The October Checklist for Students Applying to College

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You’re one month into senior year of high school. Can you believe how fast it’s gone? Soon enough, deadlines will have come and gone, letters will be in your mailbox, and prom and graduation will fly by. This all means that it’s time to get a move on and start planning for your future now. If you haven’t stayed on task, it’s not too late. Catch up on what you missed by reading the September Checklist and print out a College Application Checklist from our site.

Here’s what’s on the to-do list for this month:

Two girls giving a high five because they finished everything on the October college application checklist.

Broad City / Giphy

  • Work on your college application essays.

    If you are applying for early admissions, you should plan to finish the essay by the end of the month. Remember to reread the question and make sure you actually answered it clearly and concisely. Then, read it out loud. Ask a friend, parent, sibling, or teacher to proofread the essay. Put the finishing touches on your paper and click the submit button.

  • Fill out the short answer questions.

    The short answer questions may not carry as much weight as the personal essay, but they should be an equally detailed illustration of who you are. Avoid being vague. Instead, take your time with the questions and give clear examples. Let your individuality shine through with details, not clichés. Use a strong vocabulary, but don’t just use a big word to use a big word; know the definition and proper usage. These answers, though short, can say a lot about who you are.

  • Check in with teachers and guidance counselors about letters of recommendation.

    A girl gets so excited she falls out of her chair when she gets a new email.


    If you have not asked teachers or guidance counselors to write a letter of recommendation for you, it’s time to get a move on. Remember to ask politely and be conscientious of their schedules. If they say no, you’ll have to respect their decisions and ask someone else. If someone has agreed to write you a letter, it’s helpful to check in. You don’t want to pester someone who is doing you a favor, though. Instead, wait a few weeks after they have agreed to write it for you. If you have not heard back from them about the progress, send them a gentle reminder email. A proper message might say something to the effect of:

    Dear [name here],

    Thank you for agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for my application to [name of institution]. I checked the status of my application and noticed that your letter, which is due on [deadline], has not yet been submitted. If there is anything I can do to make this easier for you, please let me know. I would be happy to resend any information about the school or my accomplishments.

    Kind Regards,
    [Your name]

  • Have your high school transcript sent.

    A transcript is a record of your academic career throughout high school, and most colleges want to see the official version. The difference between official and unofficial? The official one has a seal and stamp on it. It also takes longer to be delivered, which means that you should request it well before any application deadlines sneak up. Additionally, some schools charge a fee for the delivery of the documents. If you are having financial difficulties, be sure to ask if your school can waive the fee.

    Michelle Obama dancing with Elmo on Sesame Sheet.

    Sesame Street / Giphy

  • Send in your standardized test scores.

    Reach out to your prospective college and ask about its deadline. If you are retaking a test, will it accept scores after the deadline? In order to send in your scores, you have three options.

  1. When you sign up for the SAT or ACT, you can choose to have your scores sent to four different colleges for free. However, it is a little risky to request score submission before you even take the test. You might not test well that day, for example, in which case your schools would not receive your best scores.
  2. The second option is to send your four free scores immediately after the test. You still won’t have a chance to review your results, but at least you will have a feel for how well you did. After taking the SAT, students have nine days to use their four free score reports, if they haven’t used them already. Students who take the ACT have until the Thursday after their test date to use the free score submission feature.
  3. Your last option is to send your scores after you review them. That, however, comes at a cost. To send ACT scores after the free score report period, you will need to pay $15.00 and fill out a worksheet or call the office. The College Board charges $12.00 to process score reports, but you may request a more expensive “Rush Reporting” service if you need your scores to arrive within two business days.
  • Inquire about an application fee waiver.

    If you registered for the SAT using a fee waiver, then you are guaranteed four college application fee waivers, but not all colleges accept them, so you’ll need to check. Call the admissions offices at your prospective colleges or talk to your high school guidance counselor to get more information.

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