How to Start the College Application Process

The college application process starts with compiling the information you will need to fill out your applications. You should begin to gather this information as soon as you decide to commence your college admissions journey. It will make the process that much easier to complete because you will have everything at your fingertips!

The Student Resume

At Signature College Counseling, we have each one of our students create a student resume – whether they start with us in 9th, 10th, 11th grade or their senior year. This document contains a bulk of the information you will need for your applications, such as:

• A complete list of in-school and out-of-school activities
• The grades in which you participated in those activities
• The average hours per week, and per year, which you spent on those activities
• Any leadership positions you held
• Any awards you received for these activities

Preparing this resume takes time, but it is so well worth the effort in creating it and keeping it current.

Your List of Colleges

Next up is your list of colleges. In addition to the information above, you will need to have narrowed down the list of colleges you will be applying to. You can start your college applications with the general information, but very shortly thereafter you’re going to have to list the colleges you’re applying to and fill out specific questions from those colleges, along with possibly supplemental essays for those schools.

We have A LOT of information on our website about the college search process – both videos and blogs – that can help you with your research, such as:

• How To Begin Your College Search
• What to Consider When Searching for Colleges
• How to Narrow Your College Search
• Searching for Colleges by Major
• How to Decide Which College to Go To

Also, click here to view our College Planning Timeline.

Class Schedule and Transcript

When filling out the college applications, you are also going to need your senior year class schedule, as well as your high school courses and final grades (You may need to enter that information into the common application or your self reported academic record for some schools). At the end of your junior year, you should ask your guidance office for your high school transcript.

Choosing an Essay Topic

As you start approaching the summer before your senior year, you need to start thinking about the topic for your primary essay aka personal statement. If you are using the Common App essay, the length will be a max of 650 words. FYI about 900 schools use the Common App for their admissions process. Here are some blogs on the topic:

• When Should You Write Your College Essay
• Length of College Essay – Tips
• What Should I Write My College Essay About
• How Do I Start a College Essay
• How Do You Write a Good College Essay

We always have our students complete their primary essay as soon as they finish their junior year and before the end of July. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today!

In general this is how to start your college application process. Hopefully, the blogs and videos we mentioned above will help you on your journey.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students through Zoom, over the phone, and by email.