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How To Fill Out A College Application: 5 Quick Tips

When most of us applied to college, each institution had its own application. It was paper, you had to request it, and you probably filled it out by hand. These days, most students use an online college application form that is accepted by multiple institutions.

There are five different college applications used today. The most widely used is The Common Application (accepted by about 700 colleges), but there is also the Universal Application (now used by only 30 or so schools) and, more recently, the Coalition for Access, Affordability & Success Application (accepted by a coalition of 90 colleges that meet 100 percent of financial need and/or offer in-state tuition). Depending on where you live, there may be a common application for your state’s public universities (ApplyTexas, for example). And some schools still insist on using their own application (Georgetown University, for example). Here are some key tips to keep in mind when filling out the application.

How To Fill Out A College Application: 5 Tips

1. Does it matter which application you use?

Yes and no. If a school insists on a specific application, then you must use that application, of course. However, schools that accept more than one application typically do not have a preference. In those cases, it’s easiest for students to use the application accepted by the most schools on their list. Students do not need to fill out every application accepted by an institution (just pick one).

2. Use proper grammar and punctuation throughout.

Most students know to be careful with the essay, but care should be taken with everything in the application. It all counts, so make sure your student puts his best foot forward throughout.

3. Be accurate.

This is not the time to embellish your extracurriculars, scores, or any other aspect of your application. Check dates, be reasonable about how much time you really spent on activities outside of class, and be honest about who you are and what you’ve accomplished.

4. Understand what supplemental materials will be required.

Many schools require or recommend applicants submit additional essays and/or other supplementary materials (for example, short answers to specific questions, like ‘What are your favorite books?’ or an art portfolio). Don’t wait to figure out if a school requires these supplements until the night before the application is due.

5. Pay attention to deadlines.

If your student misses the deadline, she’s out of luck, so pay close attention to those due dates. Send scores and transcripts well ahead of the deadline (so they are there on time). Also worth noting: financial aid deadlines are often different than application deadlines (check a college’s website to make sure you have correct deadlines for everything).