Build Your College Application – GradPlan


Build Your College Application

Resources to help you put together the best possible application


While not required, it will make things a whole lot easier if you complete the following steps before submitting your first college application.

Request a Fee Waiver 

The average undergraduate program application fee is $50, and depending on how many schools you intend to apply to, this can add up quickly. If you have limited financial resources, apply for a Admission Application Fee Waiver from NACAC (The National Association for College Counseling, or ask your school counselor for support.

Add Your Colleges to Your FAFSA

There is a section on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) where you can name up to 10 colleges where you would like your FAFSA to go. Make sure that this list matches the list of colleges you are applying to. If one of those colleges does not receive your FAFSA, they will not be able to consider you for financial aid. Check out our FAFSA page for more info.

Organize Your Documents

In addition to the application itself, most colleges require that you send your current (and final) high school transcript, as well as a counselor’s evaluation, and a current schedule of classes. You may also need a personal statement, letters of recommendation and standardized test scores. Check out the section below for more details.

So about those documents…

College applications vary by school. All schools will ask for your basic contact information, and most will ask for your GPA and SAT or ACT score. Some will ask you to enter your high school classes and grades so far, for a list of your extracurricular involvement and awards, and other supporting documents such as:

Personal Statement/ Essays

Some schools will require a writing sample, either in the form of an essay or a personal statement. This is your opportunity to really showcase your strengths, your writing ability, and speak to what makes you unique.

Recommendation Letters

Most schools require at least 1 and possibly 2 or more letters of recommendation. These can be provided by teachers, co-workers, counselors, coaches, mentors, family friends, and many others. Learn how to gather strong references on our Letters of Recommendation page.

Your High School Transcript

Request a transcript from your school counselor. Take time to review your transcript and ensure it doesn’t have any mistakes and that it includes all of your extracurricular activities, awards, or special recognitions.

Application Options

Common Application:

More than 1,000 schools accept the Common App, where you can fill out one application and send it to multiple schools. Each school may include additional questions as part of their application. If you’re wondering if it’s worth it to complete the Common App, a good rule of thumb is if you’re applying to 3 or more schools that accept the Common App, submitting it will likely save you time overall.

Black Common Application:

Another application that allows you to apply to multiple schools through one application is the Black Common App. By completing the Black Common App, you can apply to any of 67 HBCU colleges in the U.S.

Centralized Application (Chicago):

In Chicago, the City Colleges of Chicago’s centralized application will allow you to submit one application which can be used to apply to any of the 7 City College campuses.

That’s it!

You are all set to apply. Don’t forget to keep track of your passwords, and use one email address for all your applications to make them easier to manage. Good luck! Keep a running list of each college you apply to, and as you submit each one, give yourself a reward!

Recommended Resources


Your Application

"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

Malcolm X, human rights activist