Don't miss a beat. Download the free College Applications Checklist.


College Applications & Deadlines
College Search & Tours
Essays & Supplementals
Financial Aid & Scholarships
Post Applications & Decisions

How important are SAT/ACT scores in college admissions? +

Scores can play a role, but many colleges also consider GPA, essays, and other factors. Some schools have become test-optional in recent years.

What documents are typically required for college applications? +

Common documents include transcripts, standardized test scores (SAT/ACT), letters of recommendation, personal statements, and a list of extracurricular activities.

When is the best time to submit applications? +

Deadlines vary but aim to submit applications well before the due dates. Avoid the last-minute rush.

How do we submit college applications? +

Most colleges use online application platforms. Create accounts, complete required forms, upload documents, and pay application fees, if applicable.

How do I navigate waitlists and deferrals? +

Follow the college’s instructions, express continued interest, provide any additional requested materials, and keep your options open.

What is demonstrated interest? +

Demonstrated interest shows your eagerness to attend a particular college through visits, interviews, and engagement.

What are Early Action and Early Decision? +

Early Action is non-binding and allows you to apply early and find out the admissions decisions within1-2 months of sending in the application. 

Early Decision is binding. It means that if accepted, you are committed to attending that university.

Can I meet with professors or current students during my campus visit? +

Many colleges offer opportunities to meet with professors, sit in on classes, or talk to current students. Check with the admissions office to schedule these experiences.

What should I ask during a campus tour? +

Ask about academics, extracurricular opportunities, campus life, support services, housing options, and any other aspects important to you. Don’t hesitate to ask your tour guide about their personal experiences as well.

Note to self: Link to blog post about the topic.

Do I need to schedule campus tours in advance? +

While some colleges offer walk-in tours, it’s recommended to schedule in advance, especially for tours during peak times like spring and fall.

When should I take campus tours? +

You can schedule campus tours at any point during your time in high school. Most teens, schedule tours during your junior or senior year but the earlier you start, the more time and flexibility you have to look at different campuses and gauge university atmospheres.

Best times to visit can be during the school year and July/August. Avoid visiting during university holidays and finals. 

Are campus visits necessary before applying? +

While not mandatory, visiting campuses can provide valuable insights into campus life, facilities, and culture. With that said, if you do not have the time, resources, or interest in checking out a university’s campus, then check the university’s social media pages and attend virtual tours & info sessions. 

How many colleges should I apply to? +

Aim for a balanced list of 8-12 colleges, including a mix of reach, match, and safety schools. Make sure you have at least 4 Safety schools on your list (acceptance rate >50%).

What are reach, match, and safety schools? +

Reach schools are more selective, match universities are likely to admit you, and safety schools are where your credentials exceed requirements.

Think of it this way, the acceptance for: 

Reach = <20%
Target = 20-50%
Safety = > 50%

The Reach, Safety, Target is common approach used to help students create their college lists, just be aware of
how many of the universities you apply to fall in each. Ideally, aim for at least 4 Safety schools. 

What is the best website or college search engine to help me start my college search? +

College Board’s Big Future Search is free and has 1,000+ universities that students can filter through. If your high school offers Naviance or a similar software program, I’d recommend using that to get data – acceptances, rejections, waitlists per university – specific to your high school.

How do I start my college search? +

Begin by listing your preferences such as location, size, majors, and campus culture. Use online tools to research colleges that match your criteria. 

Think about the type of college experience you want to have, and if you have zero idea, then tour some of the local universities, attend information sessions at your high school or community, and attend virtual info sessions hosted by universities. These resources are all free and can help you get an idea of what you may o

What should the essay focus on? +

The essay prompts are provided by CommonApp each year so make sure that you actually answer the question at hand. While answering the question, be sure to talk about any relevant experiences (limit it to 1-2), and how you grew from them. What lessons did you learn?

How crucial is the college essay? +

The essay provides insight into a your personality and experiences. It can set you apart from other applicants by sharing the various interests and quirks that you may have.

How do I stand out in the essay pile? +

Focus on an authentic and personal topic that showcases your values, passions, or experiences.

Can I reuse essays for different colleges? +

You can adapt essays, but tailor each one to the specific college’s prompts and values.

What makes a strong college essay? +

A strong essay reflects your voice, tells a compelling story, and provides insights into your character and growth.

Are scholarships available for all students? +

Yes, scholarships are available for various talents, interests, and academic achievements. Research local and national opportunities and apply to those relevant to you.

How can we afford college tuition? +

Explore financial aid options, including scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and student loans. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility.

When should my teen start the college application process? +

Teens can start their process as early as 9th grade by starting their college search and building their college lists. While 11th and 12th grades get the most attention when it comes CAP, teens & their families can reduce their stress levels and workload by starting early.

What is the college application process (CAP)? +

The college application process (CAP) refers to the series of steps students take to apply for admission to colleges or universities in the U.S.
The components of the college applications process are grades, SAT/ACT testing, extracurricular activities (sports, jobs, community service, family responsibilities, etc.), college searches, essays, interviews, and college applications. 

***Note to self: Link to blog post about the topic.

What if my teen is waitlisted or denied admission? +

If waitlisted, they might still have a chance. If denied, encourage them to explore other options and understand that college decisions don’t define their worth.

What happens after submitting applications? +

Colleges will review applications and typically notify students of their admission decisions by a certain date.

How are the SAT and ACT scored? +

The SAT score ranges from 400 to 1600, combining scores from the Math and Reading sections, each scored on a scale of 200-800. 

The ACT provides a composite score ranging from 1 to 36, based on the average scores from the Reading, English (Grammar), Math, and Science sections. 

Can I request accommodations for disabilities? +

Yes, both the SAT and ACT offer accommodations for students with documented disabilities. It’s essential to request these accommodations well in advance because approvals can take as long as 6 months. 

Talk to your high school guidance counselor to help set up test day accommodations.

For more info about the possible accommodations and relevant deadlines, here are the links to


When should I start preparing for these exams? +

I recommend prepping in the summer after sophomore year. Aim to have your exam takes & retakes completed by December. Your sanity will thank you. 

How should I prepare for the SAT or ACT? +

College Board partnered with Khan Academy to help provide free SAT prep for students and the ACT has resources on its website to help you with your prep.

How do I register for the SAT or ACT? +

You can register online through the official websites for the SAT (run by the College Board) or the ACT.

Q: How often are the SAT and ACT offered? +

Both the SAT and ACT are offered several times throughout the year. In the U.S, the SAT is offered in: August, October, November, December, March, and June. The ACT is offered in: September, October, December, February, April, June, and July. 

Note that when both exams are offered in the same month, the days will differ. There are no test day overlaps. 

How many times can I take the test? +

You can take both tests as many times as you want, but I recommend no more than 3 times. After that, students tend to burn out and scores tend to start dropping.

Instead, prepare to the best of your abilities, learn from your mistakes, and practice between retakes.

Should I take the test with the essay section? +

Check your target colleges’ requirements. If they don’t specify, consider taking it to keep your options open.

Do I need to take both the SAT and ACT? +

No, most colleges accept either. Choose the one that aligns with your strengths and practice.