College Essay Writing Steps Checklist

Applying to College Step by Step

Applying to college can be daunting, but taking a step by step approach will allow you to succeed.

Applying to college can feel like a full-time job, especially if you’re applying to colleges with different admissions requirements.

Specific college admissions requirements vary from college to college (always check with the ones you are applying to!), but luckily the basics are largely the same. There’s lots involved, so make sure you take care of all the details the college application requires.

1. Fill out the application.

As part of the admissions process, you’ll be required to fill out some basic application paperwork, which will include personal information about yourself and your high school career, like extracurricular activities you participated in.

2. Write the admissions essay.

You will also have to write an admissions essay when applying to college. Usually the school will provide a number of prompts for you to choose from. In some cases, you may be able to choose your own topic. Be sure to proofread your college admissions essay carefully.

3. Gather supplemental materials.

Supplemental materials may include items like a portfolio of personal work or a supplemental essay. In some cases, supplemental materials can help your application, but in other cases they can hurt your chances of admission. Be sure to carefully consider whether the supplemental materials or supplemental essays are a good idea for your application.

Some colleges also require college recommendation letters. These usually can come from teachers who are familiar with your work. Some students may also get recommendations from coaches, church leaders, community service organizers, or other adults who can attest to the student’s skills and work ethic.

4. Interview for admission (if necessary).

A student interview may be required in some cases, but usually for undergraduate admission this is not the case. Still, some schools will be willing to schedule a student admissions interview upon request. International students may find a student interview especially important.

5. Receive your acceptance letter!

Even if you’ve started getting acceptance letters, the process of applying to college is not complete! Once you are done deciding which university you would like to attend, you’ll have to let the school know that you have decided to accept its offer of admission.

After this, there will be even more paperwork to sort out, like filling out housing forms and signing up for campus meal plans. The school should send you all the information and paperwork you need.

Tips Just for International Students

Admissions requirements for international students applying to college will include some extra challenges. From taking the TOEFL or other standardized English language test, to obtaining a US visa, international students should be sure to find out what additional requirements they need to fulfill.

Make a List and Check It Twice!

Check and double-check that you complete all of the application requirements specific to your school and your situation. For example, the requirements for a first-time undergraduate will probably be different that the requirements if you want to transfer colleges.

By making a checklist of college admission requirements for the colleges where you want to apply, you can be sure the you won’t miss any college application deadlines or essential steps in the process of applying to college.

By making a checklist and giving yourself plenty of time, applying to college is manageable — even fun! — for any student.


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As a college student, I majored in journalism. That means I have a lot of experience in all types of writing. In order to major in a communications-related field, students must take a rigorous schedule of English courses, which means a whole lot of essay writing.

I quickly adapted a method of essay writing, which I believe simplifies and streamlines the process.

What’s the trick? Instead of sitting down and writing an essay, from start to finish, as many students do, it’s much easy (and way less time consuming) to do all of your research beforehand, placing each item into a basic outline.

From there, the outline contains all of the information you need to create your essay and, the essay essentially writes itself.

The only work left will be filler writing to explain your thought processes.

Here’s how you can format your essay outline (Note: the example below has three paragraphs, but additional paragraphs can be added as necessary.):

I. Introduction paragraph:

a. What you’d like to discuss within your introduction paragraph

b. Quotes or references, if any

II. Thesis statement: What’s the main point of your essay? Decide what you want to convey in your essay and put it into words. Your entire essay will revolve around this point, so make sure you’re clear and concise in your phrasing. (This is usually placed near the end of your introduction paragraph.)

III. First paragraph topic that supports your thesis

a. List supporting quotes/references: Find quotes from reputable sources that support what you’ve stated within your thesis and that relate to your first paragraph topic.

IV. Second paragraph topic that supports your thesis

a. List supporting quotes/references: Find quotes from reputable sources that support what you’ve stated within your thesis and that relate to your second paragraph topic.

V. Third paragraph topic that supports your thesis

a. List supporting quotes/references: Find quotes from reputable sources that support what you’ve stated within your thesis and that relate to your third paragraph topic.

VI. Conclusion paragraph: Note what you’d like to say within your conclusion paragraph. Your conclusion paragraph should detail how you are going to unite the topics from your aforementioned topics and weave them together into one solid point. Students commonly mistake a conclusion paragraph as a summary paragraph when, in fact, it’s really an opportunity to drive home your argument. Your conclusion should round out your essay and unite your paragraphs together, solidifying your thesis.

a. Additional quotes or references, if any

VII. List all citations: As you find each quote or reference to include within your essay, make sure to cite each reference, so you won’t have to scramble at the end to go back to your sources to see where you found each quotation. List each citation on your outline so it’s already finished before you even complete your essay. That way, it’s one less thing to worry about.

By following this outline format, the work of your essay is already clearly mapped out ahead of time. You already know what you want to say and how you’re going to say it and you have all of the support to back up each theory.

This method takes the stress out of essay writing because it eliminates guesswork; struggling for the right idea or argument and helps you ensure your thesis is strong. If you’re not able to easily fill out the outline, your thesis isn’t strong or clear enough and your essay topic will likely not be a winner as a result.

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