Filling out college applications is just one step of the college search process. But students and families quickly find out that this one step isn’t as simple as you might think. And there is a lot of advice out there on how you should complete the step. Before you swamp yourself in page after page of internet search results, use the following websites to orient yourself and figure out what information you really need to complete the college applications.

1: Read Up on Requirements

The term “college application” covers more than just one form that you submit to a college. The application includes fees, transcripts, essays, test scores, and more. BigFuture’s Quick Guide: The Anatomy of the College Application lists the major elements of the college application. This is why applying to college is all about organization. Colleges will have different deadlines, use different forms, and require different essays and you need to keep track of it all.

 2: Get Further Details

How to Apply for College: Complete Expert Guide  PrepScholar breaks down all the major pieces and for each tells you “What Will You Send” and “Why Do Colleges Care?”

A Complete Guide to the College Application Process  is organized around questions about the college application process. They provide detailed answers, many including comments from professionals involved in the process.
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3: Put Pen to Paper (or finger to tablet)

The number of colleges that require students to use their own application is steadily decreasing. Using a general application means that students can spend less time filling out college applications and more time on essays. Visit these sites sooner rather than later so that you aren’t surprised by any requirements.

The Common Application is used by over 750 colleges, including over 100 public institutions. The application is updated on August 1st.

The Universal College Application has 16 college members.

Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success has over 130 members but not all may be using their application.

Many states have a common application that is used by public institutions in the state. Some include private colleges as well. If you’ll be applying to in-state universities, you need to find out if they use a common application and check on the requirements.

4: Get Down and Dirty with your Word Processor

There are lots of checklists out there to use when you’re writing your essay and even more lists of mistakes to avoid. Before you start worrying about checking off boxes, visit Essay Hell where Janine Robinson reminds everyone to focus on the basics in How to Write A College Application-In 3 Easy Steps.

Naked Confessions of the College-Bound is a warning about oversharing. Try to stay away from “excessively and awkwardly naked testimonials, which can raise red flags about students’ emotional stability and about their judgment.”

Expert Advice to Get You Started on Your College Application Essays combs the wisdom of six college essay experts for the information you need to get your essay done right.

Top Five Mistakes Students Make on their College Application Essays is a guest post by Randy Levine. Great essay advice delivered with a sense of humor.

5: Find Your Sidekick

The college application process is hard enough as it is. It’s OK to ask for a little help! From essay editing to college selection, a good counselor can go a long way. Letters of Recommendation are also a great way for your high school teachers to help you get into your top choice school!

How to Ask For a Letter of Recommendation: Complete Guide: If this isn’t the most comprehensive guide for asking for a letter of recommendation, it has to be one of the top three. For the parent perspective, check out 5 Ways Parents Can Help Their Students Get Great Letters of Recommendation for College

High School Counselors: Counting on your high school counselor to guide you through the college admission process may be a mistake. Lynn O’Shaughnessy often writes about high school counselors and their limitations.

It’s important to mention that High School Counselors are responsible for dozens of students and cannot always give yours the time they need. That’s where a private college counselor comes in. At MVP College Funding, we’re more than happy to devote whatever is required to get your student(s) into their #1 school! Contact us today for a free 1-hour consultation!

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This article originally appeared on DIYCollegeRankings. You can view it here

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