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Tips for Completing Your College Application

June 18, 2019 - 4 minute read

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Applications, Applications, all the Applications

During a conversation with one of my students last fall, I asked her how many schools she was looking into. “I am applying to ten schools,” she responded. I think I said, “Wow! When I was going through the application process, I am pretty sure I only applied to four.” Whether you are applying to four or ten (or somewhere in between), college applications are a process. But hopefully with some tips and a bit of preparation (and a little help from your local, friendly admissions counselors) you can zip through this part of the admissions process.

 Let’s look at each of the pieces of the application so you will be prepared for what is ahead.

The List

Before you dive into your applications, create a spreadsheet of each of your targeted schools. Under each school, note submission deadlines and application fees, ACT or SAT preferences, and what these schools ask in their essay requirements and letters of recommendation. This step will keep you organized.

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The Application

Try to start your applications as soon as possible. This will give you more time to enjoy senior year and focus on your studies, and you won’t have to stress as much about application deadlines. You’ll find that some schools use the Common Application, while others have their own application. At Concordia University Irvine, we use both the Common Application, as well our own online application. The application will likely involve questions about you, your family background, your academic background, extracurricular involvements, and your academic and personal aspirations. Make sure to connect with your admissions counselor for each school you are applying to in order to make sure your application is submitted successfully. We’re here to help and applicants do not have to do this process alone.

Early Action vs. Early Decision

Some schools have “early action” or “early decision” deadlines. Applicants who apply by the early action deadline usually receive an early response to their application, but they don’t have to commit to the college until the National Candidates Reply Date of May 1st. For example, at Concordia University Irvine, applicants who apply by our November 15th early action deadline are guaranteed an admissions decision by mid-December. Applicants who apply by the early decision deadline will receive their admissions decision early AND are bound to attend that particular school if they are accepted. Early action = non-binding and early decision = binding.

Supplementary Materials

These are the standard materials that are usually required, but each school you are applying to may have additional supplementary materials as part of the application. Some may have additional requirements depending on your academic program, so be sure you’re closely checking these requirements.


Request your high school transcripts from your school while you are submitting your various applications. Some universities accept unofficial transcripts for the review process, while other universities require official transcripts (sent directly from your high school). At CUI, we will use unofficial transcripts for application review purposes and will need official transcripts upon enrollment. If you are wondering about GPA requirements, this is a good opportunity to contact your admissions counselor, as they can also give you more details on how those honors, AP, or IB courses will be taken into consideration during the review process.

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The Essay

This is a writing sample that provides an insight into not only your writing abilities but also your unique personality. CUI’s application has an optional essay prompt of “what is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome and what did you learn from it?” Whatever the essay prompt may be, you have the chance to tell your story. Be true to who you are and use this opportunity to show colleges why you may be a good fit at the school beyond your academic abilities. Carefully review your essay and ask someone for feedback before submitting your essay. Good spelling and grammar are also part of that impression.

Letters of recommendation

Choose recommenders who can not only vouch for your abilities as a student, but can highlight your amazing qualities as a person. Be sure to keep track of how many letters of recommendation are required and help your recommenders get them in on time by asking them to complete it well before the deadline. And when they do offer to write a recommendation for you, follow up with a thank you note!

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SAT /ACT Testing

Each university has differing averages and minimums when it comes to test scores and different preferences for SAT or ACT. While standardized test scores can be an important factor in being admitted to your dream school, they may also be used for academic scholarship opportunities. If you don’t know what score to shoot for, check with your admissions counselor and learn how you can best meet this requirement. Some universities superscore which means that your highest section scores of each test are considered.

Best of luck as you begin this process and don’t hesitate to reach out to your admissions counselor at Concordia University Irvine if you have any questions. Here’s to the reward of hearing back from your schools after your applications are submitted and completed! Hopefully a lot of acceptances will be headed your way.

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