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College application checklist

When applying to schools, it’s important to stay organized and keep track of your application to each school. Most colleges will require more than submitting a form online for your application to be complete. Review these common application steps and materials to prepare your completed college application, and then download your college application checklist below!


Your College Matrix

The College Matrix is an organizational tool that allows you to compare key aspects of multiple colleges quickly. Be prepared to apply to at least four colleges that you have identified as being a good fit for you. Remember, we use the term “college” to include postsecondary certificate programs, technical colleges, two-year community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities.


Application deadlines

Some colleges require you to submit your application months in advance. Others still review applications and admit students right up until the first day of classes each semester. Colleges will not evaluate your application until you have submitted all of the required materials, so be sure to take note of the deadlines! Each school will have these posted on their website.


College application essay

Not all colleges will require you to submit a college application essay, but some schools require one or more essays or “short answer” questions. ApplyTexas is an excellent resource for learning which schools in Texas require an essay. To explore essay requirements for four-year Texas colleges, follow the steps below:

  • Select your college of interest from the drop-down list.
  • Click on the “show details” button.
  • Scroll down to find “essay requirements.”
  • View the essay requirement information for your semester of entry.

The college application essay is an opportunity for college admissions to get to know you better and learn more about your personality, context, and specific situation. Take some time to review our guide for writing a great college essay!


Online application forms

There are several types of online application forms. Each college may accept one or more of the options, so it’s important to read the instructions on each of your school’s websites. In general, the best way to apply to public colleges in Texas will be through ApplyTexas, while some private colleges have different applications on their website. Some common online applications websites include:

The Common App

The Common App allows you to apply to hundreds of colleges throughout the country. It also provides you with resources on planning and how to apply for college.

The Coalition App

The Coalition App also allows you to apply to many colleges throughout the country. This application encourages you to begin building a portfolio in the 9th grade before submitting your application.

College specific apps

If you are considering a private or out-of-state college you will need to check their Office of Admissions website in order to determine their preferred application method.


Entrance exam scores

Most four-year colleges require entrance exam scores as part of their admissions process, whereas most community and technical colleges will not require entrance exam scores. Students can choose between submitting ACT or SAT scores. The SAT and ACT can be intimidating, but with study and preparation, they can also be an excellent opportunity to highlight your academic strengths. Even if they are not required for admission, many scholarships will consider entrance exam scores in your application.


High school transcript

If you are applying to a college before graduating from high school, colleges will require that you submit two high school transcripts—one when you apply and another final transcript after earning your high school diploma. Often, you can request your high school transcript from your high school’s website, but you may need to talk with your counselor to be sure. Don’t wait until the last minute to request to have your high school send your transcript, and check with your counselor to see how long they will need to process your request.


Letters of recommendation

Not every college will ask for letters of recommendation, but they can be an excellent way to boost your application. Teachers, counselors, coaches, community leaders, supervisors, or religious leaders can be excellent sources of letters of recommendation. Be sure to ask them to write your letter three weeks before it is due! We do not recommend including more than 2-3 letters of recommendation unless your schools ask you to include more with your application.

Be sure to read the instructions carefully because some schools will want to hear specifically from your high school counselor and a teacher from your junior or senior year.



Not every college will ask that you submit a resume, but often, online applications will encompass everything that you have listed on your resume. This means that drafting a resume before submitting your application can make completing your application a much quicker and easier process.

Check out our resource on drafting a great resume!


Application fee

Not all colleges will charge an application fee, but many of them do. If paying an application fee is prohibitive for you, check out our resource on college application fee waivers!

ApplyTexas also provides information on the application fees for Texas colleges.


College specific materials

Some schools may require additional materials or request that an alumni interview you. Be sure to check each school’s admissions website to confirm deadlines and ensure you include any of the necessary supplemental information as well. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Office of Admissions. They are there to help you!


Using the checklist

Now you’re ready to apply! As you are gathering all of your application materials, you can use our college application checklist to make sure you didn’t leave anything out. We recommend filling out a new college application checklist for each school that you apply to; that way, you can be sure you’ve covered everything. Download the Checklist


After you apply

After submitting your application, wait two weeks, then follow up by sending a professional email to the college’s Office of Admission, confirming your application and asking if there are any additional materials necessary. Check out this quick guide on following up on your college application.

Begin checking your email at least once or twice a week after that. If you don’t check your email often, choose a day and time to check it each week. Set an alarm or calendar reminder on your phone.

If you’ve been accepted, (CONGRATS!), you will probably need to access information through your college student portal instead of your email from this point forward.


What’s next?

Now that you know about the key components of submitting a college application, let’s take a deeper look a several of them. First, the college application fee waiver.

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