What to Include in Your College Application

Graphic describing the various aspects that go into a college application
Applying to Your 
Dream University

If you are nervous about sending in your college applications, here are some tips to help you get started on the process.

What Goes into a College Application?
What are Colleges Looking for in an Applicant?

Your application should emphasize your most impressive qualities and accomplishments. Colleges and universities are looking for students who are smart, ambitious, passionate, and willing to challenge themselves. They want students who are sincerely interested in their school. Most importantly, they want students who are unique and can add something to their school.

How Do I Make My College Application Stand Out?

Your transcript includes your GPA, courses, and attendance record. Colleges want students who have a high GPA and take challenging classes. Schools prefer a B in an honors/AP class compared to an A in an “easy” class because it shows that you are willing to push yourself. And remember, schools look at your senior year grades, too!

Some schools require your high school to send your sealed transcript directly to college admissions. Since many students will be requesting their transcripts around the same time, make sure you request yours early and be patient.

Letters of Recommendation
Standard : 2 Letters

Letters of recommendation depend on the school, some schools do not require or want them at all, but for many schools, it is a big requirement. Schools may have different guidelines for these letters (sometimes called “Teacher Evaluations”), so pay attention to each school’s specific requirements

If you are applying to multiple schools, it is a good idea to ask two teachers from two different subjects for letters that you can use for multiple applications. Ask teachers who have taught you recently and can include positive and specific things about who you are as a student.


If you want, you can also get a 3rd letter from another adult who is a mentor, but only if this letter adds something new to your application.

List of Activities

Your list of activities includes clubs, sports, jobs, volunteer experience, and all other extracurriculars. 

Colleges care more about your level of involvement in your activities than the number of activities on your list. Being actively involved in fewer clubs is far more impressive than shallow involvement in a long list of clubs. Include activities where you held a leadership position, received awards, or the activity contributed to your academic or personal development. Start with the activities you were the most involved in at the top of the list and work your way down. (Don’t worry about filling in every available space in this section, just fill in your most important activities.)


Your personal essay is a big part of your college application. 

Read “Writing Your College Essay : What to Include & What to Avoid” and “Writing Your College Essay: How to Get Started for more info on this section.

More Tips for Your Application
  1. Do research on your prospective school before filling out the application 
  2. Be mindful of your social media accounts (schools may even rescind an admissions offer after an applicant has been accepted because of the student’s social media) 
  3. Check your application for mistakes
  4. Send in your application early!
  5. Follow-up with college admissions (politely check in about your application, but don’t go overboard)

Don’t worry about sending in the “perfect” application. Colleges want to know the real YOU. Even if your application has flaws or weak spots that does not mean you will automatically be rejected. Colleges look at applications to see who the student is as a whole. They are more likely to reject flat and boring applications that look nice on paper but lack substance than an application with some flaws but that ultimately shows the applicant is passionate and willing to challenge themselves.

Need more personalized recommendations?

The above tips and recommendations are broad strokes on College Prep. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us for a personal consultation. We look forward to helping you.

About MathTowne

MathTowne is a locally-based tutoring resource. We are here to support students through the key phases of their academic journey: middle school, the transition to high school, all four years of high school, and college preparationOur staff has years of experience in creating personalized lesson plans for all of our students.

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