Timeline and organization

This timeline from The College Board gives a clear overview of when you can expect to complete various portions of your college applications. High school seniors can start filling out applications as soon as the summer after their junior year. This summer is also when many students choose to visit colleges in person. By the fall, you should be working on essays and taking any standardized tests your target schools require.

…Unless you’re planning to apply to a school for early decision, in which case you should be turning in your applications by the fall!

It is always best to start your applications early and to submit early. Colleges don’t wait until the deadline to start reading applications and admitting students, which means that students who submit late are competing with more people for fewer slots. Don’t wait until the last minute, and don’t forget about those admissions essays!

If you’re applying to more than one school, get a separate folder for each one, and keep all of your application materials and information in it. It’s really easy to get confused about things like deadlines, supporting documents and essay topics. Staying organized helps you submit the best application possible.

How many colleges should I apply to?

You should make a list of all the schools you are interested in. The list should include schools that are considered reach schools, match schools and safety schools.

About.com defines these common terms as follows:

Reach schools: A reach school is a college that you have a chance of getting into, but your test scores, class rank and/or high school grades are a bit on the low side when you look at the school’s profile.

Match schools: A match school is a college that you are pretty likely to get into because your test scores, class rank and/or high school grades fall right into the middle range when you look at the school’s profile.

Safety schools: A safety school is a college that you will almost certainly get into because your test scores, class rank and / or high school grades are well above average when you look at the school’s profile. Even if you’re a valedictorian with perfect SAT scores, you should never consider the top U.S. colleges and top universities to be safety schools. The admissions standards at these schools are so high that no one is guaranteed acceptance.

If you aren’t sure what schools fall into which category for you, ask your school counselor for some guidance. Don’t overwhelm yourself by applying to dozens of schools. It’s expensive to pay so many college application fees, and you will spread yourself too thin.

Paper or electronic?

The vast majority of schools now offer online applications. If you’d rather submit a paper application, contact the school’s admission office to request one. Whichever format you prefer, you’ll want to hang on to a paper copy for your own records. Print one out if you fill the application out online. Applications do get lost by schools—it happens very rarely, but think how frustrating it would be to have to start your application over.

Application Fees

Most admissions applications have a required application fee. These fees can range anywhere from $30-$65. Schools will waive these fees if you meet certain financial criteria, and sometimes for other reasons as well. If you need a fee waiver, check with your high school counselor to see if you are eligible.

Have copies of the documents you’ll need

This is really important! Contacting big bureaucratic organizations for paperwork and then waiting weeks for it to arrive can be really annoying. If you’ve been procrastinating, it can also put you in danger of missing submission deadlines.

Avoid these headaches by preparing the documents you’re likely to need ahead of time:

  • high school transcripts
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • letters of recommendation
  • portfolio items
  • essay

If you are looking at art schools or degree programs that require a portfolio, have an electronic copy on hand to be able to send with your application. If you are pursuing theater, music or another performance-based program, be prepared to be called for an audition. Finally, make sure that letters of recommendation are delivered in the manner requested (for example, sealed, or sent directly by the letter writer to the school), and that any transcripts or test scores are official copies, rather than photocopies.

Getting letters of recommendation

Wondering who to ask for a letter of recommendation? Take a look at the requirements for each school you are applying to. Some want letters from past teachers. Others ask for a counselor, employer or other adult who knows you well. Some schools won’t specify who your letters have to be from. (Family members are almost never acceptable, however.)

Whatever the requirements, make sure you ask the best possible candidate. You want to find an individual who has known you long enough to know your strengths and your weaknesses. Someone who can speak to your qualities and potential clearly and powerfully.

When you approach a person to ask them to write a letter, keep in mind that these letters can be challenging to write—in a way, they’re essays too. Remind the person of some of your past positive interactions. You can suggest a few things that they might want to emphasize about you. It is always a great idea to write a simple thank you note to everyone who completes a letter of recommendation for you! They’ve done you a big favor.

Approach potential letter writers as soon as possible. Teachers can get swamped with requests for letters. The more advance notice you give them, the more time and effort they can put into your letter. It is good etiquette to give your writer at least one month.

The Common Application

Understanding Admissions Requirements

What are college admissions requirements?

What do they mean to you?

Many colleges and universities have minimum requirements for admission. These are the things that they expect from all applicants: test scores above a certain number on the SAT or ACT; a high school GPA above some other number; high scool courses that cover specific subjects. That kind of thing. If you discover that you don’t meet all the requirements for a school that you would like to attend, give their admissions department a call or email. They may tell you that you should still apply!

Some schools refuse to list specific requirements, especially with regard to test scores and high school grade point averages. The idea here is that you, the student, are more than just numbers on a page—your interests, personality, background, dedication and ambition are also relevant to the admissions process. These schools often show ranges of scores instead, so that you can still get a sense of whether you’re a good academic fit. If you’re not sure whether the numbers you see are requirements or just suggested guidelines, contact the school directly to ask.

University Program Admission Requirements

*Phew*! So you’re in the clear. You meet the requirements for your college or university of your choice. But wait, have you checked to see whether there are additional requirements for the specific program or degree that you’re interested in?

That’s right, individual departments (or individual colleges within a larger university) can have their own requirements. For example, if you are considering majoring in nursing, you might be expected to have completed specific science classes in high school. If you have a degree in mind, contact the school and ask if there are additional requirements for admission to that program.

Arizona State University (ASU)

Admission Requirements

  • English – 4 years (composition/literature based)
  • Math – 4 years (algebra I, geometry, algebra II and one course requiring algebra II as a prerequisite)
  • Laboratory Science – 3 years total (1 year each from any of the following areas are accepted: biology, chemistry, earth science, integrated sciences and physics)
  • Social Science – 2 years (including 1 year American history)
  • Second Language – 2 years (same language)
  • Fine Arts or Career and Technical Education – 1 year

Arizona Residents $50.00


ASU Undergraduate Admission

Northern Arizona University (NAU)

Admission Requirements

  • English

    Meet one of the following:

    • 4 Years of high school English (composition/literacy-based)
    • ACT: 21+ English score
    • SAT: 580+ Critical Reading score (530+ if taken before March 2016)
    • One transferable three-credit college English Composition course


    Meet one of the following:

    • 4 years of high school math courses, including one year each of Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, and an advanced class for which Algebra II is a prerequisite
    • ACT: 24+ math score
    • SAT: 570+ math score (540+ if taken before March 2016)
    • One transferable three-credit college math course for which at least intermediate algebra is a prerequisite

    Laboratory Science

    Meet one of the following:

    • 3 years of high school laboratory science: one year each of biology, chemistry, earth science, or physics. An integrated science class may be substituted for one required course.
    • Two years high school laboratory science (biology, chemistry, earth science or physics) plus one of the following test scores (test score may be used to satisfy one lab science unit other than high school credits earned):
      • ACT: 20+ science score
      • SAT: 600+ chemistry score, 590+ biology score, or 620+ physics score
    • Three transferable four-credit college lab sciences courses (One semester each of biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics). An integrated science or advanced level science class may be substituted for one required course.

    Social Science

    Meet one of the following from each section:

    • History/Social Studies
      • One year high school American History
      • SAT II: 560+ American History/Social Studies score
      • One transferable three-credit college American History course
    • Social Science
      • One year high school social science (such as European history, world history, economics, sociology, geography, government, psychology or anthropology)
      • SAT II: 580+ world history score
      • One transferable three-credit college social science course

    Second Language

    Meet one of the following:

    • 2 years of the same high school second language (foreign, Native American or sign language)
    • Attain minimum score on national standardized second/foreign language test (AP 3+, CLEP 50+, IB 4+, SAT II 50th percentile or higher)
    • One year of transferable college study in same second language.

    Fine Arts

    Meet one of the following:

    • 1 year or a two-semester combination of high school fine arts or Career and Technical Education (CTE)
    • One transferable three-credit college fine arts course.
    • Semesters of fine art and career and technical education cannot be combined.

NAU Undergraduate Admission

University of Arizona (UA)

Admission Requirements

  • English (4 units/years)
  • Math (4 units/years)
  • Laboratory sciences (3 units/years)
  • Social sciences (2 units/years)
  • Second language (2 units/years)
  • Either fine arts or career and technical education (1 unit/year)

      $50.00 application fee

    UA Undergraduate Admission

    Pima Community College (PCC)

    PCC Admissions

    Start Now!

    Going to college in Arizona is as easy as 1, 2, 3.  The easiest way to assure your admission is to be an Arizona resident, complete the Sweet 16 course requirements, and graduate in the top 25% of your class.  If you can do that, you can essentially guarantee your admission to any of Arizona’s three public universities.

    Use the pages in this section of the website to help you prepare for your college future!

    Admission Details for all academies

    States service academies:
    The United States Military Academy (USMA) located in West Point, NY
    The United States Naval Academy (USNA) located in Annapolis, MD
    The United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) located in New London, CT
    The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) located in Kings Point, NY
    The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) located in Colorado Springs, CO


    To be eligible to apply, you must meet the following initial requirements:

    • Be a United States citizen
    • Be unmarried with no dependents
    • Be at least the age of 17, but less than 23 years of age by July 1st of the year you would enter the academy.

    To obtain a congressional nomination from your local congressman or congresswoman, your two State Senators, or the Vice President of the United States. All candidates are eligible to apply for nominations from these four sources. To apply for a congressional nomination, contact your local congressional representative and both of your senators’ offices for information on their application process. The Vice President can nominate candidates without geographical restriction within the United States. To apply for a nomination from the Vice President, you can find information on the White House webpage.

    Candidates are required to have letters of recommendations, strong transcripts, strong SAT or ACT scores, pass a Department of Defense Military Examination Review Board (DODMERB) physical examination, and pass a fitness test. Candidates are expected to be scholars, leaders, and athletes within their schools or communities. If you are in high school, ensure you are serving in a leadership position, whether it’s as a sports team captain, a class or club officer, or community leader.

    United States Air Force Academy

    Step 1 - Check Your Eligibility

    To apply to the Academy, you must be of good moral character and meet these basic eligibility requirements:

    • At least 17 but not past your 23rd birthday by July 1 of the year you enter the Academy
    • A United States Citizen
    • Unmarried with no dependents

    Read complete eligibility details to confirm that you meet these requirements as defined by the Academy. If you do, you may proceed to the next step.

    If you are a citizen of a country other than the United States, please see Advice to Applicants: International Students.




    STEP 2 - Find Your Admissions Liaison Officer

    It is recommended that you make contact with your Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO) early in your application process. Your ALO is qualified to answer any questions you might have about admissions, the Academy, or what it means to be an officer in the Air Force.

    To contact an ALO near you, see Find Your Admissions Liaison Officer.

    Note that later in the process, you will complete a personal interview with your ALO. It is in your best interest to build a relationship with this Academy representative and to stay in contact throughout your application process.





    STEP 3 - Complete Your Pre-Candidate Questionnaire

    To become a candidate for appointment to the Academy, you must complete and submit a Pre-Candidate Questionnaire. You may begin as early as March 1 of your Junior year of high school. It must be completed by December 31st.

    You must have the following information available to complete the Pre-Candidate Questionnaire:

    • Full Legal Name, Birth Date and Social Security Number
    • Mailing Address, Home Phone and Email Address
    • High School Name, Class size
    • Class Rank and Grade Point Average (on a weighted 4.0 scale)
    • One or More Test Scores: PSAT, PreACT, SAT, and/or ACT

    Your class rank, grade point average, test scores and answers to questions regarding your situation and activities will determine whether you will be granted candidate status.

    In addition to the information listed above, it is recommended that you become familiar with all Academy admissions requirements, particularly the Academic Performance and Extracurricular Activitiesfactors, so that you understand what we are looking for in a candidate.

    Once you complete your Pre-Candidate Questionnaire, our system will send you an automated email reply to verify we have received it. Those Pre-Candidates who will be granted candidate status will receive an email and Candidate Kit Instructions online.

    START DATE: March 1

    DEADLINE: December 31





    STEP 4 - Seek Your Nomination

    Seek Your Nomination

    To be eligible to accept an offer of appointment to the Academy, you must be nominated by a legally authorized nominating entity. The process of securing a nomination is competitive and lengthy. It is recommended that you begin applying for a nomination at the same time that you are completing your Pre-Candidate Questionnaire.

    Read more about Nominations to determine the categories for which you are eligible, then contact the appropriate nominating authority to make your request. You should request a nomination in all categories for which you are eligible, and do so as early as possible.

    Begin your nomination application as soon as possible. The deadlines of your nominating sources vary and could be as soon as early September. Regardless of when you initiate the process, your nomination must be received by the Academy no later than January 31.

    REQUEST BY: Varied

    DEADLINE: Check Your Portal




    STEP 5 - Request Transcripts and Teacher Evaluations

    In the Pre-Candidate phase, you self-reported your grade point average and class rank. Now, in the Candidate phase you will request official transcripts from your school to verify your past academic record.

    You will be provided with a Request for Secondary School Transcript (USAFA Form 148) to give to your high school counselor. Ensure that your counselor completes and mails it to us, including your high school’s profile and senior class schedule. For more details, see the Academic Performance admissions factor.

    To gain further insight into your academic preparation and character, we require three teacher evaluations. If you are in high school, the instructors evaluating you MUST be your:

    • 11th or 12 grade English instructor
    • Math instructor
    • One other instructor (preferably Science, but may be History, etc.)

    You will be able to print the form for them. For more details, see the Character Evaluation admissions factor.

    DEADLINE: Check Your Portal





    STEP 6 - Train for and Take the Candidate Fitness Assessment

    In order to qualify for admission to any of the Service Academies, you must take the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA).  Become familiar with the six events in this fitness test and practice them to score well.

    The events are administered consecutively with specified start, finish, and rest times. Although the CFA is Pass-Fail, it is imperative that you perform to the best of your ability on each of these events, failure can disqualify you in the application process:

    1. Basketball Throw
    2. Pull-Ups/Flexed Arm Hang
    3. Shuttle Run
    4. Modified Sit-Ups (Crunches)
    5. Push-Ups
    6. One-Mile run

    Note that you are responsible for finding your own examiner and providing them with official instructions on how to set up and administer the test. Your Physical Education instructor or a coach are good options.

    If you need help finding a qualified examiner, your Admissions Liaison Officer can help. For more on the specifics of the exam and how to prepare, see the Fitness Assessment admissions factor.

    DEADLINE: Check Your Portal





    STEP 7 - Complete Your Extracurricular Activities Record

    Participation in athletic and non-athletic activities is an asset in preparing for the demanding Air Force Academy program, and is a competitive factor in your application to the Academy. Sustained participation and leadership in a few activities is desirable.

    You will complete the Candidate Activities Record to receive credit for any activities you have participated in at school, in organizations outside of school or at work.

    For more on extracurricular activities appropriate to a competitive application, see Advice to Applicants: All Applicants. For more on completing the Candidate Activities Record, see the Extracurricular Activities admissions factor.

    DEADLINE: Check Your Portal





    STEP 8 - Complete Your Writing Sample and Personal Interview

    As part of the admissions process, you will be required to submit a writing sample and to conduct a personal interview with an Admissions representative. Both of these steps allow you to speak to the selection panel in your own words. For more on these admissions requirements, see the Character Assessment admissions factor.

    If you have not done so already, make contact with your Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO) and schedule your personal interview. Treat this as a job interview, as it is an important piece of our holistic review.

    As for your writing sample, you will have the choice of providing a written response to two out of three questions provided in your online application. Responses should reflect who you are using specific, concrete details. Responses should also demonstrate critical thinking, organizational and grammatical abilities.

    DEADLINE: Check Your Portal





    STEP 9 - Submit Your Personal Data Record and Drug/Alcohol Abuse Statement

    The Air Force Academy wants individuals of high moral character to further develop into future leaders of the Air Force and our nation. The Personal Data Record and Drug/Alcohol Abuse Statement are two critical aspects of your admissions file. For more detail on these admissions requirements, see the Character Assessment admissions factor.

    You must provide details of your personal record, including any legal issues such as arrests or citations. The Candidate Personal Data Record must be completed including details of any and all incidents. If selected as a cadet, a complete background investigation will be accomplished for purposes of granting a security clearance.

    By this time, you should already be in contact with your Admissions Liaison Officer. Note that to receive access to the Drug/Alcohol Abuse Statement portion of the online application, you must contact your ALO and receive instructions. These instructions can be received over the phone or in person.

    DEADLINE: Check Your Portal





    STEP 10 - Complete Your Medical Evaluation

    All candidates admitted to the U.S. Air Force Academy must meet the medical and weight standards for a commission in the United States Air Force. The Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DODMERB) is responsible for determining your medical qualification.

    Note you must complete three of the following five application steps BEFORE your name will be forwarded to DODMERB to schedule your examination. For more detail on item 1 below, see the Fitness Assessment admissions factor. For more detail on items 2 – 5 below, see the Character Assessment admissions factor.

    1. Candidate Fitness Assessment (USAFA Form 158)
    2. Candidate Personal Data Record (USAFA Form 146)
    3. Candidate Activities Record (USAFA Form 147)
    4. Teacher Evaluations (USAFA Form 145)
    5. Writing Sample (USAFA Form 0-878)

    You should know that it can take up to 30 days to schedule your initial medical evaluation, 60 days for completion and possibly another 30 days for a medical waiver if required. This can result in up to a 4-month process for candidates.

    Applicants should become familiar with examination requirements and medical standards to ensure a complete and competitive application to the Academy. For more detail on this admissions requirement, see the Medical Evaluation admissions factor.