College Applications: 7 Things to Do Now

Last Updated Dec 10, 2009 12:04 PM EST

This is panic time in the college admission cycle. High school seniors, including my son, are furiously cranking out college applications.

A teenager's job isn't over, however, when the applications are submitted. Here are seven things students need to do before they are really finished.

1. Make sure college applications have reached their destination. Usually you won't need to make a call to double-check with colleges. Schools routinely notify students after they've gotten their applications. If you filed an online application and you don't hear anything within a couple of days, contact the school.

2. Press the right button. If you file the Common Application, which is used by nearly 400 private colleges, hitting the yellow "submit" button won't be enough. My son discovered this the hard way when he hit the submit button to send his supplemental application to a college and thought he was finished. But no, another screen appears that requires an applicant to hit another far less prominent button to submit yet again.

Ben didn't realize his mistake until the early action deadline for this particular college had passed. When he contacted the college, however, the admission office allowed him to turn in the supplemental application late. Ben is not going to make that mistake again!

3. Ask about college scholarships. Colleges routinely award merit scholarships based on the materials in a student's admission package. Some schools, however, impose an extra step if you seek certain scholarships. My son, for instance, must complete a different application for a science scholarship that Lake Forest College offers. He also has applied separately for a merit scholarship at Beloit College, which would require him to visit the campus in January or February.

4. Don't jump at the first offer. I know some seniors at my son's high school, who have already received acceptance letters with scholarship offers. It's thrilling to know that colleges love you, but don't rush into accepting one of these early-bird offers. Unless a college highly covets a student, the initial offer could be a low-ball one.

5. Take your time. By waiting, you might receive a better financial aid or scholarship offer in the next few months. And besides, you have until May 1 to put down a deposit.

6. Check your application status online. Many colleges now routinely give applicants a password and user name so they can check their application status. You should be able to see whether a college has received your transcript, teacher recommendations and test scores, which are all things that you don't submit yourself.

7. Understand application time lines. Many students who applied early decision to a college should get their verdicts next week. For students who apply to colleges that have rolling admissions, notifications are often sent six to eight weeks later. Many high school seniors who applied to college through nonbinding Early Action applications should know after the holidays.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller and she also writes for TheCollegeSolutionBlog.

Further Reading:

America's 10 Most Expensive Colleges

How to Survive a Bad SAT Score

How I Graduated From Berkeley in Two Years

College application image by Elise Largesse. CC 2.0.