College Applications 101
You’ve used the college fit tool to determine what schools to add to your college list. Now it’s time to start applying! The requirements for each of the applications will be different depending on the school, so you’ll need to make sure you stay on top of application pieces and deadlines. The information below gives you a first look of what to expect – let’s get started.
Application Ingredients
While every school has a different process, there are a few things that every school will ask for. You’ll need to send basic info like your personal information and test scores, and you might also send more specific materials like personal statements and your resume. Let’s start with the basics, then take a deep dive into extras you can provide to stand out.

College Application Basics

This is info that you’ll be required to share for any type of college you apply to.

Basic Information

Basic, personal information like your name and address. Check out this example of an application form.

High School Transcript

Cumulative document with your cumulative GPA and grades from each year of high school. You have to request that your high school sends this to the colleges you’re applying to.

Test Scores

Can include SAT, ACT, AP and IB scores. You will need to send your scores on each of these tests to the schools you apply to.

Immunization Information

Vaccination information and verification that can come from your doctor.

FAFSA/Financial Aid

Scholarships awarded by the state or college use the FAFSA. Most private scholarships do not require the FAFSA.

College Application Extras

These application pieces may be required depending on the type of school you are applying to. Check with your schools to determine which ones you should include in your application.

Extracurricular Activity Information

Activities and organizations that you participate in outside of the classroom. Can include working, or caring for siblings and other family members.

Personal Statements

Brief essays on a topic or question. May be optional depending on the school. Here are some examples for inspiration.

Recommendation Letters

Letters written on your behalf by teachers, advisers or counselors.


A collection of past work that’s appropriate for the type of school you’re applying to. For example, artists or graphic designers usually have a portfolio of the art or designs they’ve worked on.

Alumni Interview

A conversation with someone who has already graduated from the school you want to attend. Here are some questions to expect.


An all-encompassing document that may include GPA, extracurricular activities and leadership roles. Check out this resource for creating your resume.
Just like colleges, applications come in many shapes and sizes. Different colleges will use different application formats, but there are three application styles that allow you to apply to multiple colleges at once.

The Common Application

Used by 800+ colleges and universities

Includes a short answer or essay portion

Personal statement may be required (depending on the school)

Application fees for each college can vary


The Common Black College Application

Accepted by many HBCUs nationwide – all for one application fee


Bachelor’s Degree (B.A. and B.S.)

Used by over 130 schools

Many of the colleges that are members of the Coalition also accept the Common App; make sure to research which of these two options is most appropriate for your list of colleges


Optimizing Your Application
After you hit submit on your application, there are still ways you can strengthen your application and make it easy for schools to review your materials. Here are some follow-up actions that will help better position you for that admission decision come spring.
1 week after submission:

Check your personal email and application portal consistently for any urgent messages.

Talk to your school counselor to find out about additional scholarships that may have extended deadlines.

Do some research to find other local scholarships through community groups or businesses like The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the Scarlett Family Foundation.

Consider re-taking the ACT. You might qualify for a fee waiver for the retest, and you can share your updated scores with the schools’ admissions offices. A higher score can strengthen your application and increase your odds of receiving scholarships or grants.

2 weeks after submission:

Contact both the admissions office and the financial aid office to confirm that your application was received.

Didn’t get a chance to visit some of the schools you applied to? Contact the admissions offices and set up a campus tour. Depending on the school, you may even be able to sit in on a class or take a housing tour.