52 Weeks to College: Week 43

Submitting Your First Applications
October 29, 2021

Woohoo! The time has arrived to submit your first applications.

So, so exciting…but also a bit nerve-racking.

The key to submitting applications with minimum stress is to approach things step-by-step at least 24 hours before the deadline. If something goes wrong, you’ll at least have a day to recover and still meet requirements. We have a bunch of tips below to help you do that.



  • Submit your early applications and plan a bit of a celebration.

  • Check in with your recommenders and alert them where you’ve submitted applications early and confirm that they are submitting their recommendations on time.

  • Check in with your school counselor and alert them where you’ve submitted applications early and confirm mailing of transcript and counselor recommendation.  

  • Take a break from working on the rest of your applications to focus your attention on actually submitting – you’ll pick it up again next week!

  • Continue working on your FAFSA, CSS/PROFILE forms and any other college-specific  financial aid applications. Note specific deadlines for any school where you’re applying early.


1. Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.

2. Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year


1. Print out application checklists and instructions for every college where you’re applying early. Find these checklists on colleges’ websites and confirm that you can submit materials on time. Applications often require supporting materials, including personal recommendations, as well as supplementary materials and portfolios. Instructions may tip off some important detail you’d missed.

2. Carefully review your application in its entirety. Use the “preview” feature on applications to see what’s being transmitted and how it will likely look to admissions officers. When proofreading, pay particularly close attention to the following:

  • Your Name – Believe it or not, lots of you misspell your name. That’s a nightmare to resolve post–submission, so be sure to double check.

  • Your Contact Information – Emails and phone numbers for you, your parents/guardians, and your school counselor are important so that colleges can reach you if needed – make sure they can!

  • The Start Term, The Decision Plan, and Your School/Major – Make sure you’ve filled these out correctly so that your application goes into the right pile and is reviewed by the right people at the right time.

  • Capitalization – Use old-school, formal capitalization rules, not texting rules. Enough said.

  • Proofread, proofread, proofread – Often the best way to proofread is to speak aloud. You’ll be surprised at how many errors suddenly pop off the page when you hear them!

3. Beat the deadline by 24 hours
. We said it above, but it bears repeating because college application deadlines are not targets. They are not suggestions. They are not wiggly. They are firm. No exceptions! Don't wait until 11:59 pm the night that an application is due to hit submit. Technical difficulties can and do happen. Why tempt fate with the timing?

4. Be prepared and know what to do if something weird happens. Every year is a new adventure with online applications, and inevitably some college or platform performs strangely. This might throw you for a loop if you don’t know what to do, but it’s really a simple, three-part process:

  • Save everything and then log out and log back in, or even switch computers and log in again. There can truly be a ghost in the machine!

  • If problems persist, read the fine print in the instructions you printed. Often the explanation is right there, so you’ll be able to resolve the problem lickety-split.

  • If the first two suggestions don’t do the trick, contact the college’s admissions office BY TELEPHONE during business hours. You’ll be able to get an answer directly from them if you call and do what you need to do well in time for the deadline. Allow time for stuff like this!

5. Download a copy. Using the Preview feature of the online application, save a PDF copy of the application you're submitting to your hard drive (or in the cloud), and also print a hard copy. Add each one to your digital and paper filing systems respectively.

6. Print your screen or take a screenshot to confirm that you’ve submitted before logging out. This is super important, because if there are problems, you have proof positive that you can show the college that you did in fact submit on time.

7. Do the happy dance and celebrate. You’ve earned it.

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Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

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