You’ve done the campus tours. You’ve narrowed your list down to about ten potential schools. You’ve got some “reach” schools and some back up schools.
Now it’s time for the hard part: college applications.
So many schools, so little time! No need to worry. We’re here to help.
The best way to tackle applications is to start early. It allows you to spread out the workload. You can set personal deadlines for all the components of your application, such as essays and forms. The college application deadline is for your fully completed applications. This can include the application itself, transcripts, essays, recommendations, and anything else the school has requested.
Have a folder or binder to keep everything in one place. You should always keep copies of anything you submit. This can help you avoid any future problems, like a form missing from your application.
Thinking of including something additional? First think, “Will this strengthen my application?” Submitting every certificate and award you’ve ever won may clutter up your application. You don’t want to do that! Only submit the most relevant pieces of information that will help your application stand out.
Also, remain consistent. Make sure to keep the same name on all papers. This can help you avoid getting them mixed into someone else’s application.
Apply for FREE!
It’s never fun when you have to submit a fee to apply to a college. Luckily, some schools will waive the fee if you meet a certain requirement. The requirements can include:
- Applying online
- Having a relative or friend who graduated from the school
- Visiting and doing a campus tour
Strengthen Your Application
It can be stressful when filling out an application. How do you convey who you are, what you believe, and what you’ve done on a piece of paper? How do you get a college to pick you?
Here are some tips to avoid submitting a poor application:
- Read all the instructions in full.
It may seem obvious, but a lot of students make silly mistakes on their applications.
- Take the lead.
Schools want to know who you are, not what your parents have to say about you. If you really want to get into a school, make it clear. Don’t have Mom call in to convey your interest.
- Proofread EVERYTHING.
Spelling errors are embarrassing, but not as much as putting the wrong college name on your application.
- Don’t procrastinate.
If you wait until the last minute, chances are you won’t get everything submitted on time.
- Don’t be repetitive.
Every component of your application should teach the school something new about you. Make them think, “This brings a new piece to the puzzle! I like this!”
- Don’t assume you know what colleges want to hear.
Being your original self is the best thing you can do.
- Be thorough.
Make sure you’ve met all necessary requirements, filled in every form and ticked every box.
Get the Facts!
College application information – both the important and the unimportant stuff – often can be confusing. Here are some myths about the college application process…debunked.
Standardized tests don’t matter.
Standardized tests matter! If you don’t have a good GPA, a higher SAT or ACT score can really make the difference.
Interviews are optional.
If you’re offered an interview, take it! It gives the college to meet you in person, so you can really dazzle them. If you can’t afford to swing the trip, don’t worry. Some colleges will find alumni nearby to meet with you.
Colleges only want “well-rounded” students.
False, colleges are looking to make up well-rounded classes. They look for students who excel in certain areas. They prefer classes that are diverse to make all of their programs strong.
Know the Difference: Early Action vs. Early Decision
It is extremely important you know the difference between early action and early decision. Early action is when you receive an early response from the college about whether you were accepted or not. This is good when you need to compare financial aid packages between schools.
In early decision, if you get accepted, you have to attend the college. This increases your chances of getting in. It’s important to know that, if you apply, this is the college you’re committing to.
Write an Essay That Stands Out
When it comes to your college essay – be original! Worry less about the topic and more about what you’re going to say. Write what you know and care about.
You don’t have to worry about writing in the typical format either (intro, body 3x, conclusion). Get straight to the point. Colleges know this is your application essay. Don’t try and fit your life’s story into one essay. Remember that colleges are reading hundreds of essays, so just focus on one particular moment.
A great essay helps colleges see and judge the depth of applicants understanding of intellectual and social issues. Take it seriously and knock it out of the park!
Be Smart with Recommendation Letters
When deciding on who you want to write you a recommendation, find someone who really knows you. It can be a teacher, employer, coach, volunteer leader, etc. It’s best practice to get a recommendation from one teacher, one guidance counselor, and one more person.
If you’re asking a popular teacher, make sure to ask before there’s a crowd. Sometimes asking a teacher with a tough reputation, whose class you’ve work hard in, might benefit more. Regardless, check in with the person you choose every couple weeks so you can get your letter in time.
Only Submit One Application
Colleges don’t want to have three or four partially completed applications sent from the same person. It’s more for them to look at and doesn’t make them think you’re actually serious.
If you submit online, you’ll receive an email confirmation. If you’re mailing in your application, insert a stamped postcard addressed to you. This way, the school can reply once they’ve received your application. Don’t panic if you didn’t receive a confirmation or a form is missing. Calmly call admissions and follow their advice.
Now that you’ve got these college application tips under your belt, it’s time to apply. Don’t be nervous. Just take a deep breath and think to yourself, “I CAN DO THIS!” Good luck!