Unpack the Application Package

Most colleges require an application package. Since colleges have their own criteria for accepting students, you need to stay organized to make sure you are supplying the necessary information to each college. Use the College Application Tracking Form provided in the downloads section.

Colleges and universities may require the following pieces in your application package:

This form is your basic tool for entering college. It asks for a variety of information about you and your high school career. Most colleges have online applications. You can access Harper’s online application by visiting harpercollege.edu/apply.

Learn how to improve your chances of success in our Resources section.

Application fees average $50 each, which can sometimes be waived with a promotion code or if your family income meets the school’s guidelines for a waiver. Other colleges do not charge any fee at all. Check with the college’s admission office for information about fees and fee waivers.

Colleges want to see an official record of your high school grades. Most colleges have a form that they need an administrator or guidance counselor at your school to fill out. In most cases, high schools send transcripts directly to your college after you apply.

Many colleges and universities require you to submit ACT or SAT scores, although a growing number of schools no longer require these scores. You can select four institutions to receive your scores for free when registering for the ACT or the SAT. If taking the SAT, you can still send four free score reports to colleges up to nine days after taking the test.

For a deeper dive on college testing requirements, read the ABCs of the SAT, ACT and Other Tests in our Resources section.

Many colleges ask students to submit one or more letters of recommendation. These letters are usually written by an adult who knows the student well but is not a relative. Most students ask their high school teachers to write letters for them.

Important tips for recommendation letters:

  • Give your letter writers plenty of time to prepare their letters—at least one month. Teachers can get overwhelmed with requests.
  • Use a current reference. Do not ask for a letter from someone who taught you in your freshman year.
  • Consider using a teacher who knows your involvement in extra-curricular activities outside the classroom.
  • If a college or university does not request a specific instructor to write a letter, consider using an English, math or science teacher to write your letter. If you plan on studying music, theatre or art, though, you’re better off asking a teacher who is familiar with your accomplishments or skill in those areas.
  • Communicate with the letter writer. Let the teacher or counselor know about any specific activities in high school that were special to you.
  • On your application form, waive your right to review the letters of recommendation. Letters are viewed as more credible if you haven’t seen them before they are sent to the college or university.
  • Follow up with thank-you notes to everyone who has written you a letter of recommendation.

Many schools require applicants to write an essay as part of their application package. Each college assigns a specific essay topic. The essay is an opportunity to express your individuality and explain why you want to attend the specific school.

Read more about Essay Tips in our Resources section.

Some colleges require an interview as part of the application process. Even if the interview is not required by the school itself, you may want to request an interview in order to get a better idea of what it would be like to attend that school.

Read more about Admissions Interviews in our Resources section

If you are applying for a program in the performing or fine arts such as theatre, music, dance, or art, you may need to supply a portfolio of your work or perform an audition. The portfolio is a collection of your art and can be submitted in a variety of forms including electronic submission. Auditions are usually required for music, dance or theatre applicants.

Last Updated: 9/28/22