometimes feel like an endless process.

Of course, if your child needs extra support and guidance while working on their college applications, our WeAdmit counselors would love to help. We have the experience and knowledge your student will need to make sense of the application process. Best of all, our counselors can help your student with anything from their applications to their personal statements!



Need more Information?

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