Tips for Writing an Effective Application Essay

Find the right college for you.

Writing an essay for college admission gives you a chance to use your authentic voice and show your personality. It's an excellent opportunity to personalize your application beyond your academic credentials, and a well-written essay can have a positive influence come decision time.

Want to know how to draft an essay for your college application ? Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing.

Tips for Essay Writing

A typical college application essay, also known as a personal statement, is 400-600 words. Although that may seem short, writing about yourself can be challenging. It's not something you want to rush or put off at the last moment. Think of it as a critical piece of the application process. Follow these tips to write an impactful essay that can work in your favor.

1. Start Early.

Few people write well under pressure. Try to complete your first draft a few weeks before you have to turn it in. Many advisers recommend starting as early as the summer before your senior year in high school. That way, you have ample time to think about the prompt and craft the best personal statement possible.

You don't have to work on your essay every day, but you'll want to give yourself time to revise and edit. You may discover that you want to change your topic or think of a better way to frame it. Either way, the sooner you start, the better.

2. Understand the Prompt and Instructions.

Before you begin the writing process, take time to understand what the college wants from you. The worst thing you can do is skim through the instructions and submit a piece that doesn't even fit the bare minimum requirements or address the essay topic. Look at the prompt, consider the required word count, and note any unique details each school wants.

3. Create a Strong Opener.

Students seeking help for their application essays often have trouble getting things started. It's a challenging writing process. Finding the right words to start can be the hardest part.

Spending more time working on your opener is always a good idea. The opening sentence sets the stage for the rest of your piece. The introductory paragraph is what piques the interest of the reader, and it can immediately set your essay apart from the others.

4. Stay on Topic.

One of the most important things to remember is to keep to the essay topic. If you're applying to 10 or more colleges, it's easy to veer off course with so many application essays.

A common mistake many students make is trying to fit previously written essays into the mold of another college's requirements. This seems like a time-saving way to avoid writing new pieces entirely, but it often backfires. The result is usually a final piece that's generic, unfocused, or confusing. Always write a new essay for every application, no matter how long it takes.

5. Think About Your Response.

Don't try to guess what the admissions officials want to read. Your essay will be easier to write─and more exciting to read─if you’re genuinely enthusiastic about your subject. Here’s an example: If all your friends are writing application essays about covid-19, it may be a good idea to avoid that topic, unless during the pandemic you had a vivid, life-changing experience you're burning to share. Whatever topic you choose, avoid canned responses. Be creative.

6. Focus on You.

Essay prompts typically give you plenty of latitude, but panel members expect you to focus on a subject that is personal (although not overly intimate) and particular to you. Admissions counselors say the best essays help them learn something about the candidate that they would never know from reading the rest of the application.

7. Stay True to Your Voice.

Use your usual vocabulary. Avoid fancy language you wouldn't use in real life. Imagine yourself reading this essay aloud to a classroom full of people who have never met you. Keep a confident tone. Be wary of words and phrases that undercut that tone.

8. Be Specific and Factual.

Capitalize on real-life experiences. Your essay may give you the time and space to explain why a particular achievement meant so much to you. But resist the urge to exaggerate and embellish. Admissions counselors read thousands of essays each year. They can easily spot a fake.

9. Edit and Proofread.

When you finish the final draft, run it through the spell checker on your computer. Then don’t read your essay for a few days. You'll be more apt to spot typos and awkward grammar when you reread it. After that, ask a teacher, parent, or college student (preferably an English or communications major) to give it a quick read. While you're at it, double-check your word count.

Writing essays for college admission can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. A well-crafted essay could be the deciding factor─in your favor. Keep these tips in mind, and you'll have no problem creating memorable pieces for every application.

What is the format of a college application essay?

Generally, essays for college admission follow a simple format that includes an opening paragraph, a lengthier body section, and a closing paragraph. You don't need to include a title, which will only take up extra space. Keep in mind that the exact format can vary from one college application to the next. Read the instructions and prompt for more guidance.

Most online applications will include a text box for your essay. If you're attaching it as a document, however, be sure to use a standard, 12-point font and use 1.5-spaced or double-spaced lines, unless the application specifies different font and spacing.

How do you start an essay?

The goal here is to use an attention grabber. Think of it as a way to reel the reader in and interest an admissions officer in what you have to say. There's no trick on how to start a college application essay. The best way you can approach this task is to flex your creative muscles and think outside the box.

You can start with openers such as relevant quotes, exciting anecdotes, or questions. Either way, the first sentence should be unique and intrigue the reader.

What should an essay include?

Every application essay you write should include details about yourself and past experiences. It's another opportunity to make yourself look like a fantastic applicant. Leverage your experiences. Tell a riveting story that fulfills the prompt.

What shouldn’t be included in an essay?

When writing a college application essay, it's usually best to avoid overly personal details and controversial topics. Although these topics might make for an intriguing essay, they can be tricky to express well. If you’re unsure if a topic is appropriate for your essay, check with your school counselor. An essay for college admission shouldn't include a list of achievements or academic accolades either. Your essay isn’t meant to be a rehashing of information the admissions panel can find elsewhere in your application.

How can you make your essay personal and interesting?

The best way to make your essay interesting is to write about something genuinely important to you. That could be an experience that changed your life or a valuable lesson that had an enormous impact on you. Whatever the case, speak from the heart, and be honest.

Is it OK to discuss mental health in an essay?

Mental health struggles can create challenges you must overcome during your education and could be an opportunity for you to show how you’ve handled challenges and overcome obstacles. If you’re considering writing your essay for college admission on this topic, consider talking to your school counselor or with an English teacher on how to frame the essay.

Related Articles

College Application Letters: Cover Letters & Letters of Continued Interest

College application letters.

College application cover letters support your college applications, college resume, and college application essay prompts. In combination with the other elements of your college applications, particularly your college entrance essay, college application letters help establish your “why.” In short, a college application letter is a cover letter for your college applications that describes your background, skills, and interest in the school. When looking at college application cover letter examples, pay attention to the values that they express. College application letters and college entrance essays are similar in that they are exercises in personal branding. When reading college application cover letter examples, pay attention to the messages they convey. 

If you’re wondering how to write a college application letter, has advisors who can walk you through every part of the process. If your goal is to get into top colleges, can help. We’ll analyze examples of college application letters and discuss the letter of continued interest to help you craft successful applications. 

In this guide, we’ll break down the different kinds of college application letters you may encounter when completing your college applications. We’ll discuss the college application letter and the letter of continued interest, as well as teacher recommendation letters.

If you want to read college application cover letter samples, you’ve come to the right place!

What is a college application letter?

To learn how to write a college application letter, you must first understand its purpose. Do this by checking out college application cover letter examples. College application letters and college resumes serve as introductions for your college applications. Unlike college application essay prompts, there are no specific questions to answer in your cover letter. Instead, include the essential elements of university application letters: your background, what makes you unique, and your reasons for wanting to attend that particular college. In short, what makes you, you .

As you’ll see when reading example college application letters, college application cover letters are not all that different from what you would write in a cover letter when applying for a job or graduate school. The purpose of college application cover letters, college entrance essays, and college resumes is to persuade colleges that you are the strongest candidate for admissions. 

College application cover letters are not the time to be shy, but they’re not the time to be pretentious either. When reading college application cover letter examples, you’ll see that there’s a fine line. Your tone matters. In your university application letters, show your experiences and accomplishments while portraying character traits that colleges value. To get into top colleges, find a balance between being proud of your accomplishments and being humble.

College application letters – Who requires them?

Unlike college entrance essays, college application letters are required by very few colleges. However, the skills you’ll develop by writing university application letters will serve you well as you approach your college application essay prompts. When researching college application examples, you’ll notice that there are optional materials to submit. If you’re serious about your college applications, submit university application letters to show your interest. 

College application cover letters are particularly effective if the college does not have college application essay prompts that ask you to explain why you want to attend the school and/or why you want to study your major. They are even more strongly recommended when applying to colleges that don’t have any supplemental essays. You’ll see many college application cover letter examples that focus primarily on academics, but you can include so much more.

Though university application letters are rarely required, they provide an ideal way to introduce yourself. After all, you’ll notice when reading college application cover letter samples that the goal is to help the admissions committee get to know you as a person. You are more than just your grades and scores.

If you want to get into top colleges that don’t allow you to submit a college resume or don’t provide interviews, you need to take extra steps to earn acceptance. Often, you can repurpose content from college application essay prompts that ask why you want to study your major! The college application essay format differs from that of a college application letter, but they serve a very similar purpose.

Test your knowledge about other aspects of the college admissions process in our quiz below!

What is a letter of continued interest?

A letter of continued interest (LOCI) is a letter you send to a college when you are deferred or placed on the waitlist. So, not everyone will need to write a college application letter of continued interest.

Your letter of continued interest has three primary goals: 

  • Reaffirm your interest in the school.
  • Provide additional context for your application. 
  • Discuss accomplishments on your college resume that have occurred since you submitted your application.

In this guide on how to write a college application letter, we discuss all forms of college application letters in detail. We’ll expand on the above goals to explain the strategies for writing effective letters.

Explaining teacher recommendation letters 

In addition to submitting a college application cover letter and, potentially, a letter of continued interest, your application will also include recommendation letters . These letters enhance your college application entrance essay and build on answers to supplemental college application essay prompts. 

Due to the shift away from standardized testing, other parts of your college applications are inevitably getting more attention in the evaluation process. When assessing your college applications, admissions committees will often rely on letters from your teachers and counselor in place of interviews.

When reading sample college application letters of recommendation, you’ll observe that some are better than others. But, it can be a bit harder to find example teacher recommendations than it is to find college application cover letter examples. To ensure high-quality letters, create a plan well in advance of your senior year. You’ll want to ask teachers to write your recommendations who know you best beyond your grades. The strongest sample college application letters of recommendation speak to both your personal and academic strengths. 

College application sample recommendation letters with the biggest impact typically come from teachers from your core junior year courses – math, science, English, and social studies. If there’s a teacher from your junior year who taught you during your sophomore or senior year too, even better! Teachers who know you through multiple environments – clubs, classes, sports, or other areas – can often do the best job speaking to your growth and achievement over time. 

Choose teachers who know you best

Ultimately, the most effective sample college application letters of recommendation are written by the teachers who know you best. Pay attention to the college application requirements for each school on your list. Note when reading example college application letters of recommendation who the intended audience is. Some schools require math or science teachers for STEM and business majors , while others require English or social studies teachers for humanities majors .

For example, when looking at college application sample requirements, MIT writes “One recommendation should be from a math or science teacher, and one should be from a humanities, social science, or language teacher.” Caltech also requires one math or science teacher evaluation and one humanities or social sciences teacher evaluation. 

Some applicants are tempted to send more letters than the college applications require. However, aim for quality over quantity. If you want to ask another teacher to write a recommendation letter for you, ask yourself what perspective they will bring to your college applications that isn’t already covered in your college entrance essay or other recommendation letters. 

Don’t hesitate to provide materials to help your teachers and guidance counselor write their letters of recommendation for you. In fact, you should! When reading college application sample letters of recommendation, you’ll note that they are specific and provide examples where possible. Some teachers will even have you fill out a standard form to gather information from you. So, by having additional information already prepared, you are helping them tremendously. 

Here are some materials you can provide to help your recommendations augment your college applications:

  • College entrance essay
  • College resume or a list of your extracurricular activities and awards
  • Responses to college application essay prompts.
  • A sample college application letter that you’re sending to one of your colleges.
  • A few paragraphs about why you want to study your major or pursue your intended career. 
  • Key elements of the course you took with them, such as a favorite project or unit. 

When preparing materials to give to teachers, read the instructions given to recommenders by MIT. Even if you aren’t applying to MIT, the information can still be helpful to know. By understanding the process of writing recommendation letters on the teacher’s side, you can see what information will help them write a strong letter for you. 

Don’t wait until you’re submitting your college applications to ask your teachers for recommendations. Some teachers limit the number that they will write, and you want them to have plenty of time to write a quality recommendation. To make sure you have the best recommendations , ask teachers late in your junior year or early in your senior year.

The College Application Letter

As we’ve mentioned, a college application letter is a cover letter for your college applications. It describes your background, skills, and interest in the school. It’s different from both the college application essay format and the letter of continued interest. When reviewing college application samples, you’ll see that your cover letter works together with your college resume and college entrance essay to help admissions officers get to know you. 

Below, we’ll discuss how to write a college application letter and walk through a sample college application letter. But remember, you want your letter to be original! Don’t feel limited by what’s in any examples of college application letters.

Do all schools require a college application letter?

No — few schools actually require college application letters. However, learning to write a strong college application letter can help you in other aspects of the college admissions process. Reading college application cover letter examples can also help you learn how to write for the admissions committee audience. 

One of the ways to learn how to write a college application letter is to read sample college application letters. For instance, the same skills that help you write a strong and concise college application letter will help you in the college essay format, too.

The college application letter – What should I include?

So, you know the purpose of college application letters, but what should you include in them? Reading college application cover letter samples can help you determine this. While the college application essay format lends itself to focusing on one topic or story, college application cover letter examples highlight the importance of covering several different topics.

College application letters should contain the following elements: 

1. school name and address.

You college application letter should follow formal letter formatting guidelines, which include writing the full name of the college or university you are applying to in the upper left hand corner of the letter. Try to be as specific as possible with the address you choose to use.

2. Salutation

A standard salutation is suitable for your college application letter. However, it is a great idea to do your research and use the full name of the admissions officer assigned to your region.

3. Introduction

The best examples of college application letters open strong. Thank the admissions committee for reviewing your application, and introduce yourself. Do you have a unique connection to the school? Can you hook the reader in some way to make them want to keep reading?

4. Explanation of academic interests

Your primary purpose in college is to earn a degree, so notice that in example college application letters most of the space is often devoted to discussing academic plans. Include your intended major and career path, as well as interdisciplinary interests.

5. Discussion of extracurricular interests

The college application essay format may be a place for you to discuss extracurricular involvement, so use this space to elaborate or discuss additional interests. These could be connected to your academic plans, but they don’t have to be.

6. Conclusion

Express your interest in the school! Impactful example college application letters have a clear and brief conclusion that reaffirms your desire to attend and enthusiasm for the opportunity to join the next class of undergraduates. Point to specific classes, professors, programs, organizations, and aspects of the college that pique your interest. No one is going to hold you to your plan, but colleges want to see that you have one.

8. Complimentary Close

Lastly, every good college application letter should include an expression of gratitude alongside your close and your signature.

In the example of a college application letter above, there are a few key details to highlight. The letter is essentially a five-paragraph essay, with one paragraph for each of the five elements. This differs significantly from the college application essay format. In this college application example, the college application letter has clear and distinct sections, and this is very common in college application cover letter samples.

Depending on your interests and plans, you could take a more integrated approach. You’ll read some examples of college application letters that center around a theme or broad plan rather than separated into individual paragraphs.

This sample college application letter is a narrative. The applicant’s goal is to tell her story to the admissions committee. The best sample college application letters paint a picture for the reader and draw the reader into the storyline. Though it can feel like being vivid and descriptive is a waste of your space, “showing instead of telling makes for stronger college applications.

How to format your college application letter?

When reading sample college application letters, you’ll observe that they are formatted very similarly to professional cover letters. Your university application letters should be one page single-spaced. The heading should also be consistent across college application letters. 

  • Your full address
  • The date you will send the letter
  • The admission officer’s name
  • The college name
  • The college address

Then, open your letter with a salutation. Many examples of college application letters open with “Dear” and are addressed to the admission officer. If you cannot find your regional admissions officer, it is fine to address the letter to the admissions office as was done in the sample college application letter above. Once you write the body of your letter, don’t forget your closing salutation – “Sincerely,” and then your name. 

Once you read several sample college application letters, you’ll understand the best practices. After writing a university application letter for one school, you don’t need to start from scratch for additional schools. Adapt what you have to fit the next college’s context and your specific interests on their campus. 

Being concise is key. Your university application letter should not be redundant. If it exceeds one page, see where information you mention is repeated elsewhere in your application. In your cover letter, focus on the content that makes you as original and unique as possible. Most importantly, don’t forget to proofread your university application letters! 

Can a college application letter help me with other parts of my application?

Think of the college application cover letter as the glue that holds your college applications together. When writing it, think about it as your opportunity to show your best self. After brainstorming the content, you’ll be better equipped to craft your candidate profile into a cohesive narrative and articulate why you want to attend the college.

Though many parts of your college applications will be out of your control by the time you reach your senior fall, the college application cover letter is one that you can control. Use it to elevate your college applications, show interest in your top schools , and make yourself stand out among other applicants!

The Letter of Continued Interest

Another form of college application letter is a letter of continued interest . In sample college application letters of continued interest, you’ll see that the primary purpose is to reaffirm your candidacy for a spot in the next incoming class of undergraduates. 

Though it can feel like a waiting game, the waitlist should not be passive. As soon as you are waitlisted or deferred, begin crafting a letter of continued interest. The best college application sample LOCIs are submitted promptly. Put in the effort to show you’re serious about attending. 

College application example LOCIs should focus on recent updates. Likely, a lot has happened since you submitted your application, particularly if you applied by the early deadlines. Strong college application sample LOCIs convey accomplishments and experiences that either add to previously mentioned ones or provide another dimension to your application. 

Letter of continued interest – When and where to submit?

Learn as much as you can by reading college application example LOCIs, but know that each school’s process for when and how to submit them is different. Additionally, the process may vary based on whether you were deferred to the regular decision round of admissions or waitlisted after the regular decision round. It’s important to follow each university’s directions.

Many schools will request that you upload your letter of continued interest to a portal. Some will request that you email it to an address – typically the admissions office. Others won’t allow you to submit any additional materials. If you’re in doubt, call or email the admissions office and ask. 

What to include in your letter of continued interest?

You’ll notice common trends when reading college application sample LOCIs. Effective college application example LOCIs convey a tone of sincerity, gratitude, and enthusiasm for an opportunity to attend. A strong sample college application letter of continued interest includes four elements. 

First, reaffirm your interest in attending the school if offered the chance to matriculate. Then, discuss relevant developments to your application, such as additional extracurricular accolades and continued academic successes. Sometimes, you’ll see a sample college application letter of continued interest that mentions how a student improved a lower mid-year grade or discusses a new leadership role. 

When reading a sample college application letter of continued interest, remember that colleges are looking for reasons to admit you, so don’t be shy! Offer to answer any questions they have and provide additional info in the conclusion of your letter. 

It’s important to back up your claims with supporting evidence. Strong college application sample LOCIs provide examples and specific details, just as you would in a cover letter or essay. Be vivid and descriptive as you share your story!

However, college application example LOCIs that include overly emotional appeals or merely complement the university are unlikely to be effective. Your letter of continued interest should be all about you. Though it can be difficult to realize this when reading college application example LOCIs, recognize that the content of your letter should fit within the context of the rest of your application. 

The many types of college application letters – Final Thoughts

In this guide, we covered several types of letters associated with your college process – college application cover letters, teacher recommendation letters, and letters of continued interest. Reading sample college application letters, whether they are college application cover letter samples or LOCIs, can help you do your best work. But, remember that every applicant’s college application process is unique. 

Our final tips for writing college application letters:

  • Proofread. College application letters with typos or grammatical errors reflect poorly on your effort and candidacy. Use a polished and professional tone in everything you write for your college applications.
  • Be yourself. Though this goal can get lost in the requirements, scores, and grades, you should focus on helping the colleges on your list get to know who you are . 
  • Follow the requirements. Each college has their own requirements for how they want you to submit materials. Pay close attention to the details for each college as you go through the admissions process. can help guide you through every step of the college application process. Check out our blog , webinars , or register with today. Good luck!

This guide to college application letters and letters of continued interest was written by Caroline Marapese, Notre Dame ‘22. At CollegeAdvisor, we have built our  reputation  by providing comprehensive information that offers real assistance to students. If you want to get help with your college applications from  Admissions Experts , click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how can support you in the college application process.

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How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

how do you start a college application letter

What does it take to land in the “accept” (instead of “reject”) pile?

How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Start early.  Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay.
  • Keep the focus narrow.  Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
  • Be yourself.  Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, use the narrative to be vulnerable and honest about who you are. Use words you would normally use. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
  • Be creative.  “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece.
  • Make a point. As you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had.

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Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .

We’ve all heard about the dreaded “college essay,” the bane of every high school senior’s existence. This daunting element of the college application is something that can create angst for even the most accomplished students.

  • AA Amy Allen is a writer, educator, and lifelong learner. Her freelance writing business,  All of the Write Words , focuses on providing high school students with one-on-one feedback to guide them through the college application process and with crafting a thoughtful personal essay. A dedicated poet, Amy’s work has also been published in several journals including  Pine Row Press ,  Months to Years,  and  Atlanta Review .

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Writing a College Application Letter (Samples & Examples)

Writing a great college application letter can be one of the most challenging prose pages that one has to put together in their high school career. On the one hand, it is just but a simple single-page document, but on the other, how do you talk about the things you need to talk about without boring the reader? A well-written college application letter will give you an edge among the thousands of applicants sending in their applications for the same college. A well-drafted college application letter should highlight your academic achievements, extracurricular, athletic, and community service achievements that will help you stand out during the highly competitive selection process.

What is a College Application Letter?

A college application letter is a letter used in several academic applications that college students need to undergo. It is usually a requirement of the academic institution where the student is currently attending. The letter can also be used for other special functions that the applicant would like to undertake.

How to Write a Great College Application Letter

Read the instructions carefully.

It is said that starting an application letter is usually the most challenging part. You may think that it is redundant that we mention that you need to go through the instructions carefully, but with all the stress and excitement that characterizes this period, you need to be keen on this.

If you fail to follow the application guidelines, you may come off as someone who won’t follow simple instructions of the university’s program. The page and word count limits are usually included in the instructions for a reason, and you should be able to organize your submission by following the set guidelines.

Go through the instructions several times and gather your notes before creating an outline to organize your application letter and decide what message you would like to send.

Do some research

Before writing your application letter, it is important that you do some research about the institution and their preferred candidates. By doing so, you will be able to tailor your application to fit their preferences, thereby increasing your chances of being selected.

Include your contact information

 When writing, make sure to include your contact details. Use your professional email and provide a phone number that is always active to not miss out on any important communications.

Confirm the recipient’s contact information

When doing your research, also make sure to find out the correct address to send your application. You don’t want to go through the trouble of drafting your application to send it to the wrong address. The contact information is usually included in the instructions, but if not included, you can check the college’s website or contact the institution directly to find out to whom you should address the letter.

Create a great subject line

To make sure that the recipient clearly understands your letter’s purpose immediately, they start reading it and explain it in a few words. For example, you can write something like “Application for an intern position at ABC college.”

If you are sending the letter via mail, make sure to include such wording in the subject line.

Introduce yourself

Start your application letter with a compelling introduction. Although great writing may be hard to achieve, it is always possible to do so if you are smart about it. Introduce yourself properly as this will determine if the reader continues to read your document or if they will throw it in the trash. The recipient will only spend a few minutes reviewing your essay, so you have to start your introduction with a great introduction about yourself that will keep them engaged.

Tell the recipient about your education

Since you are a recent graduate or student, your educational background is your key asset. Make sure to properly highlight this at the very beginning of your application letter. Tell the recipient what you studied along with where and when you will be graduating if applicable.

Explain why you are the best candidate

Colleges are always looking for authenticity and quality thinking, so you should not try to shape your application around ideas or phrases that people have used several times before, but base it on your genuine beliefs.

In one or two paragraphs, explain to the recipient why your education and skills make you the best candidate. If you have already gained any relevant experience through summer jobs or interviews, you can also mention it in your application.

Include a call to action

End your application letter with a call to action- ask the recipient for an interview and direct them to review read your portfolio or resume. You can also be proactive and inform the recipient that you will be following up with an email or with a call to schedule an interview.

 Show gratitude

Conclude your application by expressing your gratitude to the recipient for their time and consideration. After finishing your letter, make sure to sign it professionally.

 Check your grammar and spelling

Even though you can write conventionally, spelling and grammar still need to be correct. Go through your letter and make sure that it is free of any grammatical errors before submitting it.

What Should Be Included in Your Application Letter

Regardless of the recommended length, your college application letter should show evidence that you performed due diligence concerning the selected college. You don’t want to include any irrelevant information or that you “think” should be included. Conduct your research and lay down the facts. You can visit the college website and look at local news to find out what is happening on campus.

Sound structure

An application letter should be both formal and professional. Structure your application letter in business letter format, and include your contact information, your name, title, date, and address of the recipient. Also, make sure to use a proper salutation, e.g., “Dear Application Committee,” alternatively, if you already have their name and title, you can use “Dear (their last name)”

Even college application letters, although formal, can showcase a person’s personality, passion, and sense of humor. Just as college application essays are meant to add color to the applicant’s back and white representation, so too can the college application letter tell a little more about the applicant. Choosing a single area from your application on which t expound tells the recipient what you consider important.

College Connection

When writing your application, you should highlight how you see yourself fitting in on the college campus. Legacy students may speak to their family’s pride in their family’s rich history at the college. Others with political affiliations might refer to their intentions of becoming active student leaders. And athletes might talk about their previous high school success and how they expect to contribute to their college teams.

College Application Letter Samples

Every student wants to stand out and be chosen for a position at the college of their choice. With thousands of students sending in their application letters each day, you have to make sure that your letter is perfectly crafted to give you a competitive edge. This is where we come in! Our college application letter templates are simple, unique, and impressive, and they are beautifully crafted to help you stand out. Choose and download our free and premium templates to help you in your writing.


Your college application letter will serve as a shortcut through the pile of thousands of papers sent in by applicants each day. The letter is not a synopsis of your transcripts, nor is it a prompt of your resume. Rather, it is a cover letter that introduces you as an applicant and offers the recipient a glimpse into your potential fit at the college. Make sure that you are meticulous with your writing and that everything is as it should. You don’t want to send a letter that is half baked and expects to stand out. Take your time and draft a great letter. We wish you nothing but luck in your application.

Related Documents

A Complete Guide to the College Application Process

Find answers to common questions prospective college students have about deadlines, essays and more.

how do you start a college application letter

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Students should generally begin working on applications the summer between their junior and senior year of high school, experts say.

The college application process can seem intimidating, especially if students don't have parents or siblings who have already been through it and can offer advice.

Since there are several steps, such as writing an essay and obtaining letters of recommendation , experts say a good way for students to get started is to create a to-do list during their junior year of high school.

"Once you can see it visually, the number of tasks and a schedule to do them, it simplifies a lot of things," says Christine Chu, a premier college admissions counselor at IvyWise, a New York-based education consulting company. "It will take away a lot of the anxiety."

Though there is often prep work, students generally begin working on college application tasks the summer between their junior and senior years of high school, experts say.

Here's what prospective undergraduates need to know about completing a college application.

What Are the Important College Application Deadlines?

High school seniors have multiple deadlines to choose from when applying to colleges.

The Step-by-Step Guide to Applying to College

Applying to college.

  • Complete the FAFSA
  • Fill Out the Common App
  • Write a Standout College Essay
  • Ask for Recommendation Letters
  • Learn the Ins and Outs of Financial Aid
  • Decipher College Tuition Costs
  • Find Scholarships to Pay for College

Early Decision

First are early decision deadlines, usually in November. Students who apply via early decision, or ED, hear back from a college sooner than their peers who turn in applications later. ED admissions decisions often come out by December.

However, students should be aware that ED acceptances are binding, meaning an applicant must enroll if offered admission.

Some schools also have a second early decision deadline, ED II, which is also binding. The difference is in the timelines. ED II deadlines are usually in January, and admissions decisions often come out in February.

Early Action

Early action is another type of application deadline that tends to be in November or December, though some schools set deadlines as early as Oct. 15. Similar to early decision, students who apply via early action hear back from schools sooner. The difference is EA acceptances aren't binding.

Restrictive early action , which is uncommon, allows students to apply early but only to a single school (though there are exceptions). It's also nonbinding.

Regular Decision

Students can also choose to apply by a school's regular decision deadline, which is typically Jan. 1. Students who apply regular decision generally hear back from schools in mid-to-late March or early April. This is the most common way students apply to schools.

One other admissions policy to be aware of is rolling admissions . Schools with rolling admissions evaluate applications as they receive them and release admissions decisions on an ongoing basis. These schools may have a priority filing date, but they generally don't have a hard cutoff date for applications. The institutions continue accepting them until all spots in the incoming class are filled.

Regardless of the type of decision students pursue, it's important to start the application process early, says Denard Jones, lead college counselor at Empowerly, a college admissions consulting company. Jones previously worked in college admissions at Elon University in North Carolina and Saint Joseph's University in Pennsylvania.

“If you chunk it up and break down these tasks and can get ahead and start early, you’re not stifling your creativity because you’re trying to rush through to get everything done by October or November deadlines," he says. “Time management is something you’re going to have to deal with the rest of your life, regardless of what you go into.”

In deciding when to apply, as well as how many colleges to apply to, students should consider financial aid implications . Experts say if money is a concern, as it is for most families of college-bound students, applicants should choose nonbinding deadlines – EA and regular decision. This will enable families to compare financial aid offers from multiple schools.

Experts also suggest students research applicable scholarships, like those related to their hobbies , to help offset costs.

For regular decision deadlines, students typically have until May 1 to decide which school they will attend and pay an enrollment deposit.

Which College Application Platform Should I Use?

Students have several options when it comes to college application platforms.

The Common Application

One popular choice is The Common Application , which is accepted by more than 1,000 colleges, including some outside the U.S. Students fill out the Common App once and can then submit it to multiple colleges.

However, in addition to the main application, Common App schools often have a supplemental section, Chu says. The supplement sometimes includes additional essay questions, so students may need to budget time for more writing.

Some schools do not accept the Common App, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Students have to fill out separate applications for these schools, generally through the school's website.

Coalition Application and Common Black College Application

Other application options include the Coalition Application, a newer platform accepted by 130 schools, and the Common Black College Application , accepted by most historically Black colleges and universities.

Additionally, some colleges have school-specific or university system-specific applications. For example, the University of California system has its own application – the only platform used by UC schools – and students can apply to multiple campuses with one application.

Students can visit a college's website to find out which application platforms are accepted. Also, the Common App , Coalition Application and CBCA websites list their partner schools.

What Do I Need to Know About the College Application Essay?

As part of the application process, most colleges require students to submit at least one writing sample: the college essay . This is sometimes referred to as a personal statement.

There's usually a word limit of around several hundred words for a personal statement. The main essay on the Common App should be around 650 words. The Coalition Application website says its essays should be between 500 and 650 words. Institution-specific supplemental essays typically have a word count of around 250 words.

Regardless of which application platform they use, students have multiple essay prompts from which to choose.

"The application essay prompts are broad and open-ended, and I think that's sometimes what challenges students the most," says Niki Barron, associate dean of admission at Hamilton College in New York. "But they're open-ended for a reason, and that's because we do really want to see what students choose to write about, what students feel is important."

Experts say students should try to tell a story about themselves in the essay, which doesn't necessarily mean writing about a big, impressive accomplishment.

Barron says the most memorable essays for her focus on more ordinary topics. "But they're done in such a self-reflective way that it gives me so much insight into who a student is as a person and gives me such a sense of the student's voice," she adds.

What Are the Other Key Components of a College Application?

Here are other parts of the college application that prospective students should be ready for.

Personal Information

In the first portion of a college application, students have to provide basic information about themselves, their school and their family.

High School Transcript

Colleges also ask for an official high school transcript, which is a record of the courses students have taken and the grades they have earned.

Admissions offices typically ask that a transcript be sent directly from the high school rather than from the student, says Geoff Heckman, school counselor and department chair at Platte County High School in Missouri. Students usually submit a transcript request to their high school's counseling office, but some schools use an online service, such as Parchment or SENDedu, that allows students to request the transcript be sent through a secure online provider, Heckman says.

Students can also send their transcript via a registrar if their school has one rather than through the counseling office.

Standardized Test Scores

Many schools require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, which are usually sent by the testing companies. The number of schools requiring standardized test scores has dropped dramatically as the coronavirus pandemic upended these exams.

Prospective students should know, however, that testing policies vary even when such exams are not required. Key terms to pay attention to include test-blind and test-optional . Test-blind means that scores will not be considered if submitted. By contrast, test-optional colleges do not require ACT or SAT scores but will consider them if submitted as part of an application.

Chu notes that "admissions officers still want to see test scores if possible" and that high marks will only help. Strong scores can lead to scholarships, in some cases, experts say. A good ACT or SAT score varies by college, and Chu encourages students to look at a college's first-year student profile to determine admission goals.

SAT-takers are allowed four free score reports each time they register for the exam. Students can select which schools they'd like their scores sent to before or up to nine days after the test, according to the College Board, which administers the standardized test. The fee for each additional score report is $12.

Similarly, students who sit for the ACT can send their score to up to four colleges at no cost, according to the ACT website . Additional score reports are $18 each. However, some students may qualify for a fee waiver , which allows test-takers to send additional score reports for free to colleges and scholarship agencies at any time during the college search process, according to the ACT website.

Letters of Recommendation

Colleges often ask students to submit two to three letters of recommendation .

Students should seek out recommenders – often they have to be teachers or counselors – who know them well and can comment not just on their academic abilities but also their personal qualities and achievements, Chu says.

It's a good idea for students to provide recommenders with a copy of their resume to help them cover all these bases, Heckman says.

Students should request letters of recommendation well before the application deadline. Chu advises at least two months in advance.

"The more time students can give the authors of those recommendations, I think the more thorough and helpful those recommendations are going to be for us," Barron says.

Information on Extracurricular Activities

College applications give students the chance to provide information on the extracurricular activities they participated in while in high school. In this section, students should detail all of the ways they spend their time outside of class, Barron says. This includes structured activities like sports or clubs, as well as family obligations such as caring for siblings or part-time employment, she says.

Some admissions officers spend significant time evaluating this section, Jones says, but he adds this is often the most overlooked part of the application. Many students rush through it and don't thoroughly explain the extent to which they were involved in an activity. Be sure to explain any leadership roles or accomplishments, he says.

"The extracurriculars are the things that they spend their entire high school career doing that lead up to these wonderful moments and accolades over time," he says. "So take the time and be detailed."

Do I Need to Submit a Resume?

On some college applications, it may be optional for students to upload a resume .

But much of the information generally contained in a resume – such as awards, work experience and extracurricular activities – is asked for in other parts of a college application, often in the activities section.

How Much Do College Application Fees Cost?

There's no set price for college application fees, which experts say typically range from $50 to $90 per application, though costs can stretch upward of $100 in some instances. Prospective students should check college websites to determine these individual fees.

How Can I Get a College Application Fee Waiver?

There are several ways students from low-income families can submit college applications for free .

Students who received SAT or ACT test fee waivers are eligible for college application fee waivers from the testing companies. The College Board sends such waivers automatically to students. Not all schools accept these waivers, but many do.

Similarly, the ACT has a fee waiver request form students and school counselors can fill out and send to colleges. The National Association for College Admission Counseling also offers a fee waiver request form .

In addition, eligible students can request a fee waiver within the body of some college applications, including the Common App.

There are other times schools waive application fees , and not just for low-income students. Students can sometimes get an application fee waived by participating in instant decision day events at their high school or on a college's campus. Applicants should also keep an eye out for free application periods in some states, when some colleges waive fees to apply.

Using a College Visit to Decide Where to Apply

A common piece of advice offered by admissions consultants and college officials alike is to tour a campus. Visiting a college can help prospective students get a sense of the culture and community and understand how they may or may not fit in. While it's not part of the formal application process, exploring a college can help students determine which schools to apply to.

Such visits, Chu says, offer a "glimpse into a day in the life" of students living and learning on those campuses. But in the absence of the opportunity to visit – say, due to cost restrictions or other travel limitations – students should consider virtual tours , which emerged as a popular option for applicants after the coronavirus pandemic began.

While virtual tours may offer fewer opportunities to make personal connections, students should still attempt to forge them.

"Virtual visits can be the next best thing" to an in-person tour, Barron notes. She also encourages applicants to "check college websites for offerings and opportunities to connect virtually with current students, admission staff, professors, coaches and others."

Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of Best Colleges.

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College Application Process

  • How to Complete a College Application
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  • What Colleges Look for In An Application
  • Avoid These College Application Mistakes
  • Tips for Choosing a Major

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How to Write a College Interest Letter

Last Updated: April 10, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Stacy Blackman . Stacy Blackman is an Admissions Consultant and the Founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting (SBC), a company that specializes in consulting individuals who want to earn Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees. SBC offers a video series, runs live and virtual workshops, and has a publishing arm, with 25+ e-guides covering different aspects of the MBA admissions process. Stacy has professional experience working in private equity at Prudential Capital Group, launching Stryke Club, and evaluating businesses as a Resident Entrepreneur at idealab!. She earned a BS in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 498,481 times.

A college interest letter, also known as a letter of intent , a statement of interest, a statement of purpose , or a personal statement , is required by many universities and graduate or professional programs as part of the admissions process. Writing an effective letter involves researching information about the program you wish to attend, as well as reflecting on your own background, accomplishments and future goals. Each educational institution has its own format for the interest letter that must be followed closely. However, there are some general guidelines that will help you write an effective interest letter.

Laying the Groundwork

Step 1 Research the college or educational program thoroughly.

  • Review the course catalog. Familiarize yourself with the institution's academic or professional focus. Take note of classes that appeal to you and areas in which you already have a solid foundation. You might want to refer to some of these aspects in your letter.
  • Take note of the exact name of the college or program you are applying to. You don’t want to mention “X University Law School” if the name is actually “X University School of Law.”

Stacy Blackman

Stacy Blackman

Our Expert Agrees: As you research, feel free to reach out to current students, alumni, and professors to ask about the general culture of the school, like if the program is competitive or collaborative or if there are certain specializations the school caters to. Then, tailor your application to show how you can succeed in the school's culture.

Step 2 Learn about the structure of the program.

  • For example, some colleges request both a cover letter and a personal essay. Some graduate and professional programs require multiple, separate written statements, including letters of interest, statements of qualifications, diversity statements, etc.

Step 4 Determine your program’s requirements for the letter.

  • The terminology used to refer to the interest letter varies widely. However, most colleges and programs will provide specific directions to you about what the document should contain, which you should use as guidelines as you compose your letter.

Step 5 Examine your own accomplishments.

  • Reflect on your achievements. Now that you are familiar with your desired program, consider your past achievements that align well with the program. Academic, employment, volunteer and extracurricular activities may all apply. For example, if you are applying for a graduate program in teaching, you might mention your preschool teaching experiences, childhood education courses completed, and any volunteer teaching you did at your local community center.

Step 6 Define your goals.

  • What contribution or impact will studying at this particular college or program have on my academic development?
  • What are my career goals?
  • What steps and training are necessary to attain these goals?
  • How will I use what I learn in this program to achieve my goals?

Step 7 Determine the value of the program in meeting your academic or professional goals.

Making an Outline

Step 1 Write your thesis statement.

  • Consider what interests you most about your field. Is there a particular problem or challenge you want to tackle?
  • When did you realize that you wanted to pursue this field?
  • What challenges have you faced and overcome?

Step 3 Plan your introduction.

  • Draw on the information you gathered in your research. Use the program facts you gathered, as well as your reflections about your accomplishments and goals, to formulate a few clear and concise introductory statements about your interest in the program and its alignment with your goals.
  • Avoid lengthy discussions of the program’s qualifications, such as “Z Business School is the nation’s top business school and has stellar resources in such-and-such.” The program is aware of their own qualifications; they want to know about yours.
  • Consider developing a “hook” for your introduction. You could begin with a statement that piques the reader’s interest, such as “I haven’t always known I wanted to do X. In fact, I thought for a long time I wanted to do Y.” Remember: personal anecdotes can be great for introducing who you are and what you value, but don’t let your introduction become your life history.

Step 4 Devote a paragraph to each main idea.

  • Describe your qualifications in terms of your academic experiences, your personal traits and skills, and your recent and current activities. Relate any responsibilities or experience to skills that will be useful in your program.
  • Discuss your area(s) of interest. While you should not be too broad in this discussion -- don’t say you want to study simple “American history,” for example -- they should also not be overly narrow. Instead, they should show that you are familiar with problems and challenges in your field. Elaborate on what you want to do during your program of study.
  • Describe your future goals in concrete detail where possible. Then, demonstrate how the skills you expect to develop in your program will contribute to your achieving these goals.

Step 5 Provide evidence for each main idea.

Developing Your Letter

Step 1 Write confidently.

  • Writing confidently doesn’t mean you have to be arrogant. Simply using clear, declarative sentences such as “I plan to study such-and-such in order to pursue my career goals of such-and-such” allows you to project confidence without arrogance or condescension.

Step 2 Show, don’t tell.

  • This also applies to ideas. You may wish to become an English professor because you love reading, but many other people also love reading. What distinguishes you?

Step 4 Use transitions to guide your readers.

  • If you’re having a hard time transitioning between paragraphs, they may not be in a workable order. Figure out the central idea of each paragraph and switch things around as necessary to achieve a logical progression.

Step 5 Clarify your academic and professional goals.

  • For example, a goal statement for a medical school application might read like this: “Attending X Medical School will provide me the training in forensic psychiatry that I need to achieve my career goal of working as a psychological profiler for the FBI.”

Step 6 Tailor your letter to the school.

  • For example, if applying to a graduate degree in history, you could mention a professor whose research interests you and with whom you’d like to work.
  • For an application to medical school or a graduate program in the sciences, you might mention particular resources or laboratories that will support your research goals.

Step 7 Avoid empty rhetoric.

Formatting Your Letter

Step 1 Answer the specific questions asked by the institution.

  • You may be requested to include a header with your name and email address, along with a page number, on each page of the statement.

Step 3 Format your letter properly.

  • Read your letter aloud. This will help you catch awkward phrases and missing or incorrect words.

Step 6 Print your letter, if applicable.

How Long Should a College Essay Be?

Sample Interest Letter

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About This Article

Stacy Blackman

To write a college interest letter, place the date at the top left of the document and include the name and address of the program below the date. Next, open with a salutation like "Dear" followed by the name of the committee or individual who will receive your letter. Then, write clear, concise paragraphs about your personal qualifications, previous experience, future goals, and why their program will help you achieve them. Finally, end the letter with a pleasant closing and proofread it carefully. For tips on writing style and tone, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Letter of Recommendation for College Application (Guide and Sample)

3 sample letters of recommendation for college admissions.

Bonus Material: College Letter of Recommendation checklist

Applying to competitive universities this coming fall? Perhaps you’ve already put in the hard work on your grades, test scores, and even your college essays. But you want to make sure that you also do everything you can to improve the quality of your letters of recommendation. 

Many students think of these as something they have no ability to affect, but the truth is you can do a lot to improve your letters of recommendation . And it matters: having stand-out letters of recommendation can set you apart from other applicants. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve guided thousands of students to acceptances at elite universities. Over that time, we’ve developed a proven system for navigating college admissions. In this guide, we’ll cover 3 sample letters of rec, discuss what makes a good letter of recommendation, and explain what you can do to ensure you have one. 

Below, you can download a sample letter of recommendation so you know what kind of work it takes to get one. In the meantime, keep reading to learn more about how you can maximize your chances of acceptance by improving your letter of recommendation. 

Download PrepMaven’s College Letter of Recommendation Checklist

Jump to section: 3 Sample Letters of Recommendation for College How Can You Improve Your Letters of Recommendation for College? How Much Do College Recommendation Letters Matter? What Makes a Good Letter of Recommendation for College? Who to Ask for College Recommendation Letters When to Ask for College Recommendation Letters Next steps

3 Sample Letters of Recommendation for College

Let’s start by taking a look at 3 excellent sample letters of recommendation, each of which we’ll break down briefly. Look at these letters carefully, and think about what you can do to ensure your letters look like this. 

how do you start a college application letter

Sample Letter 1

Dear Admissions Committee,  As Lila’s eleventh grade AP Language teacher, I’m eager to take this opportunity to convey what makes her such an exceptional student and classmate.  Her academic record in my class speaks for itself, but what I’d like to highlight is the uniquely passionate and incisive nature of her class contributions. I still remember (though this was last year) a class discussion of Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser . While many students contributed meaningfully, I still distinctly recall Lila’s vociferous and insightful argument that Dressler’s character embodied everything wrong with the acquisitive, me-first mindset of deregulated business. Not everyone agreed, of course, but the energy behind her contribution sparked an intense class discussion that was one of the best of the year. Perhaps no less important was Lila’s openness to hearing other students’ opinions, even ultimately allowing her own perspective to change. That moment is indicative of what Lila brings to the classroom environment daily: passion, insight, and open-mindedness.  While I would’ve been thrilled to hear that Lila plans to study English in college, I’m equally impressed by how detailed and invested she is when she speaks about her plans to major in Economics. When she spoke to me about the importance of understanding rhetoric and narrative when looking at economic crises, it became clear to me that she’s the kind of student able to seamlessly integrate her interests into the study of the things that fascinate her.  Even though I’ve taught countless students, I can say that few have made such an impact on the energy and depth of classroom discussion as Lila has. I’m confident that any university will benefit from her presence as a thinker, writer, and peer.  Sincerely, ———-

There are three key things to notice with this first sample. 

  • First, it references a specific way that the student had an effect on the life of the classroom.
  • Second, it connects that instance in class with who Lila is overall as a student and thinker. 
  • Third, it connects both of these elements with who Lila will be in college, and with what she wants to pursue. 

Combining these three factors is what makes an excellent letter of recommendation. It shows the college that this student really had an impact on the class and the teacher. Importantly, it goes far beyond the generic letter of recommendation, standing out from the rest. 

Sample Letter 2

Dear Admissions Officers,  From the first week of my AP Biology class this year, it was clear how much Sanjit loved the material. During each of our class discussions, he’d raise questions that went beyond just clarification, connecting our subject matter with real-world issues he’d been following. While most students were content to take notes and answer the questions I posed, Sanjit was always looking to explore the links between what was in the textbook and what was happening in the wider world, whether in politics or in new studies on human health and longevity he’d been following.  What most impressed me beyond his drive and desire to explore was how committed he was to helping other students find that same passion. During our labs this past year, Sanjit always prioritized helping his group members–and even the members of other groups–fine-tune their experiments. Indeed, during especially complex labs, I’d often find myself helping one group while another turned to Sanjit for assistance.  He never did this to show off or prove something: what Sanjit exuded was a real passion and love for the material. In our class discussions, labs, and optional after-school review sessions, he constantly sought to use what we learned as the foundation for broader, more systemic explorations, even mentioning his desire to conduct independent research over the next summer.  It really is a pleasure to hear that Sanjit plans to continue pursuing his talent for biology and to follow that talent all the way to medical school. While I’m not sure if his plans will change, I can attest to the fact that he entered my class already dedicated to exploring how he can make an impact on human health, and that I’ve rarely seen students so capable of bridging the gap between the textbook and the real world.  Wherever he goes, whatever he does, Sanjit will make an incredible contribution to the classroom and the lab.  Sincerely,  ——-

This second letter addresses each of the same three things as the first: specificity, character, and bigger picture. 

While the focus may be different, the ultimate upshot is clear: Sanjit is a student who impressed his teacher so much that she remembers specific ways he went above and beyond in the class. 

Note that it isn’t just about what Sanjit does for himself: the letter makes a point of showing how Sanjit was always there to help other students (without being a know-it-all or teacher’s pet). 

how do you start a college application letter

Sample Letter 3

To whom it may concern,  Hearing that William plans to study French was tremendously gratifying. While I’m happy anytime one of my students plans to continue their French study at the college level, William was a special case. From what I know of his academic success, he excelled in most subjects, and I know he was quite torn between what field he really wanted to pursue. I never push my students one way or another, but I can tell you that William is the kind of student who will profoundly change every French class he enters.  His language ability is, of course, fantastic, but that isn’t what makes him a great French student. During our classes, he showed a real fascination with the history, culture, and especially literature of Francophone countries. While most students saw the books and poetry we read in AP French as ways of learning the language, William always wanted to explore the texts themselves. In particular, he was fascinated by how the study of French language was connected with the history of French colonization. Reading The Stranger by Camus, William was the only student in class to quickly see the text’s connections to the French occupation of Algeria. He quickly became interested in the complexities inherent in speaking the language of an occupying country, and threw himself into research outside the classroom that he’d frequently integrate into our discussions.  The short essay he wrote on our final exam was one of the best I’ve read in twenty years of teaching, especially in his ability to explore sophisticated and nuanced ideas in a foreign language. It’s clear to me that William doesn’t just have the technical facility to learn and study French language and culture: he has that rare creative instinct that allows him to make wholly original contributions to the field.  Sincerely,  —

You can certainly see the pattern by now: specificity, character, and big picture all come together to paint a picture of this student as a uniquely intelligent and capable scholar. 

You might notice that every one of these letters ends by articulating that this student isn’t just smart : they’re driven, they’re original, and they stand out from the rest of the intelligent students these teachers have had. 

If you want a letter like one of these–and you should–you might be wondering how you can possibly affect what your teachers write about you. The good news is that you can : read on below to see how you can help your teachers improve the letters of recommendation they write for your college applications. 

How Can You Improve Your Letters of Recommendation for College?

You might think this sounds strange: after all, you’re not writing your letters of recommendation, and in most cases you won’t even see them. 

So, how can you do anything to improve them? It all has to do with what information you give to your letter of recommendation writers. 

Many students think that just politely asking a teacher for a college letter of recommendation is where the process begins and ends. But if you don’t give your teacher specific information, you’re very likely to get a generic letter of recommendation. 

It’ll probably say nice things: that you’re a good student, that you excel in class, that you’re dedicated and always pay attention, and so on. 

how do you start a college application letter

Can you imagine how many times college admissions officers at large universities or elite colleges read phrases like that? (Hint: too many!) No matter how positive the letter is, it needs to be unique and specific if you want admissions committees to remember a word of it!

So, what can you do to help your recommendation letter writers produce better letters? Give them some personal, specific information! 

  • Ask your teacher to sit down for a short conversation before they begin writing your letter. Yes, it could be awkward, but we guarantee you that it’ll pay off! 
  • Were there concepts that really stood out to you? 
  • Did they help you overcome a challenge?
  • Did they open your eyes to something new that stuck with you? 
  • Did their class influence your choice of major or career?
  • If not, did the class affect how you see yourself as a student and thinker?
  • Can you find a connection between your major and the teacher’s class?

Not only will your teacher love hearing this (flattery always works!), but it’ll give them ideas for things they could mention in their letter. Instead of just talking about what a good student you are, they can draw on specific examples that you bring up in your conversation. 

Another option is to simply send the recommendation letter writer a short email where you describe why you’re asking them for a letter and what you gained from the class. 

The more specific you are, the easier it’ll be for them to write you a great letter!

How Much Do College Recommendation Letters Matter?

The key to a strong college application is understanding the 3 pillars of a successful college application . In a nutshell, these are the three key elements by which admissions committees will evaluate you: 

how do you start a college application letter

  • Academic achievement
  • Extracurricular distinction
  • Character and personal qualities

While these overlap a little bit, here’s an easy way to understand them. 

Academic achievement is conveyed by your grades, test scores, and the rigor of your curriculum. 

Extracurricular distinction is conveyed by your achievements in the various activities you’ve been involved with. 

Character is conveyed in your essays and letters of recommendation. 

Often, it’s character that makes the difference between a good application and a great one–especially at top tier universities like Ivies!

Note that the letter of recommendation is not there to highlight your academic achievement. Why? Because college admissions committees already have your grades and transcript! 

Instead, the recommendation letter should highlight your personal attributes. What kind of student and classmate are you? How do you contribute to the intellectual life of a school? What makes you the kind of person a professor would want to have in their class?

For a successful college application, it’s crucial that all three pillars come together. Because character is primarily conveyed in your essays and recommendation letters, you don’t have many opportunities to really convey this to elite college admissions committees. 

The data bears this out. By looking at the Common Data Set for elite universities, we identified how elite colleges like Princeton prioritize letters of recommendation. 

how do you start a college application letter

Each school ranks the elements of a college application in one of four categories: 

  • Very important
  • Not considered

At Princeton, for example, the letters of recommendation are considered “very important,” just like test scores and grades!

At Yale, letters of recommendation are also considered “very important,” whereas standardized test scores are only “considered.” 

At Dartmouth, letters of recommendation are, once again, considered “very important.”

Are you picking up on the pattern yet? It might be easy to think of college recommendation letters as a tiny part of your application, but nearly every elite university considers letters of recommendation a very important part of your application! 

What Makes a Good Letter of Recommendation for College?

So, with all that in mind, we can now identify a little more precisely what makes a good college recommendation letter. 

A compelling letter of recommendation for college:

how do you start a college application letter

  • Avoids generic phrases and claims. 
  • Uses specific examples to explain how you stood out in the class. 
  • Focuses on your character, not your grades. 

The criteria for a strong letter of recommendation are simple, but in our experience, the vast majority of recommendation letters fail this test!

You won’t be able to see your recommendation letter, but you can affect what information your letter writer uses. Make sure to give them the kind of detailed, specific information that aligns with those three bullet points, focusing on instances where you really demonstrated your character in the class. 

If you want to read a sample of an excellent recommendation letter, take a look at the link below: it’s short, simple, and effective! 

Who to Ask for College recommendation Letters

Our advice here is simple, but serious. 

First, make sure you ask two teachers for your academic recommendation letters, then ask a third person to write your non-academic recommendation letter (which most schools also accept). 

how do you start a college application letter

This third recommender can be a bit more flexible: a supervisor at work, a sports coach, or the coach of an extracurricular activity you’re involved with are all great options. 

For the two academic recommenders, pick teachers who know you best. These should be teachers you’ve had recently: don’t pick a teacher from freshman year, since that really won’t be telling college admissions committees much about your character now. 

You should also pick teachers in subjects that align with your planned area of study. If you’re going all in on a STEM field, you’re best off picking teachers whose letters can support the narrative of you as an exceptional scientific and mathematical thinker. 

If you’re more humanities focused, you’ll definitely want one letter from a teacher whose class was writing-intensive. For the second letter, you might want to think about what complements your overall story. Don’t just go for another humanities class: think about what other interests drive you, and pick a teacher who can speak to that passion. 

More than anything, however, the critical question is which teachers can best speak to your personal attributes now . Pick those teachers, speak to them, and you’ll be likely to get a great recommendation letter like the one in our free sample here . 

When to Ask for College recommendation Letters

The earlier, the better! It’s as simple as that. Once you’ve settled on your recommenders and had your conversations with them, ask them to draft your recommendation letters. 

You should do this before the summer break after your junior year. You’ll want your recommendation letters done by the end of summer. Once this pushes on into the fall, your letter-writers will be flooded with requests, and the quality of your letter will suffer. 

how do you start a college application letter

Speak to your teachers before summer vacation, and set a clear deadline while being respectful. Make it clear that you’ll be applying to programs early, and you’d really appreciate the letter being done by the end of the summer. 

In most cases, the teachers will appreciate this themselves. If a teacher tells you that’s impossible, make sure to respect their decision, and simply ask what timeline works for them. 

In general, however, set the end of summer as the deadline for your recommendation letters. 

If you’re already thinking about your college recommendation letters, that means you’re taking the college application process seriously. That’s great, but have you done everything you can to maximize your chances and perfect your application?

For a college application to work, every element of your academics, extracurriculars, and character has to come together. If your test scores, grades, or college essays are weak, you’ll need to put in the work to improve them. 

There’s no better way to do so than by working with one of our expert tutors. Our tutors range from exceptional undergraduates at Ivy League universities to graduate students with years of tutoring experience. 

Once you know what you need help with, we’ll pair you with the best tutor for your needs. All you have to do is contact us. 

In the meantime, read over the free sample letter of recommendation below, and take notes on what makes this so effective. 

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Mike is a PhD candidate studying English literature at Duke University. Mike is an expert test prep tutor (SAT/ACT/LSAT) and college essay consultant. Nearly all of Mike’s SAT/ACT students score in the top 5% of test takers; many even score above 1500 on the SAT. His college essay students routinely earn admission into their top-choice schools, including Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth. And his LSAT students have been accepted In into the top law schools in the country, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Law.

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How to Start a Cover Letter (Examples Included)

Mike Simpson 0 Comments

how do you start a college application letter

By Mike Simpson

When you’re writing a cover letter, nailing the opening is a must. Your cover letter introduction has to draw the hiring manager in, giving them a clear reason to keep reading. That’s why learning how to start a cover letter is so vital; it’s your doorway to success.

After all, more than eight-in-10 recruiters feel that an awesome cover letter is enough to land a candidate an interview even if their resume is only a partial fit for the job. Cool, right?

So, are you ready to make sure that your cover letter opening is everything it can be? Great! Here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Cover Letter?

Alright, let’s begin with the basics. Before you can learn how to start a letter to the hiring manager, it’s helpful to know what a cover letter is in the first place.

We’ve actually taken several deep dives into the world of cover letters, including how to address a cover letter , the best cover letter format , how to end a cover letter , and a full overview of how to write a cover letter .

But the basic gist is that a cover letter is a written elevator pitch. It acts as an introduction to what you have to offer, with a bit more flavor than you can put in a resume.

In many cases, your cover letter is the absolute first impression you’ll make on a hiring manager. As they read, they get a feel for who you are, as well as what you bring to the table.

Do cover letters really matter that much? Yes, they do. Overall, 49 percent of hiring managers think that receiving a cover letter is important to the hiring process, which is a pretty good indication that they value them.

So, what are the parts of a cover letter? In most cases, a cover letter has:

  • Contact Information
  • Opening Paragraph
  • Body Paragraphs
  • Closing Paragraph
  • Closing Sentiment

While that seems like a lot, it really isn’t. In most cases, you end up with about a page or so of content. After all, a cover letter isn’t an autobiography of your life; it’s a concise, tailored introduction to who you are as a professional.

Generally, when you’re trying to figure out how to start a cover letter, what you need to focus on are the salutation and the opening paragraph. Those are what make the first impression and usually play a big role in whether the hiring manager reads the whole thing or not.

You may want to dig a little deeper, making sure your opening line really packs a punch. But, really, that’s all part of creating a great opening paragraph, isn’t it? Just keep in mind that your leading sentence needs to be an attention-grabber, and you’re in good shape.

Now, is your cover letter opening more important than the rest of the letter? Well, yes and no. If your start to your letter isn’t strong, there’s a chance the hiring manager won’t finish reading it. That means a fantastic cover letter introduction is essential.

But the rest matters, too. In the end, you want your first impression to be a doozy. It’s just that, if you don’t nail the opening to your cover letter, the rest may never get a glance.

Common Mistakes When Starting a Cover Letter

Before we dive into how to start a cover letter, let’s talk about some cover letter introduction mistakes you want to avoid. After all, a misstep at this early stage can cost you the job, so you really need to make sure you get it right.

First, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is not tailoring the content to the position. When you write a cover letter, you are speaking to one particular hiring manager, not everyone who may ever want to hire you. If you don’t focus the content on that specific job, you might not connect with that hiring manager, causing them to move onto a different candidate.

Second, being too generic can come back to bite you. You want to stand out from the crowd, so you need to make sure your cover letter introduction feels a bit unique.

Third, choosing the wrong salutation – or not including one at all – can potentially lead to some trouble. If you go the wrong way, you may not connect with the hiring manager as well or could even offend them a bit. That’s no good.

Finally, spelling and grammar mistakes are a huge deal. They make it look like you lack attention to detail, and that isn’t going to win you any fans.

How to Start a Cover Letter

In many cases, figuring out how to start a letter for your job application is much easier if you take it one step at a time. It lets you tackle everything in succession and gives you a chance to focus on each critical part, increasing the odds that you’ll genuinely nail it.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to start a letter when you’re trying o land a job:

1. Choose the Right Salutation

The salutation in your cover letter opening serves as a greeting. It’s a chance to acknowledge the reader directly, even if just for a brief second.

Ideally, you want to address the hiring manager by name, using an approach like:

Dear [Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr.] [First Name] [Last Name]

Now, you can potentially add one more option to the list: Mx. This is a relatively new gender-neutral addition that’s favored by people who consider themselves nonbinary.

Generally speaking, you should only use “Mx.” if you are completely, 100 percent certain that it’s the hiring manager’s preferred title. You don’t want to go with it simply because you don’t know the hiring manager’s gender. Why? Well, since it’s a newer option, not everyone is familiar with it, so some hiring managers might think it’s a typo.

Additionally, people may have a variety of opinions about “Mx.,” and not all of them are positive. Since it’s a bit controversial in certain circles, you could offend a hiring manager by using it if that isn’t what they prefer.

So, what do you do if you know the hiring manager’s name but not their gender or preferred title? Worst case, go with “Dear [First Name] [Last Name]” instead. It’s a bit less formal, but it may be better than getting the title wrong.

If you genuinely don’t know the hiring manager’s name – and can’t figure it out with some research – you can try:

  • Dear [Job Title/Role] – Dear Hiring Manager, Dear Operations Manager, Dear VP of Sales, etc.
  • Dear [Department] – Dear IT Department, Dear Marketing Department, etc.

Those aren’t as personal, but they can do the trick. They at least speak to a particular individual, making it clear that you had a certain recipient in mind. As a result, they are much better than more generic alternatives.

What about “To Whom It May Concern?” Well, we’ve taken a deep dive into how to use to whom it may concern . But, in most cases, that isn’t your best. It feels outdated, for one. Plus, it doesn’t have a particular reader in mind, which isn’t ideal.

The same goes for “Dear Sir or Madam.” Along with being generic and incredibly old-school, it’s also a bit awkward. Plus, it makes it seem like you didn’t even try to come up with something better, and that’s never good.

2. Nail the Opening Sentence

Your opening sentence in your cover letter is what really needs to draw the hiring manager in. As a result, you want to make sure that it packs a wallop.

Usually, you have a few options that can pull this off. First, if you know someone at the company who referred you to the position, you can try name-dropping. Many hiring managers favor direct referrals, so it’s alright to make that connection clear from the beginning.

Second, you can lead off with a relevant accomplishment. This one can get a little tricky to do well. You really have to relate it to something in the role, and that isn’t always easy to manage without using a sentence or so to build in some context.

Finally, you can focus on your excitement. Hiring managers like people who seem passionate about the opportunity, so this route could let you start your cover letter on a great note.

With all of these, you want to make sure the opening sentence taps on the position you’re trying to land. It’s smart to mention the job title, department, and company, as that ensures the hiring manager knows why you’re writing. If it doesn’t fit in the first sentence, then it needs to come in on the second.

3. Round Out the First Paragraph

Generally, your cover letter opening paragraph is going to be two or four sentences long. If you didn’t get it into your opening sentence, use your second one to mention the job opening. That way, the hiring manager understands exactly why you reached out.

After that, it’s time to tap on some relevant skills. Use the job ad to identify high-priority capabilities. Next, treat them like keywords, using the exact same words and phrases to increase your odds of looking like a great match (and getting past an automated screener).

4. Quantify the Details

Numbers stand out visually in a cover letter. They actually draw the eye, as they aren’t as widely used as letters and most forms of punctuation.

By quantifying a detail or two, you create visual interest. Plus, you’re giving the hiring manager some helpful context about what you’ve achieved, something that can make you look like a stronger candidate.

3 Cover Letter Starting Samples

Sometimes, nothing helps bring some tips to life like a handy example or three. If you want to make sure you understand how to start a cover letter or are looking for some samples that you can use as a template, here are three cover letter introduction examples, each representing a different approach.

1. When You Were Referred

Dear Mr. John Doe:

During my 6 years as a sales professional, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with a number of amazing professionals, including Jane Smith, a member of your team who recommended I apply for the Account Manager opening at ABC Inc. In my last position, I managed a portfolio of 25 enterprise-level clients while also boosting sales by 15 percent year-over-year during my tenure. I believe that my penchant for strategic thinking, as well as my strong negotiation and communication skills, make me an exceptional fit for your position.

2. Leading with an Achievement

Dear IT Department:

Over the past 4 years, I’ve focused my career on the world of project management, recently earning by Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. Additionally, I personally oversaw five $50k+ development projects concurrently, each of which was finished on time and within budget. I feel that my experience as a leader, as well as my expertise in risk assessment and cost management, makes me an ideal fit for the Project Manager position at XYZ Corp.

3. Going the Excitement Route

Dear Hiring Manager:

When I saw the administrative assistant opening at ABC Company, I immediately knew I wanted to apply. As an office assistant with 6 years of experience, I have honed many key skills you’re hoping to find, including scheduling, report writing, and customer service. Last year, among 50 nominated colleagues, I was even recognized as the Employee of the Year, largely because of my passion and dedication to my work, something that I would love to bring to ABC Company.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, you should now understand how to start a cover letter off in the best way possible. Use all of the tips above, and turn to the cover letter opening samples to serve as guides. That way, you can create an introduction that captures the hiring manager’s attention and keeps them reading, giving you a chance to showcase even more about why you’re such an awesome candidate.

And as always, Good luck!

how do you start a college application letter

Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at

His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes , Entrepreneur , CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan , Penn State , Northeastern and others.

Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page .

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Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes , Entrepreneur , CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan , Penn State , Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page .

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how do you start a college application letter

how do you start a college application letter

How to Write a Letter to a College Admissions Office

Tips on writing a letter to a college admissions office

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/25/24

Writing a letter to a college admissions office may seem scary at first. You may be asking, how do I make a good impression? What’s an appropriate reason to send a letter to a college admissions office? How do I show I really care about this school? What’s the best way to ask for application assistance? 

If you’re asking these questions about writing a letter to a college admissions office, you’re in the right place. Read on for answers to these questions, as well as more tips for contacting a college admissions office. 

Reasons to Contact a College Admissions Office

Infographic outlining the reasons to contact a college admissions office

There are several reasons to contact a college admissions office or counselor, and many may overlap. The two main reasons, though, are to demonstrate interest in the school and get application assistance.

Demonstrated interest is how colleges measure how interested a student is in a particular school. Not every school considers this during the admissions process, but many do, and contacting a college admissions office can be one method of demonstrating interest.

A 2019 National Association for College Admission Counseling study showed that 16.1% of schools considered demonstrated interest of considerable importance in the admissions process, 23.9% considered it of moderate importance, 38.0% limited importance, and 32.1% considered it to be of no importance in the admissions process.

So, 78.0% of colleges and universities consider demonstrated interest during the admissions process—at least in some capacity. Colleges want to know you care about what unique opportunities they have to offer, not just that you want to attend college in general. 

According to Forbes , “Reaching out to the school to ask intelligent questions judging whether it is a good fit is a good idea. You can also use an email to explain why you are unable to visit the campus and ask what alternatives there are.” By doing this, you’ll show the school you care, and you’ll get a better sense of whether that school is the right place for you.

Don’t overuse emails for this purpose,  as you don’t want to bombard admissions officers or seem helpless. So, ensure you’re thoughtful and careful about what emails you send to admissions officers when demonstrating interest in the school. 

Another reason you may contact a college admissions office is in regards to your application. If there’s a deadline approaching, and you need to confirm the college received a certain piece of information, such as a transcript or a letter of recommendation, you can reach out and ask if the office received that piece of your application.

If you email your college admissions officer regarding your application, make sure you are not asking for information posted elsewhere. If you ask a question that is clearly answered on the application platform, it might negatively impact your application. 

However, if you can’t find the answer to a question, don’t be nervous to reach out. If the information you’re looking for is not readily available on the school’s website, then it’s something you can reach out to the college admissions office about.

Emails vs. Letters

In the digital world, it can be hard to know which communication platform you should use. Online platforms are usually more convenient than physical letters, but there are still advantages to sending a letter. 

If you are asking a specific question regarding your application, an email is the better option. It’s more convenient for you and the college admissions office, and you’ll probably get a much faster reply, especially if you’re asking a time-sensitive question. 

However, if you want to inquire about specific aspects of the school, you may want to consider writing a physical letter. A lot of people consider a physical letter to be more personal, especially in the digital age, so this can be a good way to set yourself apart in the application process.

Overall, it’s important to first consider why you’re contacting the college admissions office before you decide whether to write an email or letter. An email is more convenient and will usually result in a much faster response, but a letter can seem more personal.

How to Format Your Letter

Tips for Formatting Your Letter

You may wonder  how to write a letter to the college admissions office. First, we’ll cover some etiquette tips, then we’ll cover how to write each piece of the email. The Princeton Review has some great tips for writing letters or emails to college admissions offices.

“Keep it short!”

While you want to make a good first impression with your email, it’s important not to use this email to brag about yourself. By asking intelligent questions the school’s website doesn’t already answer, you will show ambition and intellect, so there’s no need to include other details about yourself. Keep it short and to the point.

“Introduce yourself.”

While you want to keep your email short, you also want the college admissions office to know who you are. Include your name, high school graduation year, high school name, and home address in the first part of your email. This is especially important if you’re asking a question about your application—you don’t want the admissions officer to have to search for your information. Plus, if your email makes a good impression, this will make it easier for them to remember you.

“Check for spelling and grammatical mistakes.”

We can’t overstate how important this is. If your email or letter has any spelling or grammatical errors, your email will seem much less formal and mature. Ensuring your letter or email has no typos shows a lot of care, which is what college admissions offices want to see from you. 

One way to approach this is by typing your email in a document first. You can read it out loud to spot grammatical errors. You can also put it in a different font and color to check for spelling and grammatical errors, because changing the way it looks helps your brain pick up on any mistakes. 

“Be professional.”

To be professional, you must evaluate more than just your email or letter’s content. You must consider your subject line, introduction, signature, and even your email address. 

Don’t use any slang. If your email address includes slang, nicknames, or anything other than a form of your name, consider creating a new email account for communicating with colleges. 

Now that we’ve covered some general tips to keep in mind when corresponding with a college admissions office, let’s go over each individual piece of your letter or email. 

Subject Line

This may seem like an unimportant piece of your email, but ensure your subject line is also direct, to the point, and professional—just like the rest of your correspondence. Try to communicate exactly what you’re asking in as few words as possible.

For example, let’s say you want to ask about diversity initiatives at Duke University. You could title your email, “Question About Diversity Initiatives at Duke University,” but that’s an awfully long title. Plus, if you’re emailing the admissions office at Duke, they know you’re asking about their school, so there’s no need to include that in the subject line. Instead, aim for something more like, “Diversity Initiatives Question.”


Other than your subject line, your introduction is your first opportunity to show you are mature and intelligent. This may seem like a lot of pressure for the first few words, but there is a world of difference between saying, “Hi to whom this may concern,” and “Good morning, Mrs. Brown.”

First, let’s talk about your greeting. Be formal, proper, and kind. Don’t use the same sort of language that you would use when texting your friends. For example, you wouldn’t want to start with “hi,” or “hey,” but saying, “Hello,” or “Good morning,” is appropriate. 

Ideally, use your admissions officer’s name in the introduction of your name, instead of a more general “to whom it may concern.” This is not always available on the college or university’s website, but by the time you’re a high school senior, you’ve probably been in contact with the colleges you want to apply to. Usually, a specific college admissions officer will have reached out to you. You can try to find their name from correspondences like those.

So, with those two pieces, your introduction should look something like this:

“Hello, Mr. Miller,”

“Good afternoon, Ms. Marie,”

This is where the bulk of your email will be. The first thing you want to do is introduce yourself to the admissions officer—even if you’ve already corresponded before. Admissions officers receive hundreds of emails a day, so it’s helpful to include your basic information at the beginning. 

After you introduce yourself, go straight into your question. If it’s a question regarding your application, explain the confusion or problem and include the due date if it’s time-sensitive. If you want to confirm the university received a certain piece of your application, you can phrase it something like this:

“While polishing up my application, I noticed that it hasn’t been confirmed that my letters of recommendation have been received. To make sure I have submitted all aspects of my application before the January 1st deadline, is there any way you could confirm whether the school has received my letters of recommendation? Thank you so much for your help, I appreciate it.”

The purpose of your email or letter may not be to confirm information about your application. Instead, you may want to demonstrate interest in the school ask about a specific aspect of the school you want to know more about, or some combination of these. What then?

The most important thing about writing an email or letter like that is to research beforehand. If you reach out to ask general questions that are already answered on the school’s website, you’re not going to make a very good impression. 

Here’s a list of topics to avoid asking about when reaching out to a college admissions office (though this is not an exhaustive list):

  • What the college looks for in applicants
  • Tuition rates
  • Acceptance rates
  • Lists of offered majors & minors

Essentially, you want to ask specific questions showing your ambitions and also that you’ve done adequate research on the school. You can ask about specific opportunities within specific majors or programs, details about student life that are not already listed, and more. 

When writing questions like these, remember our earlier advice: be professional and to the point, but let your voice shine through so you don’t sound like a robot. Your natural personality will make a great first impression.

At the end of your correspondence’s body, it’s vital to thank your admissions officer for taking the time to help you and answer your questions. It’s a kind thing to do and reflects back upon you as a kind person.

Much like your introduction, your signature may seem like an inconsequential part of your correspondence. But just like your introduction, that’s not true. Your signature can display professionalism and maturity just like the rest of your email or letter can. Use an appropriate sign-off, such as “Best,” “Warm regards” or “Sincerely,” and sign your name. You can also add alternate contact information (such as a phone number) after your name, just in case the school needs another way to contact you.

Sample Letters and Emails to College Admissions Offices

These sample letters should give you a great idea how to format your own letters.

Example Letter No. 1:

“Hello Mr. White,

My name is Jack Hummer, and I’m a senior at Amity High School. I hope to major in Environmental Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 2023, and am working on polishing up my application before the January 7th due date. 

I was thrilled to see all the research opportunities for Environmental Engineering, and I was wondering if there were any specific research opportunities for first-year students in that program?

I would also love to double major in Environmental Engineering and Anthropology; would this be possible in four years?

Thank you so much for your help!

Warm regards,

Jack Hummer”

Example Letter No. 2:

“Dear Ms. Smith, 

My name is Sarah Dill, and I will be graduating from Tacoma High School in the spring of 2022. I am planning on studying Linguistics at Princeton University, and I was hoping you could answer a few questions for me. 

I was particularly interested in the Field Methods aspect of the Linguistics program. How are students connected with native speakers of the language they choose to study? Are only specific languages offered?

Additionally, I am curious about the Program in Teacher Preparation. Does this program work with your major over the course of four years or is it a shorter program that you complete separately? 

I greatly appreciate your time and assistance. Thank you.

Sarah Dill”

Example Email No. 1:

“Good afternoon Ms. Lewis,

My name is Anthony King. I will be graduating from Shorecrest Preparatory School in the spring, and I am finishing up my application for Columbia University before the Early Decision deadline on November 1st. 

I noticed that the university has not confirmed they received one of my letters of recommendation from my teacher, Mr. Weber. To my knowledge, he has submitted his letter within the application portal. Would it be possible for you to confirm whether or not this letter of recommendation has been received for my application?

Thank you so much for your time and help.

Best regards,

Anthony King”

Example Email No. 2:

“Good morning Mr. Teel,

My name is Maxton Morrison, and I am a senior at Renaissance High School. I am applying to Northwestern University, and I was hoping you could answer a question for me. 

I was polishing up my application for the December 1st due date, but I noticed that it has not been confirmed that the school has received my ACT scores from April of 2020. Could you possibly confirm for me whether the school has received these scores yet?

Thank you for your help in this matter.

Maxton Morrison”

Contacting a college admissions office can be beneficial for a multitude of reasons, whether you actually need assistance with your application or you just want to learn more and demonstrate interest in the school. As long as you use the advice in this guide, sending a letter or an email will be a breeze.

And remember: don’t forget to proofread.

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how do you start a college application letter

How to Write a Strong Letter of Recommendation for College

how do you start a college application letter

If you’re a college counselor, coach, teacher, or mentor looking to support your college-bound students, chances are you’ve been asked to write a strong letter of recommendation. Stand-out letters of recommendation can give students a serious leg-up during college admissions. According to a 2024 post from Admit Report , college admissions officers will read as many as than 50,000 applications per admission cycle for a given university.

With that much competition, it can take a lot to help your student stand out. So, what catches an admissions officer’s eye? Strong letters of recommendation.

In that same survey, admissions counselors said letters of recommendation were more important to them than a student’s extracurricular activities, AP test scores, or even class rank. That means it’s worth putting a little extra effort into your next letter. Here’s how to write a college letter of recommendation that will blow the admission committee’s socks off. 

Need more help? Check out Going Merry’s high school counselor hub for email templates, how-to’s, and other resources.


The introduction is one of the most important parts of your letter. This is your chance to hook the reader and draw them in. Here’s how to ace one common recommendation letter format. 

1. Open with a formal salutation

Your letter of recommendation should begin like any business letter. Keep in mind that, while common, “Dear Sir or Madam,” can feel gendered or outdated. “To Whom It May Concern,” is acceptable but can feel a little impersonal. If you can, find out the name of the admissions director. If you can’t find a direct contact, simply address your letter to “Dear Admissions Counselor.” Be sure to type on your official letterhead to give your letter an even more professional look.  

2. Introduce the student 

Start your first paragraph with a sentence or two explaining how long you’ve known the student and in what capacity. Were you their baseball coach, English teacher, or high school counselor ? Explain how you met. If possible, use a little descriptive detail to bring this anecdote to life, and mention your first impressions of the student. It’s usually standard to use the student’s first and last name upon first mention, then refer to them by their first name going forward.

3. Establish a personal connection 

Next, add a sentence or two demonstrating your connection to the student. This is one of the most crucial parts of writing a strong college letter of recommendation. Admissions officers are looking for endorsements from people who really know the candidate well. If you don’t have a personal connection to the student that goes beyond simply being their teacher or counselor, that’s okay. Remember, you can always say no and encourage them to ask someone else to write their letter instead.

One of the best ways to establish this connection and help a student stand out is to tell a memorable story that illustrates their character. Include an example of a time when their qualities or skills really shone. Maybe this is a story about how they stepped up in a leadership position, reacted well in a moment of success or failure, or went out of their way to help another student. Make sure it’s specific and personalized.

Use this section to paint a picture of this young person and explain what makes them stand out. 

1. Highlight the student’s achievements  

Use the next paragraph to mention the student’s top accomplishments. Keep in mind that the admissions officer will already have the student’s resume and GPA in front of them, so don’t waste time listing a bunch of achievements. 

Instead, mention a specific example or short anecdote that might add color to a prominent resume item. For example, the admissions officer probably already knows that your student is a varsity basketball player or a debate team captain. But if this is the hardest-working student-athlete you’ve ever coached or the most brilliant debater the school has ever seen, that’s worth a mention.

Another tip: While it can be helpful to use a letter template , try to avoid using the same formula for every student on your list. College admissions officers are often assigned to a particular region. That means the same person will likely end up reading the same high school teachers’ or counselors’ letters year after year. If your letters are practically the same for each student, the admissions officer will notice.

2. Speak to the student’s character 

Now that you’ve mentioned a student’s successes, it’s time to explain what personal qualities led to such success. Try to make this part of the letter flow naturally from the previous section. 

This is your chance to talk about the student’s hard work, magnetic personality, or aptitude for learning. That said, it’s best to avoid generic statements and clichés . The phrases “great work ethic,” and “strong team spirit” show up on thousands of letters each year. Instead, use concrete examples and descriptive detail to bring your student’s character traits to life. 

Instead of “He’s thoughtful,” say “He’s capable of discussing even the most complex topics with humility and nuance.” Instead of “She’s intellectually curious,” say, “She thinks like a scientist, and over the last four years, she’s turned in such thoughtful lab assessments that sometimes I worried she was teaching me more than I was teaching her.” It’s that kind of vivid description and personalization that catches the attention of college admissions counselors. 

Also be mindful of racial biases and gender biases in letter writing . If you’re not mindful, these unconscious biases can sneak into your letter and negatively color the admissions officer’s view of your student.

3. Provide context 

Praise doesn’t mean much without context. Be sure to benchmark your student’s achievements against those of their peers. This kind of context gives college admissions counselors a better understanding of the student’s abilities. It will be easier for them to make admissions decisions when they can clearly evaluate a student’s performance relative to others. 

So, for example, a weak recommendation letter might state that a student “writes well and participates often in class.” A strong recommendation letter might say something like, “I’ve taught more than 2,000 students in my time as an educator and I’ve never met someone with such a knack for the written word. Many young people struggle to describe their inner world in vivid detail, but Henry succeeded in capturing both me and his classmates with his thoughtful, relatable prose.”

Your final paragraph is your chance to remind your reader why this student is so unique and deserving of a spot at this particular school. Be sure to follow these general guidelines:  

1. End on a positive note 

Your final paragraph should provide a brief summary of your recommendation so far and express why you believe so strongly in this particular student’s likelihood of success. It’s standard to include your contact information in the conclusion in case the admissions office has any further questions for you. This could include your email or office phone number — whatever you’re comfortable providing.   

2. Use a formal closing

As with your opening, the closing of your letter should be professional and businesslike. “Best Regards,” is a common closing, though “Sincerely,” or “Respectfully,” will also work.

Guidelines to follow as you write 

Writing a strong letter of recommendation isn’t just about what you write – it’s how you write, too. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Keep it relatively brief: The audience you’re writing for has to evaluate countless recommendation letters just like the one you’re writing. Be respectful of their time and try to keep your letter to around one page in length.
  • Be honest and balanced : While it’s important to emphasize the student’s positive qualities, it’s just important to be honest and balanced in your assessment. Avoid exaggerations or misleading statements.
  • Tailor the recommendation to the college: Do some research on the colleges the student is applying to and customize your letter accordingly. Highlight traits or experiences that align with the particular college’s values or programs. This shows that you’ve taken the time to understand the student’s goals and aspirations.
  • Avoid cliches: Steer clear of overused phrases and generic statements. Instead, provide original and thoughtful insights about the student.
  • Use professional language and tone : The admissions process is serious business. Maintain a professional tone throughout the letter and use appropriate language. Avoid slang or informal expressions.
  • Proofread and edit : Take the time to review and edit your letter carefully. Check for any spelling or grammatical errors, and ensure that the letter flows smoothly and is well-organized. Consider asking a colleague to proofread it when you’re done.
  • Follow the guidelines : If the college or university provides specific guidelines or requirements for the letter of recommendation, make sure to follow them closely. This may include details on formatting, submission methods, or specific questions to address.
  • Give yourself enough time to write: Writing a college letter of recommendation can take hours, days, or weeks depending on who you are and your relationship to the student. Give yourself plenty of time to sit down, write a draft, and revisit it to make sure it’s polished enough to submit. 

Support your students with Going Merry 

Letters of recommendation are one of the most critical parts of the college application process . That’s because the rest of a college application is pretty dry. Grades and ACT scores only say so much about a person, and colleges want to see more than just academic performance. 

The best students are born leaders with courage, drive, and personality. A good letter can bring your student to life for an admissions committee and even help sway their decision. 

As a high school counselor, you may write dozens — if not hundreds — of recommendation letters each year. Fortunately, Going Merry can help take the busywork off your plate so you focus on what matters. 

With Going Merry’s high school counselor resource hub, you can find everything from free email templates and financial aid lesson plans, to thousands of scholarships sorted by amount, location, and eligibility requirements. Sign up now or schedule a demo to find out how Going Merry can streamline your workflow. 

Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.

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ASU personalized admissions letters put young students on path to college

Growth in program removing barriers for more high school students around the state.

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Angelina Baca, a first-year history major at ASU, received a letter in the fall of her senior year at Betty Fairfax High School in Phoenix. She had planned to attend community college but the letter changed her mind. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

National College Decision Day is May 1, and thanks to a program created by Arizona State University, more high school students in Arizona are on the path to a college degree.

The Personalized Admissions Project , launched by ASU in 2021, is removing barriers to college by simplifying the process: High school seniors who meet the admission standards get personalized letters telling them they’re accepted before they even apply, and the application fee is waived.

Currently, 27 public school districts participate, representing half the high school students in Arizona. Starting last year, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University also participated, so some students get acceptance letters from all three state institutions.

The letters, which include information on how to get financial aid, are huge motivators for students who might not have thought about attending a four-year university, according to Thea Andrade, superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District, the first to partner with ASU on the project.

“There are two myths to college-going: One, ‘I can’t get in,’ and two, ‘I can’t afford it.’

“If we can debunk those two myths, that’s the difference of whether a kid can go to college or not,” she said.

Angelina Baca, a first-year history major at ASU, received a letter in the fall of her senior year at Betty Fairfax High School in Phoenix.

“At that time, I was expecting to go to community college and I wasn’t geared toward university,” she said.

“I was looking for the most affordable option and I wasn’t aware of the financial aid that ASU gives to in-state students.

“The letter was a push in the right direction for me. There are so many opportunities I didn’t know about.”

The project is critical because Arizona has a shortage of workers with college degrees. The state’s high school graduation rate and college-going rate are lower than the national average by 10 and 14 percentage points, respectively — but 65% of all jobs in Arizona require some sort of postsecondary education and training beyond high school.

Baca wants to be a history teacher, and receiving the acceptance letter changed her trajectory.

“I realized that maybe a four-year university was the right step for me, especially as a first-generation student,” she said.

“I have a passion for teaching that I didn’t realize I had until I applied.”

Letters are a game changer

The personalized admission program is a project of the ASU Helios Decision Center for Educational Excellence , a partnership between Arizona State University and Helios Education Foundation.

The project goes beyond simply supplying information.

In 2018, ASU and the Phoenix Union High School District collaborated on a simple flyer that was sent to all ninth-grade students, informing them of the requirements to get into college — a 3.0 grade point average plus the required courses such as math, English, lab science and a foreign language.

A few years later, Joseph O’Reilly, director of the Decision Center for Educational Excellence, was meeting with Andrade when she asked him, “We have kids that you would accept, but they’ll never apply, so why don't you just accept them?”

So the ASU Helios Decision Center for Educational Excellence worked with the Arizona Department of Education to evaluate data for each student. The data stays in the district, not at ASU.

In fall 2021, the first personalized acceptance letters were sent to 1,400 students in the Phoenix Union district. Two versions of the letter were sent. One version was an admittance letter for students who met the requirements, and of those, 53% enrolled at ASU. Another version was for students who were close to meeting the requirements, and 43% of those were enrolled.

Both versions have the letterhead of ASU and the school district, are addressed to the students and their families, and are in both English and Spanish.

“It was a game changer,” Andrade said.

“You see the seniors holding up their letters. Even if a senior gets that letter and says, ‘It’s not the right time,’ we’ve planted a seed that ‘You’re in.’”

The second year, 2022–23, the project expanded to 12 districts with more than 7,200 letters sent. About a third were admitted to ASU.

In the current academic year, 26 districts plus the ASU Prep charter system are participating. Nearly 11,000 letters were sent, meaning that about 13% of all high school seniors in Arizona received personalized admission letters. And the seniors roughly represent the demographics of Arizona: about 43% white, 43% Latino, 5% Asian, 4% Black and 2% Native American. About 41% are in lower-income families.

O’Reilly said that the top students will aim for a college degree, but the Personalized Admissions Project targets students who qualify but don’t consider applying.

“That that was really our motivation,” he said.

“And the districts’ motivation is getting kids thinking about going to the university, no matter what their background is.”

Luke Tate, managing director of the ASU Office of Applied Innovation, said the project is a matter of equity in Arizona.

“We’ve built this fabulously dynamic and diverse economy in this state and left our kids behind,” he said.

“We haven’t made it possible for our kids to fully participate in that success.”

In talking to high schoolers, he finds that those whose parents didn’t go to college often have no idea where to start.

“ASU might as well be on another planet for them,” he said.

So it’s important to reach younger high school students with personalized letters as well.

“Just to make sure we’re doing everything we can (for) young people, particularly those on the margins of not going to college, we begin with letters in 10th and 11th grade,” he said.

“They say, ‘Because of your success in these courses, you’re on a pathway to ASU’ or ‘You’re almost on a pathway to ASU, make sure you take these courses.’”

Diego Guerrero, a counselor at Douglas High School, said he appreciates that younger students receive the letters.

“Normally we might see students at the end of their junior year, but with the letters, sophomores are coming to ask if they’re taking the right classes,” he said.

“When they receive letters like this, it really does help with self-esteem and gets them engaged in the college-going process.”

'I was so excited'

Alexis Alba is the middle of seven children in a family that lives in Lake Havasu. He received an acceptance letter his senior year.

“The community at ASU Lake Havasu is close-knit and gives off small-town vibes and I already knew several people there. I was leaning toward ASU Lake Havasu but that letter made me think, ‘What could I do? How can I get the most academic experience?’ And that’s why I pushed myself to come here,” said Alba, who is majoring in psychology and sociology on the Tempe campus.

“Applying to college is always stressful, especially in a household where your parents didn’t go to college and you don’t have someone to help you,” he said.

“The letter opened the door for me and really motivated me.”

Alba said the application fee waiver “was a godsend to me.”

Young man with glasses smiling on a staircase

Ariana Romayor received an acceptance letter when she was a senior at Trevor Brown High School. Although she was earning college credits in high school through the ACE program, she worried about the cost of college.

“I was so excited and I felt the urge to tell everybody,” she said.

“The letter identified the next steps with FAFSA, what to expect and what to do next and that helped a lot,” said Romayer, who is a first-generation, first-year student majoring in automotive engineering at the Polytechnic campus and wants to design cars for Tesla or Lucent

“People need to know that getting that letter can impact you whether you go to ASU or not. It will motivate you to figure out what you need to do in life.”

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When do College Applications Open in 2024?

  • Updated On April 26, 2024
  • Published In General

Applying to college can be a tough task, but keeping track of when applications open can be the key to your success. 

Table of Contents

Did you know that the application process can be a chance to challenge yourself and push beyond your limits? It requires dedication, hard work, and perseverance, but the rewards can be life-changing.

Missing out on these deadlines can lead to missed opportunities , so it’s crucial to stick to the deadlines set by the institutions.

With the right mindset and preparation , you can maximise your chances of getting admitted to your desired program and embark on a journey of personal and academic growth.

Moreover, it also offers the chance to adjust to your new environment before the academic year begins.

In case you encounter some unfamiliar words while reading the blog, here are a few terms to keep in mind:

Have you ever wondered which intake would be the best for you? It’s the September intake!

This is because the fall season is the start of the academic year in many countries like the United States , Canada , Australia , Ireland and the United Kingdom and it allows students to have a fresh start at the beginning of the year.

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Admission Timeline for Graduate 

Applying for the September intake for undergraduate programs offers benefits such as avoiding the rush of applications , greater program choices , and access to scholarships and financial aid opportunities .

It can be a smart choice for students seeking to maximise their chances of being admitted to their desired program.

The admission timeline for a UG (Undergraduate) program in the September intake for universities abroad can vary slightly depending on the specific university and country. 

Here’s a general breakdown to give you an idea:

Early Stages (6-12 months before application deadline):

Step 1: Start researching universities and programs that align with your interests. Explore university websites, rankings, and program details.

Step 2: If required by your chosen universities, register and take standardised tests like SAT or ACT well in advance. Score deadlines can be earlier than application deadlines .

Step 3: Prepare for and take English language proficiency tests like IELTS or TOEFL if English isn’t your native language. 

Note: Scores typically have validity periods, so plan accordingly.

Step 4: Consider relevant extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or achievements that showcase your skills and interests.

Step 5: Research tuition fees, living expenses, and scholarship opportunities. Start exploring financial aid options to cover the costs associated with studying abroad.

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When do College Applications Open in 2024?

Mid Stages (3-6 months before application deadline):

  • Contact Universities: Reach out to universities you’re interested in with specific questions about the program, application process, or any additional requirements.
  • Request Letters of Recommendation: Identify teachers or mentors who can write strong letters of recommendation highlighting your academic abilities and potential.
  • Draft Application Essays: Start brainstorming and writing application essays or personal statements that showcase your motivations, goals, and suitability for the program.

Late Stages (1-3 months before application deadline):

  • Gather Documents: Ensure you have all required documents like transcripts, test scores, essays, letters of recommendation, and financial documents ready for submission.
  • Prepare Online Application: Carefully complete the online application forms for each university, ensuring all information is accurate and complete.
  • Meet Deadlines: Submit your application packages well before the deadlines set by each university. Deadlines can vary significantly, so pay close attention.

Post Application (After Application Deadline):

  • Wait for Decisions: Universities will review applications and send out acceptance/rejection decisions. This process can take several weeks or even months.
  • Accepting an Offer: Compare university offers based on program fit, costs, and location. Choose the best fit, accept the offer, and follow any additional instructions from the university.
  • Visas and Permits: Start researching and applying for student visas and any other permits required to study in your chosen country.

Remember: Always refer to the specific university websites for the most up-to-date information on their application deadlines, requirements, and any specific procedures for international students.

Admission Timeline for Post-Graduate

Applying for a postgraduate program in the September intake can offer several advantages , such as access to a wider range of courses , more scholarship opportunities , and higher employability prospects . 

The admission timeline can vary depending on the university and country you’re applying to, but starting your research and preparation at least 6-12 months before the application deadline is recommended. 

Here’s a breakdown with estimated timeframes, keeping in mind some key variations for popular study destinations:

Early Stages (6-12 months before the application deadline):

Step 1: Start researching universities and programs that align with your interests. Explore university websites, rankings, and program details. Focus on this from December to May.

  • Step 2: US, Canada: Many programs, especially in STEM fields, require GRE scores. Register and take the tests well in advance. Aim for April or June deadlines. GMAT scores might be needed for business programs.
  • UK, Australia: GRE / GMAT scores are less common, but some programs might require them. Check with specific universities.

Step 3: Prepare for and take English language proficiency tests like IELTS or TOEFL if English isn’t your native language. Scores typically have validity periods, so plan accordingly. Aim to take them by May.

Step 4: Highlight relevant work experience, research projects, or achievements that showcase your skills and suitability for the program. Build your resume or CV throughout the year.

Mid Stages (4-6 months before application deadline):

  • Contact Universities: Reach out to program coordinators or professors at universities you’re interested in with specific questions about the program, research opportunities, or any additional requirements. This is especially important in countries like the US and Canada, where faculty involvement can strengthen your application.
  • Request Letters of Recommendation: Identify professors, employers, or supervisors who can write strong letters of recommendation highlighting your academic or professional capabilities. Request them by June.
  • Draft Application Essays/SOP: Start brainstorming and writing a strong Statement of Purpose (SOP) that showcases your motivations, research interests, career goals, and suitability for the program. This is crucial for all countries.

Late Stages (2-3 months before application deadline):

  • Gather Documents: Ensure you have all required documents like transcripts, test scores (if applicable), SOP, letters of recommendation, resume/CV, and financial documents ready for submission.
  • Prepare Online Application: Carefully complete the online application forms for each university, ensuring all information is accurate and complete. Pay close attention to program-specific requirements and deadlines. Be mindful that some countries like the US might have additional essay prompts.
  • US, Canada: Applications for top universities often have deadlines as early as December – February . Aim to submit well before these deadlines to ensure consideration.
  • UK, Australia: Deadlines are generally later, falling between March – July . However, some universities might have earlier deadlines for specific programs.

Post Application (After Application):

  • Accepting an Offer (Varies by University): If you receive offers, carefully compare them based on program fit, costs, location, faculty expertise, and research opportunities. Choose the university that best aligns with your academic and career goals. Once you decide, accept the offer and follow any further instructions from the university (typically by deadlines set by the university).
  • Visas and Permits (Varies by Country): Start researching and applying for student visas and any other permits required to study in your chosen country. This process can take time, so begin as soon as you have your acceptance letter.

Remember: This is a general guideline. Always refer to the specific university and program websites for the most up-to-date information on their deadlines, requirements, and any specific procedures for international students.

What is a Common App?

Are you ready to take on the challenge of applying to multiple colleges and universities in the United States and around the world? Look no further than The Common Application! 

This amazing non-profit organisation provides a streamlined online platform that simplifies the entire application process. 

With The Common App , you can easily fill out a single application and submit it to numerous schools, saving you time and effort. 

The platform includes sections for personal information , academic history , extracurricular activities , and essays , making it easier than ever to put your best foot forward. 

The Common App dashboard helps you stay on top of your applications by providing:

  • A clear overview of your progress
  • Upcoming deadlines
  • Required documents

This feature ensures that you don’t miss out on any critical deadlines and can submit your applications on time without any last-minute stress.

When does the common app open?

Starting your college application process can be nerve-wracking, but with the right approach, you can feel confident and prepared.

  • The annual Common App application cycle typically begins on August 1st.
  • It’s essential to keep a close eye on the deadlines for your desired schools .
  • While early action or early decision programs usually have deadlines between November and December, regular decision deadlines generally fall around January 1st.
  • Verify exact deadlines with each college you’re interested in.
  • You can create a Common App account at any time and transfer your information to the new application cycle when it opens.

Starting early and staying organised shows initiative and can boost your confidence in presenting yourself well, thereby improving your chances of getting into your desired school.

How do you complete the CommonApp application?

  • Start your application: Visit and click “Start your application.” Here, you’ll find instructions on creating an account and logging in. Alternatively, download the Common App mobile app to manage deadlines, request recommendations, and set reminders on the go.
  • Choose your path: Select “First-Year Student” or “Transfer Student,” depending on your application type.
  • Provide basic information: Enter your name, email, phone number, address, date of birth, and prospective enrollment year.
  • Complete your profile: Fill out the requested details about your education, extracurricular activities, demographics, household information, and more.
  • Gather recommendations: Add collaborators like teachers, counsellors, and others who will provide letters of recommendation or supporting documents.
  • Explore your options: Search for and add colleges to your “My Colleges” list.
  • Apply with confidence: Familiarise yourself with each college’s specific application requirements and follow them carefully during the submission process.
  • Check your application status: Use the icons on your dashboard to easily track the progress of your applications. A green checkmark indicates a completed submission, a yellow circle shows applications in progress, and a red dash means a section is not required for that college.
  • Don’t forget to submit! Meet the deadline by submitting all your application materials by 11:59 PM (local time) on the date listed in your Common App dashboard.

What is a Coalition Application?

The Coalition Application can be your ultimate resource to streamline the application process.

With this platform, you can apply to a diverse range of member colleges and universities using a single application , making the process much more accessible and manageable. 

The application comes equipped with a variety of user-friendly tools and resources that help you stay organised and on track with your application. 

When does the Coalition Application open?

  • You can submit your applications through the Coalition App every year in either July or August.
  • As early as ninth or tenth grade, you have the opportunity to initiate building your profile and gain an advantage.
  • Your profile holds a major weightage of 70% in your applications to the schools that you are interested in.
  • The main goal of the Coalition App is to enhance the accessibility of higher education for students who come from under-resourced and historically underrepresented communities.
  • Your likelihood of being accepted into the college you aspire to attend can be improved by submitting your application through the Coalition.
  • Check the member schools list to see if your college accepts Coalition applications.

Universities with their own Applications

Did you know that some universities create their own custom applications instead of using centralised systems like the Common App or Coalition App? 

These personalised applications are available on the schools’ official websites and provide a unique experience tailored to each institution. 

Many private colleges offer this option, so be sure to check each school’s admissions website. 

Remember: Keep in mind that these applications may require additional components such as specific common app essay prompts and recommendation letters. 

Note: The deadlines for these applications are typically earlier than those for other universities, so it’s important to plan ahead.

Here is a list of universities that have their own application: 

  • Harvard University
  • Stanford University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  • University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Southern California (USC)
  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • Yale University

Wrapping it up

Planning and keeping track of the application timeline is crucial for success while applying to universities abroad. 

Starting early and researching well in advance is key to maximising your chances of getting admitted to your desired program. 

By following the general admission timeline , students can ensure they have all the required documents and meet the deadlines set by each university. 

Enrolling in the September intake for undergraduate or postgraduate programs can offer several benefits, including access to a wider range of courses , scholarship opportunities , and higher employability prospects . 

Remember to always refer to the specific university websites for the most up-to-date information and requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. when should i start applying for college 2024.

A. Applying to college can be challenging, but keeping track of application deadlines is crucial for success. With dedication and preparation, you can maximise your chances of getting admitted to your desired program. The September intake is often the best option, offering greater program choices and access to scholarships and financial aid opportunities. The admission timeline for undergraduate programs can vary depending on the specific university and country, so it’s important to refer to university websites for up-to-date information.

Q. When will college admissions start in 2024?

A. The college admissions process for 2024 will vary depending on the specific university and country. However, in many countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom, the fall season, which typically starts in September, is the beginning of the academic year and the time when admissions typically open. It’s important to refer to specific university websites for the most up-to-date information on their admissions timeline and deadlines.

Q. What is the college application 2024 opening date?

A. The opening date for college applications in 2024 will vary depending on the specific university and country. However, in many countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, the application process typically opens in the fall season, which starts in September. It’s important to refer to specific university websites for the most up-to-date information on their application timeline and deadlines.

Q. What is a common app application?

A. The Common Application is a widely used online college application platform that allows students to apply to multiple institutions. Students can fill out one application and submit it to multiple schools, making the process more streamlined and efficient. The Common Application typically includes basic personal information, academic history, extracurricular activities, and essay prompts. It’s important to note that not all colleges accept the Common Application, so it’s crucial to check each university’s website for their specific application requirements.

Q. What is a coalition application?

A. The Coalition Application is another online college application platform that allows students to apply to multiple institutions. Similar to the Common Application, students can fill out one application and submit it to multiple schools. The Coalition Application typically includes basic personal information, academic history, extracurricular activities, and essay prompts. It also includes a collaboration platform called “Locker,” where students can store and showcase their work. Like the Common Application, not all colleges accept the Coalition Application, so it’s important to check each university’s website for their specific application requirements.

Q. Which are the universities that have their own application?

A. Many universities have their own individual application, instead of using a standardised platform like the Common Application or the Coalition Application. Some examples of universities with their own application include Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California system, Texas A&M University, and the University of Florida. It’s important to check each university’s website for their specific application requirements and deadlines.

Q. What are the documents required for admission?

A. The documents required for college admission vary depending on the specific university and country. However, commonly required documents include transcripts, test scores (such as SAT or ACT), English language proficiency scores (such as IELTS or TOEFL), letters of recommendation, essays or personal statements, and financial documents. It’s important to refer to specific university websites for the most up-to-date information on their application requirements and any additional documents that may be needed.

Q. In which month can I be admission to college?

A. The month in which you can be admitted to college varies depending on the specific university and country. In many countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom, admissions typically begin in the fall season, which starts in September. However, different universities may have different admission cycles and deadlines. It’s important to refer to specific university websites for the most up-to-date information on their admissions timeline and deadlines.

Q. Which intake is the best for applying to universities?

A. The September intake is often considered the best time to apply for undergraduate programs at universities. This is because the fall season is the start of the academic year in many countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Applying for the September intake offers benefits such as avoiding the rush of applications, greater program choices, and access to scholarships and financial aid opportunities. However, it’s important to check each university’s website for their specific admission timeline and deadlines.

Q. Why is the September intake considered to be the best?

A. The September intake is considered the best for undergraduate programs at universities for several reasons. Firstly, the fall season is the start of the academic year in many countries, and it allows students to have a fresh start at the beginning of the year. Secondly, applying for the September intake offers benefits such as avoiding the rush of applications, greater program choices, and access to scholarships and financial aid opportunities. Finally, it also offers the chance to adjust to your new environment before the academic year begins.

Q. How many intakes are there for UG?

A. The number of intakes for undergraduate programs varies depending on the specific university and country. However, in many countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, the fall season, which typically starts in September, is the main intake for undergraduate programs. Some universities may also offer a winter or spring intake, but these are less common. It’s important to refer to specific university websites for the most up-to-date information on their admission timeline and deadlines.

Popular Universities for Study Abroad

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  1. FREE 15+ Sample College Application Letter Templates in PDF

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