Seniors – College Application Process

Have you ever wondered what it’s like inside the admissions office of a very selective college at decision time?  

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Seniors – College Application Process


Be Aware of Different Decision Types:

  • Early Action- Early action programs have earlier deadlines and earlier decision dates, but they are not binding. They do not require you to enroll if you are accepted. You may apply to other schools. Student must reply to offers of admission by May 1.

  • Restricted Early Action- Students who apply Restricted Early Action or Single Choice Early Action are not permitted to apply early decision to any school, or early action at other private institutions. Students don’t have to commit if admitted and are free to apply via regular admission anywhere. Students must reply by May 1.

  • Early Decision-Decisions are BINDING! You may only apply to one  Early Decision school. If admitted, students must attend. Students should use the Early Decision option only for their clear first choice and  if you appear to be within the profile of accepted students. You must withdraw all other  applications if accepted.

  • Regular Decision- Decisions are made and announced from mid-March through mid-April. Students must reply by May 1.

  • Rolling or Modified Rolling- Decisions are made as completed applications and required documents  are received and are sent to committee. Students must reply by May 1. 

  • VIP applications– are sent to you by colleges as a marketing strategy.  They usually offer shorter notification time, no fee or fewer recommendations.  Completing this type of application does not increase your chances of getting in. If the college is also a Common Application member, they cannot offer you an incentive with a VIP application that they will not match with the Common Application. If the college is also a Common Application member, you should apply using the Common Application, as we may be unable to send documents electronically  otherwise.


Once you have balanced and finalized the list of colleges to which you will apply, it’s time to begin the application process:    

1.  Release of Records and FERPA

  • Each senior must complete the Release of Records form on line. If you are under 18, it must be signed by a parent. The Release of  Records can be found online in Naviance, on the HOME page in the left menu or follow the link above.

  • You must complete a FERPA waiver, indicating whether you waive your rights to access letters of recommendation upon college matriculation. The FERPA waiver is available online, on Naviance, on the HOME page in the left menu or by clicking on the link above. 

Waiving your right lets colleges know that you will never try to read your recommendations. That in turn reassures colleges that your recommenders have provided support that is candid and truthful.

While you are free to respond as you wish, if you choose not to waive your right, some recommenders may decline your request, and some colleges may disregard letters submitted on your behalf.

Remember, even if you retain your right of access, you still won’t be able to view any recommendations until after you have been admitted to and enrolled in a college. 

  • Once the releases are complete, Transcripts/ Supporting Documents may be requested using the appropriate form available in the Guidance Office. (See instructions below) 

2.  Essays

  • Most colleges require at least one essay as part of the application process. Follow the guidelines established for length and topic. Check spelling, grammar and punctuation.

  • There are a number of helpful websites on the useful links page to help you with your essay. Your English teacher will also offer suggestions; just ask.

3.  Letters of Recommendation

  • Most colleges request a Counselor Letter of Recommendation.

  • In order for your counselor to write your letter of recommendation, we request that you submit a personal profile, parent brag sheet and resume. 

    • The Counselor letter serves as the “flood light” to shine on all facets of the student- in the classroom, in activities, sports, arts, volunteerism, etc. 

  •  Each college determines if they require Teacher Letters of Recommendation, and if so, how many.

  • Teacher letters of recommendation are intended to shine a “spotlight” on the student in an academic setting. Teachers’ letters  focus on achievements in the classroom, contribution to learning, relationships with peers, etc.

  • It is your responsibility to ask teachers for letters of recommendation, if you need them. This may be done as early as junior year, but at least 4 weeks prior to your first deadline.  The initial request should ALWAYS be made in person.

  • No matter when you asked a teacher to write for you, it is your responsibility to email the teacher, confirm, and communicate your first deadline date.  The email request should only be used as a confirmation, so you and the teacher can track its completion. DO NOT USE THE TEACHER RECOMMENDATION FEATURE IN NAVIANCE.  The initial request should ALWAYS be made in person

  • While on Naviance, click on the FERPA link in the left menu.  Complete the on line FERPA waiver regarding recommendations.
  • Most colleges prefer that letters be written by a teacher who knows your most recent work, work ethic and capabilities. They prefer that it be a teacher you had in junior or senior year, in an academic subject. If you choose to ask a senior teacher (that you haven’t had before), do so only after the first quarter.

  • Teachers will upload their recommendation letters to Naviance.  They will complete the Common Application teacher form (if necessary for your colleges) on Naviance, as well.

  • Do not invite teachers to complete electronic recommendation forms for any college on the college’s application page or the Common Application. Teacher recommendations and supporting documents can be sent to any college that supports electronic documents, through eDocs.

4. Applications

  • You are responsible for preparing and submitting each of your applications.  Your application is the most important document in the process. It should be the first document submitted to the college and must be on time!   The college needs to start a file (either a paper or electronic file) before it can add other school documents. If you wait until the deadline day to submit, your supporting documents can’t possibly be logged in as “on time.”
  • Submission methods:
    • Electronic applications and supporting documents (transcripts and recommendations) are preferred over paper and will usually be uploaded to a college’s server within 24 hours.The colleges need an additional 3-5 days to sort and match supporting documents. So, don’t be surprised to get a letter that indicates required documents are missing, as most times they are automatically generated when an application is entered in the database.
    • Paper applications and supporting documents will be delayed 3- 4 weeks in processing, as they must be opened, sorted, scanned, and filed. In most cases, the paper documents are then destroyed, as most college admission offices are going “green” and admission officers need to access documents from home, as well as “on the road.”

 Common Application and Supplements: Common Application simplifies the process, as you complete the Common Application once and send it to any member college to which you wish to apply

  1. Go to Create a user name and password. Your application will be stored here, so that you may use the same version for all of your colleges that accept the Common Application. Please use the same email address/user name on Common App that you do on Naviance. 
  2. Complete each section of the application. Add at least one college.

  3. Once you add at least one college, you must complete the Common Application FERPA waiver( Family Educational Rights and  Privacy Act) . To do so, click the Assign Recommenders tab for any college within My Colleges. The FERPA waiver is only completed once and covers all current and future colleges and recommenders within the Common Application. 

Waiving your right lets colleges know that you will never try to read your recommendations. That in turn reassures colleges that your recommenders have provided support that is candid and truthful. While you are free to respond as you wish, if you choose not to waive your right, some recommenders may decline your request, and some colleges may disregard letters submitted on your behalf. Remember, even if you retain your right of access, you still won’t be able to view any recommendations until after you have been admitted to and enrolled in a college. 

       4.  Next, go to the “Colleges” tab in your Naviance account. Click on “Colleges I’m Applying to“.  In the box indicated, enter the email address you used to register for Common App, “match” your Naviance account. Enter or
             confirm your birth date. Click on “MATCH”.

  •  Supplements - Many schools have supplements to the Common App. The Common App website lists each school and whether a supplement is required. It is your responsibility to determine if a supplement is required.
  •  If a college accepts the Common App and also has its own online application, you must apply via the Common App for us to be able to send electronic documents.
  • Discipline Disclosure: College applications require students to disclose high school disciplinary issues which result in probation, suspension, removal, dismissal or expulsion. Students must also disclose issues involving law enforcement that result in conviction of any crime. In addition, counselors are required to disclose the same issues, of which we have knowledge, on our initial counselor/school report form, and are expected to notify all applicant colleges of any changes to a student’s discipline standing through the end of the school year. Students are encouraged to answer honestly and explain the circumstances completely.

Individual College Application (found on the individual college’s website): 

  • Even if the college has its own application, if it is also a member of the Common Application, you must use the Common Application rather than the college’s individual application for us to send documents electronically.

  • Some Common App member colleges also use their own VIP applications, which offer a fee waiver. You can use the Common App while keeping the “fee waiver” benefit. As a member of the Common Application, colleges may not offer a perk to students using their own application, without offering the same benefit to students who choose to use the Common App. See your counselor, so we can assure that college will process the application “fee free.”

5.  Resumes

  • Some Common Application schools and individual colleges allow you to cut and paste a Microsoft Word version of your resume into the on-line document, usually in the Questions section of the college’s application. If you are unable to add your resume to the application document, please contact the college directly for its policy on resumes. 

 6. Transcripts

  • Once you have requested letters of recommendation and have submitted your application, complete a transcript/ supporting documents request form for each college or university to which you are applying, as an official transcript must be sent to each college.

    • For a transcript to be official, it must be sent from the Guidance Office. 

  • An unofficial transcript is one that is in your possession, and not sent directly from the Guidance/ School Counseling Office. You should use an unofficial transcript for visits, interviews, scholarships and coach contact.

  • When requesting transcripts, please allow 15 school days in advance of your first deadline or target date. Please give the secretaries at least 10 school days notice prior to any other deadline or target date.                           

—If 1st deadline is October 15> request by  September 22
—If 1st deadline is November 1> request by October 11
—If 1st deadline is November 15> request by October 21
—If 1st deadline is December 1> request by November 8
—If 1st deadline is January 1> request by  December 2
  • Transcripts include final grades through junior year and courses in progress/ current grades in senior year. For example, after 1st quarter grades are posted, transcripts will include all courses taken in grades 9, 10 and 11 with final grades and credits earned, as well as 1st quarter grades in all senior courses. 
    If you requested transcripts to be sent before first marking period grades were available, and your college then requests these 1st quarter or Mid Year grades, you must submit a separate request (no additional fee) to have an updated transcript sent. Mid Year grades will not be sent automatically. 

  • Transcript request forms/first marking period grade requests/mid-year requests are available in Guidance/School Counseling Office. 

  •  We will submit transcripts electronically, through Naviance, to colleges to which you sent your application electronically.  All Common Application schools and most other colleges prefer and will accept electronic transcripts.

  • At this time, please be aware that Rutgers does not want a transcript when you apply, but please advise your counselor that you’ve applied to Rutgers. You will complete a grade verification report as part of the application. A transcript will be required if the student is admitted and chooses to attend.

  7.   SATs/ACT’s :

  • Don’t forget to request that SAT’s/ACT’s be sent to the colleges by the appropriate testing agency, if they are required. Testing agencies my take 3-4 weeks to send scores, so plan ahead.

  • These test scores are not part of your official transcript.


Please note:  Your admissions file will not be sent to committee at the college until all required documents are received.


Accepting Offer of Admission

May 1 is the universal application reply date. If accepting an offer of admission, you must do so by May 1 to insure a place in the freshman class.
Once a student has accepted an offer of admission, the student should acknowledge and decline all other offers. If a student has applied Early Decision, a student should decline any other offers, and withdraw any applications with decisions still pending.


Updated August 22, 2016