Last-Minute College Application Checklist


The January 1st deadline is fast approaching! Use this checklist as you finalize your applications.

This first group of questions is meant to help you assess how well you have described yourself as an applicant that is both a fit and a match for the school of your choice. These questions are especially useful for any school-specific supplemental essays, especially “Why *University*?” prompts.

1. Did you research opportunities in any centers, residence halls, libraries or other edifices named after alumni mentioned in the supplement prompts?

1a. Have you researched specific courses, degree programs, and professors in your field(s) of interest?

2. Did you research the university’s mission, motto, and alma mater lyrics?

The questions below help you determine if the intended major you identified will stand out among your peers. Admissions officers like to consider diversity in terms of academic interests. Thus, it serves you to think creatively about the major you select especially on liberal arts college applications. Your intended major should be supported by other parts of your application. The admissions officer should be able to recognize how your selected courses, extracurricular leadership, and special projects cohere with your field of interest.

3. Did you investigate how many students graduate with degrees in your intended major?

4. Did you find specific data sets that you used to help you write strategically about your academic interests?

Here is an example of such a link from Dartmouth College’s website

https://www.dartmouth.edu/oir/data-reporting/factbook/degrees.html

This common data set provides detailed information about what Dartmouth admissions cares about and considers:

https://www.dartmouth.edu/oir/pdfs/cds_2019-2020.pdf


It’s important to think about word economy as you finalize your application as well. Below are questions that will help you make the language of your application top notch. Remember, admissions officers only have approximately 12 minutes to read through your entire application!

5. Did you follow the rule of thumb “less is more” for your shorter essays (under 200 words)?

6. Did you avoid using language that is colloquial for current students or former students of the institution?

7. Did you make your entire application as scannable as possible?

As you move through the following questions, remember that your ultimate goal is to authentically communicate with admissions officers. They want to hear YOUR VOICE. They are interested in YOUR STORY. They are well aware that you are part of larger communities, but their interest is in your role within those groups.

8. Did you TRULY personalize your personal statement? Are you at the center, of the center, of the CENTER of your personal essay? If you wrote about someone else in your personal statement does it seem like YOU are applying to the university and NOT your grandmother/father, parent, guardian, uncle/aunt etc.?

9. Throughout your application, did you emphasize your values, your dreams, your life mission? These are the intangibles that an admissions officer cannot gain by looking at your transcripts, scores, or grades.

10. Did you re-read and re-draft your writing until you felt that you achieved a 1 out of 12 applicant competitiveness status (or whatever proportion equals the admit rate of the school in question)?

11. Did you leave copy editing until the very last draft revision?

12. English as second language international students: Did you avoid over-professionalization for your copy editing? International application readers are particularly attuned to detecting whether a student’s written language matches up with the level of English expertise substantiated elsewhere in the candidate’s application.

Be sure to double check your list of extracurricular activities. Most students applying to top colleges have similar grades, scores, and class schedules. It is your job to make common activities extraordinary. Your most important task here is to explain how and why your activities make you a competitive candidate.

13. Did you make the activity list the MOST scannable page in your application?

14. Did you originally have more than 10 activities and then try to shrink all the information? If so, be ruthless with your revisions. Cut, cut, cut, compress, compress, compress.

15. Does everything fit on one page? From my experience, admissions officers focus on the first page of the activities sheet and fly through the second page extremely swiftly. If you can make everything fit in one pdf page, make it happen.

Finally, reflect on your overall self-narrative:

16. Are you a bright student with a love of learning and good-natured wit? Do you have an awesome sense of humor? Is it clear that your peers think highly of you? The more you can translate your warm personality into your application the more successful you will be!

You have done an incredible job this application season! Continue to strive for excellence as you complete your senior year. Some schools will request updated transcripts. Make sure that a school does not rescind their offer to admit you due to a significant dip in your final grades.


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