The 7-Point Application Inspection Checklist

Before clicking 'submit' or licking the envelope of any college application, make sure to run through the following 7-point inspection. Remember that the admissions committee can only judge you on your application package, and that any typos or mistakes make a huge difference.

  1. Application Form
    Double-, triple-, and quadruple-check all of the information on your application form. Then have your mom read it. Then have your dad read it. Then make your friend read it. We become so familiar with typing and writing familiar information such as our own name that we often don't notice a minor mistake. An error on this form could mean, at best, delays in processing your application or, at worst, an outright rejection. Your typed or neatly written information should all be accurate, current, and correct.
  2. Transcripts
    Transcripts from everywhere you took any classes during your high school career must reach the college before your application file will be considered complete. This includes the community college where you took one art class two summers ago. It's a bummer to rush to get your application in on the early decision deadline only to have transcripts come in late and delay your decision. Make sure to request the transcripts early and verify that they have been sent. It never hurts to order an extra transcript for yourself, too, just to check for any inaccuracies. High schools have been known to send the wrong student's transcript before, so be cautious and alert.
  3. Test Scores
    Make sure that that all required SAT, ACT, and/or SAT II scores have been submitted. You can either select your chosen schools right before the start of each test, or contact each test organization afterward to send your scores. Again, it never hurts to verify that the information has been received.
  4. Letters of Recommendation
    You should try to request a letter of recommendation at least a month before you plan to have your application file complete. Then, ask politely and periodically about the status of your letter. Teachers, counselors, coaches, and bosses often have to write several recommendations, and even they sometimes forget. If you have doubts, call and ask the school to make sure your letters have been received.
  5. Personal Statement
    The biggest mistake that people make on their essay is opening their Harvard letter with, "I have always wanted to attend Yale..." Not only is this embarrassing, but a surefire way to find yourself in the trashcan. Just like your application form, you should proofread each essay a number of times to make sure you make no mistakes like this. Also, double check that you have followed each of the school's individual requirements regarding the essay. Don't, for example, submit your 2000-word behemoth to a school requesting a 500-word essay. Likewise, don't think a "Why I Want to be a Dentist" writeup to a school asking about your experiences with diversity. Craft each essay with careful adherence to the guidelines, and then always check to make sure you followed each one.
  6. Interviews
    Not all schools require interviews, but those that do can present additional challenges for the applicants. The earlier you schedule (and hopefully complete) the interview, the less stressful the applications period will be. For all schools that allow an interview, try to schedule a meeting as far in advance as possible.
  7. Deadlines
    Not all schools have the same deadline. Even more frightening, many schools often have several different deadlines for early decision, early action, and general admission. Maintain a list of all your chosen schools' application deadlines and work your hardest to make sure that you are early for every one. Nothing is worse than missing the mailman on the due date or finding the server overloaded and timing out 20 minutes before the deadline. And believe me, this happens every year.

After running through all seven steps, you can be confident that you are putting your best, error-free, and timely foot forward. Now all that's left to do is wait.

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My son has recently started attending college in another state from where we live. We live in California, he is attending college in Idaho. He is currently attending a community college that has many of the same features as a 4-year college, such as dormitories. Are there any hints you can give me to get the tuition and dorm fees reduced for an out-of-state student? The admissions office told us about a WUE form that provides students from other "Western" States with a $950 credit. He is currently staying with a family member but we would like to get him into a dorm. Thanks for your help.

- Krystie Whillock, 01/27/08 at 12:19 pm

Hi Krystie,

You can find a lot of information on the How to Pay In-State Tuition at Out-of-State Schools article. Taking advantage of the Western Undergraduate Exchange program is good advice. I recommend that you stay in contact with the admissions and financial aid offices at your son's college in Idaho to see if there are other programs. He will want to establish in-state residency as soon as possible (details for doing so are in that above article). If your son had a strong high school GPA or SAT/ACT test scores, he may look into a scholarship or a waiver for the residency requirement. An on-campus student job is always a good choice, as well.

As far as dorms, I don't know of any way to save dorm costs for nonresident students. To the best of my knowledge, universities charge uniform fees for on-campus housing without regard to residency status. Depending on his exact location in Idaho, the cost of living off-campus may be lower than living in a dorm (as is frequently the case with colleges who have expensive meal plans). If your son lives with a few of his peers and resolves to prepare his own meals each evening, he could save a lot of money this way.

I hope this has been helpful. Best of luck to you and to your son!

- Brian Cavner, 01/29/08 at 6:48 pm

I think the info presented here is very relevant.
I need assistant in writing a professional application letter for the post of school inspectors. Can you help? Thanks .

- joan smith, 07/24/09 at 12:17 am

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