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Preparing & Applying




  • Create a checklist of deadlines for each school of your choice.

  • Keep track of the different requirements for schools you are interested in.

  • Meet with your counselor to ensure you meet all requirements for admissions (see A-G presentations linked below).

  • Set up a dedicated email address that you will check on a daily basis. This should be simple and straightforward (do not use inappropriate language in your email address) and should be separate from your school-issued email address. Go to Gmail to set up a free email account if you do not have one.

Before your senior year, create your college list of 5-10 colleges that you would like to explore and potentially apply to. It is a good idea to add a lot of schools and then narrow the list based upon further research. Narrow your college list by adding these different types of schools:

  • "Safety" schools: Schools to which you believe you are very likely to be admitted because you significantly exceed their eligibility requirements.

  • "Reach" schools: Schools that you really want to attend, but where you just barely meet or do not quite meet the eligibility requirements. Admissions staff often look at the whole student, including your extra-curricular activities and your personal statement. While they will not admit anyone whose grades and scores are far below their standards, they will sometimes consider students who make a case for themselves or who have very clear explanations (not excuses) for why they do not quite meet the minimum scores or GPA.

  • "Match" (target) schools: Schools that fall in between reach and safety schools, and where your qualifications (grades, test scores, etc.) are typical for an entering freshmen. A school should only be listed as a match if you meet its basic eligibility requirements.


  • Work at a steady pace, rather than waiting until the last minute to work on all of your college application components.

  • In Summer before Senior Year, create your Common App account: just get started and add to it slowly over time so that it's not all a rush at end.  

  • Send all of your college admission test results to the colleges you are applying to.

  • Follow up with people writing your letters of recommendation to make sure they will be able to submit them on time.

  • Contact admissions offices at each campus with any questions you have about the application.

  • Fill out and submit the applications by the deadline--the earlier the better.

  • Admissions Terminology: Learn the ABCs of early decision, early action, etc.


  • If you received an offer of admission, Congrats!

  • If you are offered admission to private institutions, before accepting you may also be able to negotiate for a better aid package if you contact the Admissions Officer and/or Financial Aid Officer. Some use the strategy of waiting just before the May 1st Decision Day to plead your case,  i.e. diplomatically ask if the school has any additional merit-aid for your package. 

  • If you did not get admitted, contact the Admissions Officer to ask about the Appeal or Waiting List procedures.

  • If you did not get admitted, there might be attractive schools that still have openings in May - June (NACAC List). See the money management page "#4 After Decision Day."


Freshmen and Sophomore Years

Junior and Senior Years


Up Your Admissions Odd​​​

Show Demonstrated Interest

  • Don't keep yourself a secret, be proactive about contacting the selected school and get on their radar.

  • Leverage social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and get on their email list, so they know who you are.

  • Visit different campuses. 


Write Quality Essays and Personal Statements


Recommendation Letters



Some schools may require or request the SAT or ACT.  Most students take the first test in the Spring of Junior Year and re-take as needed (Aug, Oct, Dec of Senior Year).  Since many schools accept both the SAT and the ACT, and since they are different, students may wish to take both exams.  Here's a VIDEO for reducing test anxiety by Sal Khan.



Athletes & Admission


Common Application Common App

Most private universities will require the "Common App"  or their own (visit the school's website)

Tips in the Common App Blog

University of California System application

California State University System application 

College Night Sept 26th 2024

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