Finishing your college application — a checklist

by Marketing & Communications,

  • Willamette University

Have you triple-checked your spelling? Is all of your paperwork accounted for? 

If you’re in the middle of filling out the Common App or near completion, take a minute to make sure you have everything you need. 

Review basic information to make you’re on the right track — even if it feels like you’ve done it 15 times — and if you're stuck, don't wait too long for the information to come to you. Producing an incomplete application or one with typos likely doesn’t send the message you want. 

A few suggestions to keep the application process moving: 

Check for missing components. Sometimes students don’t realize their application is incomplete. The most common missing documents are materials like letters of recommendation, said Jack Percival, Willamette’s assistant director of admission. 

Follow up with school counselors or teachers who wrote letters of recommendation to make sure they’ve submitted the information. And don’t hesitate to reach out to university admission officers, either — they can see what a student might be missing and offer advice on ways to retrieve the information, he said. 

Another tip: Check the applicant status page to make sure you’re not missing any materials from the university. 

“Most colleges and universities have online portals that are a central hub for information relating to your application and, if you are admitted, important next steps,” Percival said. “Be sure to set yours up shortly after submitting your application.” 

Test scores. If you’re applying to Willamette and missing test scores, our admission office will accept a screenshot of an email from the college board as official. “We know that it takes money and time to order official scores, and that can sometimes be a barrier for students,” he said. However, not all colleges follow suit, so check with the admission office to see what it will accept.

School transcripts. Remembering to submit transcripts from a lone class or two at a community college might not immediately come to mind — don’t forget! 

Double-check written parts of the application. The caliber of your writing and what you choose to say are critical components of the application, and you want to maximize every opportunity for your voice to come through.  

Supplemental questions. If you are asked (as Willamette does) about the single biggest influence on your decision to apply to the university, don’t worry about the length of your answer — focus on substance, Percival says. Be as specific in your response as possible. 

Additional information. Only fill in this section with information that can’t fit in anywhere else. “It’s most commonly used to provide context — say if a student got a concussion their sophomore year and got a ‘C’ in geometry,” he said. “It’s not a place to write another personal statement.” 

Essay. Finalizing the essay can be the biggest challenge. Willamette admission’s No. 1 suggestion: It’s not what you write, it’s how you write it. 

Percival says he’s read amazing essays on a wide range of topics, but the ones that made a lasting impression truly showcased a student’s personality. 

As much as the essay can be one of the most dreaded parts of the college application, “it should be viewed more as an opportunity than a hardship,” he said.  


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