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A Timeline for Preparing & Applying to Universities

Staring the application process in the face is intimidating and overwhelming. Universities try to make it easier with simple instructions, but let’s face it, when you have ten schools you’re applying to, nothing is simple. Here is a helpful timeline to keep yourself calm and collected during this busy time.


It can never be too early to start and get yourself organized for the upcoming application season. Now is the time to be researching schools you’re interested in whether it’s gathering online information, interviewing current students and alumni, or visiting yourself. Form an organizational system to help decide first where to apply and next, how to apply. You may find it helpful to keep a journal about your impressions or a ranked pro and con list. Keep in mind that some colleges require an application fee and others ask you to fill out supplemental information.

After you’ve narrowed down your list, you’ll want to make a new one. This one will contain all of the requirements for the schools’ applications as well as deadlines and helpful links and email addresses. A simple way to set up a list you can expand and contract as needed is to use an excel spreadsheet. This way you’ll also be able to add clickable links to things like essay prompts and where to pay your deposit.


Now is the time you’ll be using to generate all of your application materials. Most schools will ask for teacher recommendations. Think about teachers and possibly school administrators, coaches, and club advisors who can best write about your strengths as a student and person. Try to ask them as soon as possible to ensure they’ll have adequate time to write a personalized recommendation and make it as easy as possible by providing them with everything they’ll need. This will definitely include a mailable address or online link for the letter depending on each school, but teachers also may like a resume with your extracurriculars and GPA so that they can translate their impressions of you to your qualities as a whole.

Colleges will also need your academic transcript and test scores as part of your application. Get in touch with your school advisor to make sure your transcripts are being sent to the right places. Remember that the college you eventually commit to may ask for a second transcript with your last semester grades, so getting to know your advisor now will help in the spring as well.

As for test scores, double check each college’s requirements. Some will take either the ACT or SAT, but others prefer one over the other and even ask for subject tests. You may have taken your standardized test of choice last school year, but if you haven’t or want to try for a better score, there’s still time to sign up in the fall. Make sure to investigate the latest you can take the test for it to be reported to your colleges.

After you’ve made sure you’ll have recommendations, transcripts, and scores to send, you’ll be turning to the more time-intensive part of the application process: the essay(s). Whether you have to write one general essay or many supplemental essays, you’ll want to set up a timeline to keep yourself on track. Work with colleges’ deadlines to decide which essays have priority and allow yourself plenty of time for trusted peers and adults to read your work and give you feedback to revise. An easy way to make sure these few months will result in polished essays is to divide the essays by the amount of time you have, say finishing one essay every two weeks or so. You might also find it helpful to look at all of your required essays together and group those that are similar enough to simply revise or switch around to fit different prompts. This will leave you more time for the editing process and ensure you’ll be less stressed toward the deadlines.


Many deadlines are sometime around January 1, so by the beginning of December you’ll want to make sure you’re checking the majority of your items off your spreadsheet. If you’re applying early decision or early action, you’ll want to have everything checked off by now! December is a good time to check in and finish up anything you haven’t gotten around to yet. Make sure that your recommenders have turned in your letters and the colleges have received your transcripts and test scores. At this point you’ll be grateful you have all of the requirements written out and easily visible in one place!

Whether you’re apply to just a few colleges or upwards of ten, keeping an organized spreadsheet and acting early will make all the difference. College application pages will be most helpful in providing the information you need and will allow you to feel in control of one of the most exciting times in your life!

CU Denver Admissions

How to Fill Out a FAFSA

“The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the form used by the U.S. Department of Education to determine your Expected Family Contribution by conducting a “need analysis” based on financial information… The form is submitted to, and processed by, a federal processor contracted by the U.S. Department of Education, and the results are electronically transmitted to the financial aid offices of the schools that you list on your application.” – FAFSA.com

Seems kind of important, doesn’t it?

If you are planning on applying for financial aid, you’re gonna have to fill out a FAFSA. Although the FAFSA may seem like a complex process, it’s actually fairly simple to fill out. There are also a lot of free tools to help you through the process and the FAFSA is available online for free at fafsa.ed.gov. You can complete, submit and track your application online, making this the easiest way to apply for federal aid. The website even checks your data before you submit it so there’s less chance of making an error.

Here’s what you and your parents will need in order to fill out the FAFSA:
PIN numbers – Personal Identification Numbers are used to electronically apply for student aid. Think of it as your electronic signature. (get your PIN here)
Social Security Numbers
2013 Federal Income Tax Returns
Bank statements

For more in-depth tips and advice about filling out your FAFSA, click here.
The biggest tip we can give you is this – don’t wait. The FAFSA is an important part of applying for college and we want to help students prepare the best we can. Visit our Financial Aid office for more information on how to pay for college.

Sept. 2, 2011

Freshman Application – Steps and Guidance

So, you have officially made it to your senior year of high school! Let us at CU Denver be one of the first to congratulate you, because we know that high school can be a tough journey filled with homework, homecomings, driving lessons, and more homework. You are nearing the end of your high school journey and reading this post because you are starting to think about your next journey: COLLEGE.

One of the biggest parts of starting your college journey is filling out those college applications. They can be daunting, but we want this process to be extremely easy for you so that you can enjoy that last homecoming dance and football game (and of course more homework). Let us do this step by step with you:

1. Fill out our online application.

2. Pay the $50 non-refundable application fee.

3. Send your score – ACT or SAT (don’t worry, we take both!) – to Undergraduate Admissions and K-12 Outreach.

  • ACT code: 0533
  • SAT code: 4875
  • Mailing address
    CU Denver
    Undergraduate Admissions and K-12 Outreach
    Campus Box 167
    PO Box 173364
    Denver, CO 80217

4. Have your high school counselor send us an official transcript to Undergraduate Admissions and K-12 Outreach (address was conveniently placed in the step above).

That is it! You may be asking yourself, “What about an application essay?” Well, at CU Denver we do not require an essay for your application. So unless you feel the need to impress us with your awesome writing skills, there is no need to submit an essay… we are pretty sure that you have enough essays coming up.

Also, be sure to check on your application status from time to time, just to be sure everything is moving along.

See! That isn’t so bad, is it? After you complete the application process noted above, go out and enjoy your senior year in high school, because it is worth enjoying!

Mel – Senior Biology Student at CU Denver