#College Essays and Applications

Congratulations! You are done submitting all of your college applications. But don’t be tempted to sit back and wait for decisions—there are plenty of steps you can still take to strengthen your chances of admission. 

Check Email, Voicemail, and Snail Mail – and Most of All, Your Portal!

Even after submitting your applications, it is essential to keep looking for communications from colleges. Maybe they never received your letters of recommendation, or your FAFSA requires verification (details below), or they would like additional information (like an interview or portfolio) that was not part of the initial application process. 

Some schools, such as Penn State, also require students to self-report their grades after submitting the application itself, so don’t forget to complete this essential step before the application deadline. Since the transcript you initially sent probably only included Junior year grades, it is especially likely that colleges will also request a mid-year grade report to see how you’re doing as a Senior. 

If nothing else, be sure to check your application portal for updates and a list of materials that have been submitted, received, or are missing. Your admissions decisions and financial aid award letters might even be posted there before you receive something in the mail, so check it at least once a week. Respond to any requests in a timely manner to keep the ball rolling!

Apply for Financial Aid and Scholarships

If you plan to apply for financial aid, you should do so around the time of submitting admissions applications or shortly thereafter. There is no universal deadline to complete the FAFSA or CSS Profile, but many schools will have their own “preferred” or “priority” dates ranging from November to May that maximize students’ chances of receiving aid. For Early Decision applicants, it is especially important to complete these forms on time and know your financial aid package before withdrawing applications from other schools. Visit our blog post on financial aid for more details about this process. 

Even after submitting the FAFSA, about one third of families will be randomly selected for verification. This additional step helps colleges fairly and accurately distribute aid by confirming financial information through additional documentation like W2s and tax return transcripts. Again, be on the lookout for requests from college financial aid offices, and review your Student Aid Report (SAR) on the FAFSA to make sure the information is correct and all your schools are listed. If you are selected for verification by the Department of Education, there will be an asterisk (*) next to your EFC on the SAR. Pay close attention to deadlines to avoid the risk of losing financial aid.

Most students will automatically be considered for merit scholarships based on the grades and/or test scores on their application, but there are many more sources of free money out there! Now that admissions applications are off your plate, dedicate some time to finding the right scholarships for you. 

Continue Demonstrating Interest

Colleges want students who they know want them, too, so demonstrated interest could be what sets you apart from other applicants. Show that you’re engaged by continuing to interact with schools on social media, attending visits from college reps at your high school, talking to professors and current students, and going on college tours if you can. If you’ve ever met your admissions counselor, feel free to write them a thank-you note after you submit your application, especially if it is your top choice school. 

No matter what you do to demonstrate your interest, make sure the college is aware so it can work in your favor!

Keep Up the Good Work

You’ve worked so hard to get to this point in your college journey, so don’t quit now! Even if you are accepted, the school you choose to attend will still want to see your final grades. If it’s clear you slacked off in the spring, it could potentially be grounds for revoking your admission. Showing good grades throughout Senior year can also help in case you are waitlisted or deferred from a school. 

And with the weight of applications lifted, don’t lose sight of what’s important. Keep doing extracurriculars you love, because after all, they were never just for your college application. 

Follow up with Deferrals and Waitlists

If you are deferred or waitlisted to a school, you will likely have the opportunity to send letters of continued interest or submit updates in your application portal. Improving your grades or standardized test scores will show colleges your academic potential, and deepening your involvement in your activities or leadership demonstrates achievements and ongoing commitment that were not part of your initial application. 

For some colleges, you can even submit another letter of recommendation from someone who can advocate for you in ways that your other recommenders’ have not, like Senior year teachers, coaches, or employers. 

Withdraw Applications After Being Accepted to Your First Choice

Whether you have been accepted Early Decision or Regular Decision, after you are accepted to the school you know you will attend (and have received a financial aid package you are satisfied with), withdraw your applications to other schools. It is tempting to keep your applications in consideration just to see if you get in, but remember that doing this impacts other students’ admissions decisions. Being accepted to a school you know you’re not going to attend takes away a spot for someone else who might truly want it, so be considerate!

Look Back on What You’ve Learned

Most importantly, reflect on what you have learned throughout this process. What knowledge have you gained about yourself as a person and student? What do you value in your college experience and in life? Be confident in your college choices and applications, and