College Applications


It's important to review a school's admissions requirements before applying. While these are typically not strict cut-offs, they do provide an average expected high school GPA and/or test score for prospective students. Schools may require specific courses to be completed before enrolling as well (Algebra I, for example). This information can be found on the college's Admissions page.



Before selecting a school, students must assess the college’s admission requirements to determine if they qualify. To do this, explore the school’s website and note minimum course and GPA requirements, necessary tests, essays, and application deadlines.

Three Types of Admissions

  • Regular Decision: students submit an application by a specified date and receive a decision in a clearly stated period of time.

  • Rolling Admission: institutions review applications as they are submitted and give admission decisions as they receive applications.

  • Early Action: students apply early (usually November) and receive a decision well in advance of the institution's regular response date. This is non-binding.

  • Early Decision: students make a commitment to a first-choice institution where, if admitted they definitely will enroll. The application deadline and decision deadline occur early. This is binding. If accepted, the student must withdraw all other applications.

  • Limited Entry: a term that describes programs that often require an additional application and accept a limited number of applicants.

  • Open Admission: some colleges offer admission to all students who apply. Such colleges usually have extensive programs designed to provide remedial or developmental help to students who enroll with academic deficiencies.

Admission Requirements

  • College Admission requirements are different than High School graduation requirements.

  • Research college admission requirements and research admission requirements for private or out-of-state schools on their websites.

  • Request an unofficial high school transcript from your high school registrar to see if you are on track to meet the college admission requirements.

  • One main difference between high school graduation requirements and college admission requirements is that 4-year colleges/universities require 2 years of foreign language.

College Applications

Keep track of all deadlines for the institutions you are interested in applying to. Use this College Application Checklist from CollegeBoard to help keep track of your applications:

College Applications include the following:

  • Application: Usually found on the school's website. Make sure you complete all sections completely and thoroughly.

  • Official High School Transcripts: Request from your high school registrar. Send these with your admissions application and a final transcript at the end of senior year.

  • Official SAT or ACT Scores: These can be sent by logging into your or accounts and sending the scores the the institution.

  • Letters of Recommendation: Some schools require letters of recommendation for admission. Ask recommenders early to write you a letter. Give them at least two weeks. Use the Letter of Recommendation Request to help the recommender write an informed letter about you. Politely follow-up with the recommender as the deadline approaches. Write your recommenders a thank you note and keep them updated on your plans.

  • Essays: Make sure you answer the question completely, and that you are within the word limit. Let your voice shine through, and be yourself. Get feedback on your essay from peers, teachers, and parents. See Tips on Submitting Applications and Essays.

  • Application Fee: An application fee is required for most colleges. Many colleges accept fee waivers or deferments. If you received a fee waiver for the SAT, you will receive four college application fee waivers in your online account.

ASPIRE Documents

understanding the application process

Application Steps

There are a few key parts of every college application process.

  1. Application Fee: Many colleges require an application fee at the time students submit their application. Several automatically waive the fee if students apply online, others will accept a deferral or waiver, both of which must be signed by a high school counselor. Students should download a copy of the NACAC fee waiver.

  2. School Application/Common App: Schools may have their own unique application, but many 4-year colleges throughout the country use the Common App. This saves students time by not requiring them to fill out their personal contact information, educational history, etc. every time they apply to a new school. OSU, U of O, and several in-state private schools use the Common App.

  3. Essays: Most institutions require students to write one or more admissions essays. Some schools have strict writing prompts while others are more open-ended. These essays are evaluating the students writing ability and their character. It is the best opportunity a student has to show why they should be admitted into the college. More information on essay writing can be found below.

  4. GPA/Transcript: Most schools will ask students to submit their high school transcript to verify their GPA. Some schools way these scores more heavily than others, and colleges may view identical GPAs differently based on the high school attended. Schools will also review your transcript to ensure you've taken required courses for admission.

  5. Test Scores: Standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, etc.) were often required for nearly every college, but more and more schools are moving to test-optional admissions. More information is in the section below.

  6. Letter of Recommendation: Schools, scholarships, or certain programs may want a Letter of Recommendation. These are 1-2 page letters from someone who can speak to your talents -- typically an adult who taught or supervised you. You could ask a teacher, a mentor, a coach, a supervisor at your job or volunteer organization, etc. Ask your potential recommender if they have the time/capacity to write a letter for you and give them ample time before the deadline to write the letter and submit it.

Standardized admissions tests

Four-year colleges and universities generally require that a standardized test be taken to apply for admission. Oregon community colleges do not require standardized tests, but do have their own placement tests. Each school’s website or admissions office will give you the information you need on test requirements. School counselors can also be a resource for test preparation. Students should have a planned testing date (or multiple) in their timeline.

There may be test fee waivers available at the high school to students who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. See a school counselor for more information.

As more schools move to test-optional admissions, students may be apply to enough schools without having to take either test. This can be particularly beneficial for students who may excel in the classroom and in essay writing, but perform worse on standardized test.