Summer College Application Tasks for Rising Seniors

  • If you are anticipating applying to 4-year colleges in 2021-2022, start the following this summer. 

    Some of the tasks below are quite involved. Though I recommend the following steps, Shorewood seniors successfully apply to colleges with widely varying amounts of preparation. Some have done all of these and some have barely thought about college. 

    Doing these tasks will make applications during the school year easier and perhaps more successful. 


    To help guide you, make a copy of each of these documents: 

    all updated June 2021


    1. Set Up a System

    You want to be organized so that you can maximize your work. Using your k12 Google account, set up some folders. The basics:  

    • College Applications
      • Tracking
      • College Writing
        • Personal Statement
        • Secondary Essays
        • Activities
      • Brag Sheets

    And add folders as needed.


    2. Work on Your College List 

    If you are researching and figuring out the best options for you, use the following resources and add the schools to your Naviance Colleges I’m Thinking About list or your Colleges I’m Applying To list. 

    Search in Naviance.

    If you like a college you discover, add it to your Naviance list by using the + add to my list or clicking the heart. 

    • SuperMatch to search for possibilties using 20+ factors. Log in (same password as Canvas) > Colleges tab > College Research > SuperMatch. Play with the variables. Enter a major & a geographic area to start with and then add other factors to narrow down. Don't be too restrictive on size. 
    • College Lookup to view particular colleges. 
    • College Compare to compare college average numbers (GPA & Test Scores) with other college and with your own numbers. 



    Use other methods

    These are both suggested by Ethan Sawyer, aka The College Essay Guy. 

    Corsava & CollegeXpress tools

    1. Sign up for Corsava and do a match to figure out your priorities. 
    2. Figure out which priorities are "Must Have" for you. 
    3. Go to CollegeXpress Lists, search for your must-have factors. 
    4. If you wish, you can use this template to paste the lists of colleges and see which ones show up most often once you put all of the factors together.  The template is filled out with an example. The student has put their priorities at the top, then pasted the lists of colleges from CollegeXpress and then is figuring out the common schools. 

    How to Create a Great College List 

    1. Download the How to Create a Great College List document.
    2. Use the tools near the beginning (College Planning Values Assessment, Self-Knowledge Questionnaire) to think about what would be best for you.
    3. Use the lists for subject areas for schools that have or are known to be good for your intended area of study. 
    4. Explore the other lists according to your interests/ values (Colleges Going Green, College Giving Academic Grants, etc.) There are scores, if not hundreds of list. 


    Use our College List Worksheet

    • Once you find colleges, this tool helps you dig beyond surface characteristics.
    • Has categories for Personal, Academic, and Financial Fit
    • Use tools like to research 


    Use the College Fit page to assist your search.

    We emphasize Personal, Academic, and Financial fit. The College Fit page has resources and steps for all three areas. 


    Include Schools that are Likely and/ or Possible

    Put schools on your list that are either likely (you will probably be admitted) or possible (you have a decent chance of being admitted). Every school on your list should be one that is suited to you and you would like to go there. 


    3. Start the Common App (if  you have Common App schools)

    See the Common App page for detailed steps & recommendations. 

    Check to see if the schools you are applying to use the Common Application. Look online > Member Colleges. Right now the list is last year’s but should be updated August 1.



    4. Start the Coalition App (if  you are applying to UW Seattle or the other 150+ schools on the list)

    See the Coalition Application page for further detail and a presentation about this relatively new application. 

    Anytime in Summer

    Be aware that the Coalition does NOT integrate with Naviance.

    This will mean a bit more work on your part since Shorewood will not know what you need for schools other than UW Seattle. 

    After your Senior Year Begins

    • Request an unofficial transcript from the Counseling Secretary. This will help you fill out the Courses & Grades section. 
    • Keep your Counselor, the Counseling Secretary, and Mrs. Stephens informed about what is needed when for particular schools. 


    5. Work on your Application Essay/ Personal Statement (if  you need one)

    Not all schools require an essay. Common App schools, the University of Washington, and Western do require an essay. Check your schools' Admissions websites to be sure. 

    For all colleges, see our College Application Essay page to walk you through the process. We recommend starting with your idea and then fitting it to a prompt. 

    If you have Common App schools, see Common App First Year Essay Prompts

    If you are applying to UW Seattle, see First Year Writing Section.

    If you are applying to Western Washington University, see WWU Essay and Activities List.


    6. Start the Letters of Recommendation Process (if  you need letters)

    If you need letters of recommendation (Common App schools do, UW does not), start filling out brag sheets if your teachers want them. Learn more on the Letters of Recommendation page. Watch the Letters of Recommendation screencast for a full explanation of how the process works. 

    Important:  Common App schools require a counselor letter of recommendation as well as teacher recommendations. 


    7. Research Academic / Numbers Fit

    Even though numbers are only part of the entire scenario, they can give you an idea of range. You should be in a school’s general GPA/ test score range to put that school on your list. See the College Fit page, Academic fit section, for steps and resources. 


    8. Research Financial Fit (for students and parent/ guardians together)

    Understand the Financial Aid Process

    See Financial Fit section of the College Fit page and the Financial Aid page. 

    Learn about the FAFSA / WASFA

    • Almost all families will fill out either the FAFSA or WASFA.
    • See the FAFSA page or the WASFA page.
    • Both the FAFSA & WASFA open October 1 and it is best to get to it as soon as possible. 


    Do Research to Prevent Surprises

    See the College Fit page and scroll down to Financial Fit for recommended steps for students & parent/ guardians to do together. 



    9. Research Application Types & Deadlines for Your Schools

    The following are a few of the items on the Summer College Application Tasks checklist. Please see that list for more details.  

    Application Types

    Naviance will help you figure out the types of applications. Look at the icons in your Thinking About or Applying To list. 

    N icons

    • If there is a computer with nothing in it, that college may use its own independent application that you will complete through the college website, or it may use the Coalition Application. Check the college website to be absolutely certain. 
    • If there is a computer with CA, that is a Common App school. 
    • If there is a computer with a ? the school has at least two options for applying and you must make a choice. Only after you make a choice and the icon changes to one of the other options will Shorewood be able to send the school documents supporting your application.
    • If there is a stamp, you will need to do a bit more work. There still may be an electronic application for the student portion, but the college does not accept supporting documents electronically and you must provide stamped, addressed envelopes for Shorewood to send documents on your behalf. 


    Application Deadlines

    There are several types of deadlines, and different schools have different options. In the fall when you set up your Naviance account, you will have to select which deadline you want for each school if there is more than one option. Verify these options on the college website, since Naviance often lists generic options rather than a customized list. 

    • Early Action
    • Early Decision
    • Regular
    • Rolling (for four-year colleges, we recommend that you apply by February 1 at the latest)


    Types of Deadlines

    Deadline Types Graphic  

    Early Action

    Applying "early action" does not mean that you have to make your choice any earlier, but it does mean that you get a decision from the school earlier. Look for language like this: "Candidates who wish to receive earlier notification of the admission decision but are not ready to commit to XYZ College are encouraged to apply under our non-binding Early Action program (EA). EA applicants receive an admission decision within four weeks from the completion (including reception of transcripts and other school documents) of their applications, but admitted EA candidates are not required to decide whether to accept their offer until the universal candidate reply date of May 1. Students admitted under the EA plan will also receive merit scholarship notification on an earlier rolling basis beginning in the late fall. However, EA candidates who are applying for need-based financial aid will not receive their award letters until mid to late March, along with regular decision candidates."

    Early Decision

    Applying to a college "early decision" means that if you are accepted, you agree to withdraw all applications to other schools. You would only apply "early decision" to your top choice school. On school websites, you may find language like this, "If XYZ college is your clear first choice, you can apply under the binding Early Decision (ED) plan. When you apply ED, you are committing to attend XYZ college if you are offered admission. Once admitted, you must withdraw your applications from other colleges and universities to which you have applied. Historically, ED candidates are admitted to XYZ college at a higher rate than other applicants."

    Regular Decision/ Deadline

    The default date for applications to a particular school. Regular deadlines vary greatly, from November 15 for UW Seattle (this is new in 2017) to January 31 for Western Washington University. Check the deadline not only in Naviance but also on the college website. 

    Rolling Admission / Rolling Deadlines

    Several colleges accept applications on an ongoing basis, until they fill the first-year class. However, while you could wait until March or even April, we do not recommend you do so. The college might fill all of their spots earlier than the latest date. Most colleges with rolling deadlines have Priority Deadlines for scholarship consideration, FAFSA processing, or for particular programs. See this fine print from the University of Portland:

    We operate with rolling admissions and open the admission cycle for freshmen September 1. Our priority deadline is November 15 and we highly encourage students to apply well in advance of our January 15 final deadline; each year we receive more applications than the year before and acceptance spots fill before January. The Office of Admissions will begin the evaluation process for each individual applicant as soon the application is complete.  University of Portland Admissions FAQ


    10. Be Purposeful about Maintaining a Healthy Perspective

    The college application process can be stressful. There is a lot to do, and students are putting themselves out to be evaluated in a more significant way than they have before. The above steps are suggested as a way to make senior year less stressful. Our school year starts so late and college-related dates come up so quickly (FAFSA opens October 1; college deadlines start October 15) that most students have a difficult time adding all of the tasks to an already full school schedule. 

    Families should realize the following

    • There is not only one path to 4-year college. Students can start at a 2-year college, take a gap year, or work before going to college. 
    • None of these decisions are binary with success or failure as the only two possible outcomes. 
    • There are always other college options. You won't run out even if plans A, B, or C do not work out. If you aren't pleased with the 4-year options you have in the spring, every May 400+ colleges that did not meet their yield targets reopen applications. 
    • You can do your best with things that are under your control, but you do not have control over how many students apply to the schools you are applying to or what exactly each admissions committee is looking for this year. Not getting in to a school is not a personal failure. 
    • Shorewood seniors revise their decisions and paths right up through high school graduation. 


    To help maintain perspective, consider

    • Limiting when and where you talk about college. Some families limit it to a particular day of the week, say Sunday afternoons, so it does not dominate every conversation. 
    • Actively cultivating a realistic and healthy perspective by:
    • Reading Where you Go Is Not Who You'll Be (click to read an excerpt or read this review) by Frank Bruni. This book, subtitled An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, promotes a healthy outlook. Where you go to college is not as what you do while you are there. 
    • Viewing Malcolm Gladwell's Zeitgeist Americas 2013 talk on college brand name obsession. He presents data to support the conclusion that it matters more what you do at a college than where you go, even in STEM disciplines. He calls it Elite Institution Cognitive Disorder. Listen to the talk as you do another task or watch it together.