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The Ultimate College Application Checklist (Downloadable)

A list of checklist items being marked "done" using a checkmark in pink highlighter


How to Apply for College: A Downloadable Checklist

October 30th is Checklist Day! In honor of this momentous holiday, we’re going to talk about a checklist that should be near and dear to your heart right this very moment: a checklist for college applications. 

If you’re applying regular admission, you’re about halfway through the application process and if you’ve barely begun the actually act of applying, it’s about time to get organized and really dive into the requirements.

Are you still putting together a list of colleges and universities that you want to apply to? Check out our college profiles and use our “What Are My Chances?” tool to determine if you’re a good match. 

For those of you submitting early applications, it’s Zero Hour. Most are due on or before November 1st, and (ideally) they should be submitted or near-submitted already. But hey, things happen. Last minute pieces need to be resolved and who doesn’t want to take one last look at their supplemental essays? 

While you may have until midnight of the due date (typically), please don’t wait until 11:59:59 PM to hit that submit button. 

Why You Should Never Apply at the Very Last Second
Listen, the world is a chaotic place. You can get the flu. Daylight savings time is a real thing that ends somewhere near now. Servers go down and the internet goes out. We can talk about frightening things all you want, but nothing is more panic-inducing than a bad internet connection at the most crucial moment ever. 

A tablet showing a No Internet Connection screen with a panicked emoji face screaming ARGH!


This is the last thing you want to see when you hit “submit” on your application, so please, please, please, for the sake of all that is good in this world, give yourself at least a 5 hour cushion before the final deadline. 

Now that we’ve tackled that, let’s get into the nitty gritty. 

First and Foremost: Get Organized
There’s something cathartic about getting stuff together in an orderly fashion. Somewhere in the middle it gets kind of frustrating, but the end is so satisfying. Before you even put together a checklist that you can cross off, though, you need to get organized. 

Because, really, what all do you need? 

1. List all of the institutions you want to apply to (a total of at least 7 colleges is the goal)

  • Safety (2 Institutions)
  • Target (3 Institutions)
  • Reach (2 Institutions)

2. Plot out when each application is due on a calendar
3. Make a list of everything due for each application

From this point, you can easily figure out how much work you need to do, or is left to be done.

The Ultimate College Application Checklist (Downloadable Google Doc)

The next step is to take a look at your planner and specifically mark off time when you’re going to work on your applications. This will likely vary based on your extracurriculars, but if you can dedicate an hour or two every day to chip away at your college applications, you’ll be in great shape! 

Don’t forget to take a deep breath and walk away from your monitors when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Grab a snack, have a family member tell you a dumb joke, take a walk around the block, whatever you need to do to shake out the stress and tension.

Happy Checklist Day — may all of your tasks be crossed off ASAP! 

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