Five Tips from Huntington Learning Center on Filling Out College Applications

By Huntington Learning Center

There’s a lot for teens to do when it comes to preparing to go to college. The journey starts early in high school, but as teens near the time when they need to submit applications, Eileen Huntington of Huntington Learning Center reminds parents that the volume of to-dos increases substantially.


“The college application is actually a substantial package of information that admissions officers use to evaluate students, so it’s important that teens allow plenty of time to assemble everything that will bolster them as candidates,” says Huntington. She offers five tips for teens as they work on those college applications:


  1. Develop a timeline and detailed to-do list. At a minimum, teens must be aware of SAT/ACT dates (and registration deadlines), college application due dates (regular and early decision/early action) and all deadlines associated with the other materials colleges might request (e.g. recommendation letters), which vary from college to college (see tip #2). The College Board’s college application checklist is a general list of the documents and tasks that most colleges need completed.  
  2. Look to the colleges themselves for application tips and requirements. Many colleges and universities use the Common Application for basic information, but most also require quite a bit of supplemental material. Teens would be wise to visit college or university websites to get a clear understanding of what they request of applicants (and to review any tips or resources).
  3. Establish an organizational system. Once teens identify schools to which they plan to apply and assemble all due dates and requirements mentioned in tips #1-2, they need to create files for each college—both hard copy and on their computers—to store all documents. Teens should update those college-specific checklists and keep them on hand.
  4. Follow all directions and be thorough. Yes, there are many tasks to complete in anticipation of college, but most colleges try to make things simple. Teens must review directions and the application steps provided on each college’s website carefully and thoroughly. Being diligent about following directions will prevent teens from skipping steps or submitting incomplete information.
  5. Devote time to the essay. If colleges recommend or require personal essays, teens should give them the attention they deserve. They need to choose appropriate topics that address the essay prompts, plan ahead to make the essay poignant and powerful, and write multiple drafts. It’s also important to allow sufficient time for editing, ask for feedback on the essay from one or more teachers, and do a final proofread of the essay before considering it final.


Last but certainly not least, Huntington reminds teens to put forth their very bet effort. “College applications are students’ best chance to prove to colleges that they deserve to be accepted for admission,” she says. “Students should seize that opportunity by showing that they’ve put in the work and by presenting themselves as strong candidates. Our advice to students is to work hard in school and get tutoring help when needed. Retake that SAT or ACT if they want to raise their scores. Ask for letters of recommendation from the teachers who see their potential, and give those teachers time to craft something compelling. Write a great essay. Then, pull it all together to create the best application possible.”

For more information about Huntington Learning Center’s services to prepare students for college success, contact Huntington at 1-800 CAN LEARN or visit