The Basics Of The College Admissions Process

Ahhh. Applying to college can be complicated. But it doesn’t need to be. 

One reason that the application process can be so complicated is that different colleges require different forms with different deadlines. Once you decide where to apply, you will need to go to those colleges’ admissions websites to figure out your specific requirements. You can also use Make Me a Freshman to learn about and organize all these requirements.

To help understand the basics, here’s a quick guide that looks at some of the common forms that colleges use:

The Main Application

As expected, every college has at least one main application, but these applications can vary. Over 500 colleges use the Common Application, meaning that you can use the same base application for all of these colleges, although it’s important to realize that these colleges often require additional supplements to learn more about you. Other colleges use    a state-wide application system, like the University of California application or the ApplyTexas application, while some colleges have their own college-specific applications. Depending on the application, you might be asked to submit your academic information, a resume of your activities, and/or an essay.

Letters of Recommendation

Some colleges recommended or require that you submit letters of recommendation, often from a teacher, counselor, employer, pastor, etc. Colleges do this so that they can learn more about you from the perspective of someone who knows you. Make sure you ask your recommender if he or she would be willing to write you a letter well in advance of the deadline, follow up, and send a thank you note!


Most colleges require that you send your high school transcript, and typically your high school counselor or registrar will tell you the best way to send your transcript.

Standardized Testing Scores

Again, different colleges have different requirements, so make sure you understand which tests are required of you. Also, realize that the SAT is not the same as the SAT Subject Test; the SAT is almost four hours and covers Math, Reading, and Writing, while the SAT Subject Tests are each an hour long and cover one specific topic, like Chemistry, Spanish, or Math.

Honors or Additional Applications

Some programs within a college require additional applications, so make sure you double check if there are any requirements for your major or for any honors programs.

Midyear Report

Some colleges want to see your grades from your first semester or trimester, and you will send those in the Midyear Report.

This covers the basics of many application forms, but be aware that you might have additional requirements, like art portfolios, creative writing samples, peer interviews, optional video components, and/ or interview. It may seem like a lot a first, but you can do it! Plus, Make Me a Freshman can help you understand and organize all these requirements.