Top Tips for Completing Your College Applications

The following piece was written by Kofi Kankam. Kofi has been featured in our Admissions Expert series and is a former admissions interviewer for The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the co-founder of Admit Advantage.


For many, October means cooler temperatures, beautiful fall foliage, and close to fall festivals and outings. But in the world of college admissions, it often means, “Yikes!” Peeling away the September calendar page to reveal that of October can incite anxiety at looming early November application deadlines.

Here are some practical tips to get you through:

  • Set measurable and obtainable goals. By this time, you have hopefully identified all of the schools to which you’d like to apply early. Use 3-7 day intervals to complete items. This is particularly helpful when it comes to writing essays and responding to short answer prompts. Setting these self-imposed deadlines will also allow for you to work through multiple drafts while receiving feedback from one or two trusted sources, as well as meet your other academic, work, and extracurricular obligations.
  • It is likely that something will have to give during the fall as you prepare these applications. Keep your priorities aligned with your long-term goals, which means that the thing you will likely have to sacrifice is your social life. Rest easy, however, by keeping things in perspective. This short window may seem interminable while you are in the midst of it, but before you know it, your life will regain its sense of normalcy and completing applications will be a thing of the past (that is, until it’s time to complete applications for consideration under Regular Decision).
  • Make sure that you have connected with your school college counselor to confirm that they have all necessary materials to complete the secondary components of your application. For a humorous look at the shortcomings of a fictional college counselor and the mayhem that ensues, watch Orange County – but not until all of your applications have been completed, of course.
  • Confirm that your recommenders have everything they need to complete their portion of the application. 
  • Revisit your essay drafts over the next two to three weeks until they reach submit status. Submit status means that when you read and reread the essays, there is nothing that you wish to change, omit, or add. That being said, there are changes that could be made indefinitely if there were no time constraints or deadlines, which in the real world, is never the case. Use the following checklist to ensure that your essay has reached submit status: the essay addresses the question or prompt; the essay is written in your voice and comes across as genuine; the essay is personal rather than generic and speaks to your specific experiences; the essay flows well from one idea to the next; the essay is free of grammatical mistakes.

Once you have submitted your early-admission applications, give yourself a pat on the back. Then, give yourself a week or so off from the process before tackling applications that have January or later deadlines. This will allow you some downtime and perhaps facilitate the completion of second-round applications with a renewed sense of creativity and drive.


Visit Admit Advantage for more information.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.