How to Fill Out College Applications

How to fill out college applications

For students with regular decision deadlines, when it comes to college applications, don’t feel overwhelmed. However, with the right guidance and preparation, you can navigate the application process smoothly. In this blog post, we will provide you with essential tips and step-by-step guidance on how to fill out college applications effectively.

Start a spreadsheet. No, seriously.

We really know how to kick this blog off right? NOTHING MORE EXCITING THAN SPREADSHEETS (we promise this won’t be what all of college is <3).

When filling out college applications you’re going to need to keep track of a ton of information about the university as well as an organized place to store the necessary documents for the applications. Take a look at the example below:

College application spreadsheet for keep track of vital information

There’s a space for each school, their contact information, application requirements, application fee, as well as admission status. We’d recommend adding another column or tab to link in any necessary documents or written statements. 

Feel free to access this template here, just make a copy and you’re good to go!

Understand the Requirements

Before you start filling out college applications, it’s crucial to understand the requirements of each college you’re interested in. Carefully review their website or admission materials to identify the necessary documents, essays, and deadlines. By doing so, you can ensure that you provide all the required information accurately and on time.

Here’s an example of a university’s application information page from The Ohio State University. Many university sites will list their requirements as well as necessary required materials. More specific information will likely be provided per each material or can likely be accessed online or through a quick phone call to their admissions office. 

Be sure to take note of any specific essay prompts or word limits, as these will guide you in crafting your responses. Additionally, be aware of any supplementary materials that may be required, such as portfolios or recommendation letters. Understanding the requirements will help you stay organized and ensure you present yourself in the best possible light.

Gather Your Personal Information

To streamline the application process, gather all your personal information beforehand. This includes your full name, contact details, social security number, high school information, and high school transcripts. Having these details readily available will save you time and prevent any errors when filling out the applications.

In addition to basic personal information, you may also need to provide details about your parents or guardians, such as their occupations and educational backgrounds. Some applications may also ask for information about your financial situation or any scholarships or grants you have received. By gathering this information ahead of time, you can complete the applications more efficiently and accurately.

Personal Statements

One of the hotly debated topics is the importance of a personal statement. Some admissions offices place a strong emphasis and may reject you based on it. Other universities simply require it as a formality. Whatever the case may be, it’s in your best interest to have a well-written personal statement.

What is a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is essentially your chance to tell colleges about what kind of person you are. It’s a way to demonstrate how you think, solve problems, and work with others, as well as your aspirations for the future and why you believe that university can help you achieve your goals.

Example of a psychology-related personal statement for a college application.
Example of a psychology-related personal statement for a college application.

The nature of the statement depends on the values and needs of the university but use it as a chance to let the university know what you’re passionate about. Share a quick story about a life experience and how it relates to what you want to study. At the end of the day, just know this is a chance to show the university that you’re a driven, passionate person. 

Tips for Crafting a Personal Statement

When writing your personal statement, start by brainstorming key experiences or moments that have shaped you and influenced your academic and personal development. Be sure to highlight your accomplishments and how they have prepared you for college! 

We’d also recommend that you check out your chosen university’s values and mission statement and use that language in your personal statement. For example here is The Ohio State University’s mission statement:

If you were to reuse some of this language in your personal statement (we’ve highlighted where we’ve used it) it might appear as:

“Throughout my time studying STEM, I knew I wanted to use this knowledge to improve the well-being of my global community and ensure that I am fostering a sense of service amongst my peers to do the same. One of the primary reasons I chose The Ohio State University is not only their array of distinguished academic programs but their commitment to serving the world around us.” 

Highlight Your Extracurricular Activities

Colleges value students who are involved in extracurricular activities. In this section, highlight participation in clubs, sports teams, community service, or any leadership roles you’ve held. Use active voice to describe your involvement and emphasize the skills and lessons you’ve gained from these experiences.

When discussing your extracurricular activities, focus on quality over quantity. Select a few activities that are most meaningful to you and provide insight into your character, interests, and values. Describe your level of involvement, any awards or achievements, and the impact these activities have had on your personal growth.

Additionally, consider providing context for your involvement. Explain why you chose to participate in certain activities and how they have shaped your perspective or contributed to your personal and academic development. By highlighting your extracurricular activities, you can demonstrate your ability to balance academics with other interests and commitments.

Ask for Recommendation Letters

Most colleges require recommendation letters from teachers, counselors, or mentors. Choose individuals who know you well and can speak to your academic abilities, character, and potential. Request these letters well in advance, providing the writers with a minimum of two weeks (more if you can manage it!) to craft thoughtful and personalized recommendations.

When selecting these individuals, consider individuals who can provide different perspectives on your abilities and strengths. This may include teachers from different subjects, coaches, or community leaders who have worked closely with you. Reach out to them personally, expressing your interest in their support and providing them with any necessary information or forms.

To ensure strong recommendation letters, provide your writers with a clear understanding of your goals and experiences. Consider providing them with a copy of your personal statement or a list of activities you would like them to highlight. 

Lastly, most letters of recommendation are traditionally confidential and these days they are submitted directly online by the person you requested a letter from for undergrad. 

The Wrap-Up

Filling out college applications may seem daunting, but it’s really just a game of organization and preparedness. Also, it’s never a bad idea to have a support system! Whether it’s a parent or a teacher, if you feel like you need some help with applications, just ask! Remember to proofread your applications thoroughly and submit them before the deadlines. Good luck with your college applications, and may your future be filled with success and opportunities!

Nervous about starting college? No worries, you’re certainly not the first. The transition to college life can be difficult, especially if you don’t know what to expect. That’s why you should check out our blog post on Preparing for the Transition to College to stay ahead!


  • Rob Shield

    Rob Shield is based out of Columbus, Ohio. As Numerade's copywriter, Rob uses their extensive background in education to inform and shape the topics and content posted to the blog for educators, parents, and students alike.