Organizing your college applications can be a pretty complex business, but we’ve built some tools on the CollegeMapper applications page to help you keep it all straight. Here are the basic pieces you need to be concerned about:
Transcripts: Your high school sends your main official transcript. You need to see this document at least one month before you hope to send it because it might have unintentional errors on it and they can take weeks to fix. No one does quality control checking on this document but you because high schools do not have the time, so make sure your transcript is accurate. From my experience, about 7% of all transcripts have at least one error. Also, be prepared, your high school will have a form/procedure for you to follow to get the transcripts and you must follow it to a T. They may also ask you to pay a small amount to send each one because it takes them a lot of work and some ridiculous kids apply to more than 10 schools.
Test scores: You will need to send your best test scores to each of your colleges directly from ACT or SAT. These cost about $11 each to send, and some colleges require that you send every test score you have (from either the SAT or the ACT). Most schools allow you to save a little money and just send your best scores.
Rec letters: Many colleges require or request rec letters from two academic teachers in core subjects, preferably from Junior year. Your teachers will write one letter each and upload it to the Common App or send it via an email link to your non-Common App schools. Your counselor will do the same. Ask your teachers for these letters at least one month in advance, so October 1st is a good date. Two weeks after you ask, take your teachers and your school counselor an thank you card and gift. Before you go asking random neighbors, bosses, and uncles for letters, be sure that any of your colleges will accept them; many colleges do not want a single extra piece of paper.
Your main college essay: This is the main essay you write and send to each college via the Common App or via their application. Typically one essay will suffice for all of your colleges. We have awesome essay tips listed on the CollegeMapper Essays page.
College specific supplemental essays: Each college may ask you to write extra essays. They may ask for any number of these from zero to 10 (generally speaking). Try very hard to strategically recycle these essays as much as you can or you could end up writing 25 pieces for college. With clever recycling, you should be able to get your number of unique essays down to 10-13.
But that’s not all! Part 3 of our Organizing Your Apps series is coming soon. To get off to a good start, check out Part 1 here. Yay, college!