Expert Tips for College Applications

As the sun rises on November, one of the tensest periods for prospective college students arrives simultaneously: The college application period. Most likely, you’ve been envisioning this process for years, stressing over the content you’re going to present, or mulling over precisely which schools are worthy of your application. We’re, therefore, here to offer you 10 expert tips for college applications that will improve your college application and ideally ameliorate some of the stress you’re experiencing in the process. 

Start Early

College applications can be time-consuming. For instance, while many schools simply require a copy of your official transcripts to review your academic history, others require you to self-report your grades. You’ll also have to diligently complete sections where you include your extracurricular activities, your various honors and awards, as well as several essays testifying to your qualifications as a student. 

Therefore, I would recommend starting as early as possible. You don’t need the specter of college applications looming ominously over your head till the prescribed deadline. Moreover, additional time lends itself to additional scrutiny and oversight on your part, in order to ensure you submit the most optimal version of your application possible. 

Don’t procrastinate. Start early. Aim for the future, certainly, but concentrate on what you can do today to complete your application with alacrity and clarity. 

Due-Diligence Required 

There are myriad schools worthy of your consideration. Therefore, a multitude of variables should be placed under scrutiny in order to determine what type of college environment is most conducive to your overall success and personal development. Begin by asking yourself a set of critical questions: What are my goals, both professionally and personally? What type of classroom setting is most effective in expediting my learning, or the processing of new information? What type of cultural setting am I most comfortable in, rural or urban or suburban? 

Those questions will inevitably produce a litany of answers that you should heed in order to consolidate your selection of schools. It may be that your aspirations revolve around a distinct vocation, in which case a community college or vocational school might merit review. Or perhaps you’re drawn to the humanities, in which case a smaller liberal arts school might accommodate your personality and intellectual pursuits. Or maybe you find yourself gravitating toward a traditional, proverbial “college experience” and should therefore be placing your microscope on larger public universities that incorporate a wide range of academic disciplines.  

Whatever the case, be assiduous in your selection process. You’ll likely be spending 4 years at whatever institution you select. Ensure it is a place you can envision yourself. 

Report Your Scores With Integrity – Expert Tips for College Applications

As mentioned above, some universities, namely the entire UC (University of California) system, require that you self-report your academic scores on your application; as opposed to the more traditional approach, where you acquire and submit copies of your official academic transcripts upon initial submission of your application. If the former approach is extant at any of the schools you are applying to, be certain to report your scores with integrity. Once you are admitted, a copy of your official transcripts will then be requested, where your scores will be cross-checked to confirm their veracity. Any inconsistencies that are identified may result in your admission being rescinded. 

Don’t Be Bashful

A college application is no time to deploy the otherwise admirable trait of modesty, but an opportunity to fastidiously demonstrate your qualifications for admission. View it as akin to a job resume, or cover letter. The admissions committee is eager to learn about your personal interests, your involvement, your various honors and awards, and the community service you may have participated in. You thus have to be the staunchest advocate possible for yourself. 

In the extracurricular section of your application, therefore, include involvement that evinces your passions and aspirations. Do not exclude any involvement for the sake of humility. You will likely be asked to provide a rough estimate of the time commitment allotted to each activity as well; and, generally speaking, the more devotion displayed to an organization, the more impressive it appears to the admissions committee. 

Emphasize Sustained Leadership

As alluded to above, quality is more valued than quantity regarding your extracurricular involvement. If, for example, you’ve evidenced a sustained commitment to, say, student government and have elevated yourself to a leadership position, that is demonstrably significant. College administrators desire students who will contribute to the vitality of their campus. They want to admit future leaders.

Contemplate where you have exhibited the aforementioned leadership. 1 year of involvement in the Future Engineers of America isn’t the equivalent of 4 years of involvement in the same organization. The first instance is indicative of a sparing, almost absentee commitment, while the other is indicative of a close personal passion. Though you may have been involved in numerous organizations during your experience in high school, a critical, distinguishing factor can be the depth of your involvement. 

Tell Your Story – Expert Tips for College Applications

The collection of short essays you will be asked to complete are an opportunity for you, as an applicant, to contextualize your application. Academic achievement, though undeniably important, is only a fraction of your story as an individual. In your essays, elaborate on the life experiences that have been instrumental in your development. Were their barriers you encountered in high school that prevented you from achieving your academic potential? What, specifically, were they? How did they contribute to your growth? Perhaps elaborate on an honor or award that was meaningful to you. Or an extracurricular activity that sparked your present ambitions.

More succinctly, tell the admissions committee explicitly about your values, your inspirations, your personal struggles, and your future aspirations. There are a multitude of directions you could orient your essays around. Be strategic in discerning them. 

Utilize the “Additional Comments” Section

Most college applications will include an “Additional Comments” section. Do not conceive of this space as something without evident utility. On the contrary, it can offer an additional chance for you to incorporate further information about yourself that could potentially be vital and relevant. If you’d like to further address a periodic drop in your grades, a substandard test score, or even embellish further on an essay topic, don’t dissuade yourself from doing so. The more context available to the admissions committee, the better your application will be received.


Do not neglect to review your application comprehensively before submitting it. Not only individually, but consult your parents, your mentors, and your counselors. Especially about your essays, it is important to confirm that your message is being conveyed effectively, that your writing is scrutable and clear, and that your subject matter is pertinent to the question being asked. Incorporate any revisions based on the advice you’ve gleaned. 

Fill Out Your FAFSA – Expert Tips for College Applications

Many students are rightfully inquisitive about how they’re going to finance their college education. It is, after all, an expensive endeavor. Obviously, we’d encourage you to independently research scholarships that you might match the criteria for; both in your community and at the institution you eventually select. Still, however, the most effective form of finance you will receive can be derived from merely filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to as the FAFSA document. Based on the financial information you disclose in your FAFSA, your university’s financial aid office will determine what amount of aid they can offer you, be they manifest in loans or grants. Upon your admission offer, you should receive a tentative estimate of the federal aid you’ll be receiving.

The FAFSA is due June 30th, 2023. Mark your calendars. A link to the website can be found below: 


Submit Your Application On-Time

This last piece of information is so obvious that it could be interpreted as trite. But make sure to submit your application on, or ideally before, the prescribed deadline. Be aware, additionally, that oftentimes if you are applying for a “specialty” school, like a major housed within the School of Music or School of Film, an additional supplemental application is required. This is a secondary application, which may include an audition, that the application committee will use to make a decision. 

Good luck on your application. It’s easy to become overwrought, unwieldy, and unpleasant as you navigate this arduous process. But take heart. You’ll very soon be embarking on a new academic and personal adventure, which are likely to be some of the best years of your life.