College Application Guide

College Planning

How to Apply to College

When it comes to applying to college, many students can find it daunting. That said, it should be noted that one of the best places to start is with a school counselor. After all, going to college represents a new stage in life and involves stepping into the unknown.

While it’s perfectly understandable to feel intimidated and overwhelmed, students should try their best not to let those feelings get the better of them.

Luckily, several methods can be helpful before and during college application.

This guide will examine the subject from various viewpoints, including mindset, essential pre-application steps, and, finally, how to fill out a college application.

Starting With a Helpful Mindset

College admission might initially seem like an insurmountable obstacle because many students think that the process is incredibly competitive. Unfortunately, this misconception can undermine the applicant’s confidence and create plenty of unnecessary stress. This is something that every school counselor will tell you.

The truth is that most U.S. colleges are very open about admissions. In fact, there are open-admission institutions that take on the majority or even all applicants.

Around 500 colleges will accept over 75% of students who apply, while only the elite schools accept a quarter or less. For prospective students, the outlook is therefore pretty good.

In other words, students have higher chances of getting into college than not. Once this fact becomes clear, the stress of applying to college will likely go away or, at the very least, be significantly reduced.

The second mindset change that college applicants should make relates to test scores.

Colleges pay particular attention to high school results, especially those achieved in courses that represent a more significant challenge.

Furthermore, students can make a strong impression in their interviews and application essays, proving just as important as academic results.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that scores aren’t important. But it means that there are other opportunities and ways to show one’s abilities and unique talents.

When it comes to being overwhelmed by the application process, one particular mindset shift can change how students view their situation.

Amid the planning and calculations, students can feel the situation around them is taking them in a certain direction regardless of their will. It might seem like they’re no longer in charge of what they’re doing and where they’re going.

However, that’s not true. Just like colleges decide on whether they want to accept an applicant or not, students have the final say about the kind of experience they desire. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain a strong focus on goals and stay on course throughout the entire process.

Finally, having support during college application is paramount. Family and friends can be excellent sources of support and provide valuable advice. But, even more importantly, they can give the student emotional support, which can play a huge role.

Once you’ve got the right mindset in place, it will be time to consider the tactical side of applying to college.

Preparation Is Crucial

The road to college starts in high school. Colleges will often consider academic performance every year, not only the senior year. Of course, this doesn’t mean only students with outstanding results will get accepted. However, paying attention to test scores and making an effort will likely go a long way.

In terms of a strategic approach, it would be best to start with the research early on. In fact, junior year could be the best time to begin. Coming up with a list of desirable colleges earlier will give you much more time for preparation.

The application process will look much less overwhelming by the time it comes about, and the entire high school period will have a more precise direction.

Visiting the colleges is a vital part of the preparation, but it’s also something many students don’t take care of in due time. Going to the campus of your college of choice will provide a unique insight that you can’t get from brochures and the school’s website.

In fact, one visit might be more helpful in deciding about the college than most other information you collect about the institution. If the school feels right, it will probably be the best pick.

Similarly, the school ranking might not tell the entire story. A college might be ranked exceptionally high, but that doesn’t guarantee it will be the best choice for everyone. For that reason, it would be best not to get obsessed with the rankings. Instead, consider whether the school is the best fit for you and vice versa.

Taking the SAT or ACT will be another crucial step in preparation for college. While colleges usually won’t differentiate and accept one test or the other, there’s a way to increase your chances.

Instead of choosing between the ACT and SAT, you could take both tests. Even better, you can do both twice. Although taking so many tests can be somewhat strenuous, it might prove beneficial.

First, taking the tests several times will make you more accustomed and relaxed in similar stressful situations. Secondly, you’ll be able to choose the best result to submit.

Finally, getting in contact with the college early might be the best way to go. You can start by contacting a counselor via email. It doesn’t have to be an extensive conversation. Making an introduction and asking specific questions will be more than enough to show your interest.

In the same spirit, you might want to submit your application before the usual deadline. Although most students wait for the regular application period, also called the “regular decision,” applying early happens often enough that there are various other available deadlines.

Early application can show that you’re interested in a particular school and free up the remainder of your senior year at the same time.

After all of the preparations are done, it will be time for the pivotal part of the process: actually completing your application to college. This is also where you are going to consider whether or not you need financial aid.

The Necessary Steps When Making College Applications

1. Understanding Different Types Of Deadlines for College Applications

The earliest deadline available for application is ED or early decision. It happens in November, with students receiving a notification from their college by December.

Early decision II (ED II) is the next deadline. It takes place in January, with decisions coming out the following month. Both ED and ED II are binding, which means that students accepted to the college this way are obligated to enroll.

EA (Early action) is another early application type. It often overlaps with the first two, around November or December. Unlike ED and ED II, acceptance via this application isn’t binding.

The previously mentioned regular decision deadline usually happens at the start of January, with the latest decisions coming in by early April.

Finally, there’s the rolling admission. This type of application doesn’t exist in every college, although it’s not rare either. Rolling admissions mean that the school doesn’t have a cutoff date after which it no longer receives applications. Instead, it keeps accepting students until no more open spots are left.

2. Choosing the Application Platform

There are various platforms that students can use to apply to a college. Those platforms include the relatively widespread:

Different platforms have access to a varied selection of colleges, so it would be worthwhile to check which platform suits your needs best.

3. Getting the Application Essay Right

Also known as the personal statement or the college essay, this document is required by most institutions.

Application essays are usually a few hundred words long, averaging about 650. They are open-ended and based on one of several offered prompts.

The essay is an integral part of the application process. Unfortunately, however, many students misunderstand its purpose.

Your application essay shouldn’t be about your academic success or most significant achievements. Instead, the essays that leave the strongest impression are often self-reflective and insightful regarding the student’s unique voice.

4. Other Crucial Elements of a College Application

Besides the application essay, your application should contain several other key features:

  • Personal information
  • Official transcript from your high school containing the record of courses taken and grades earned. Remember that your high school transcript must be official
  • SAT or ACT score
  • Up to three letters of recommendation
  • Optionally, a resume

There will also be an application fee

While personal information doesn’t require additional explanation, the other elements might.

Starting with the official transcript, it’s worth noting that the college will likely require this document directly from the high school. Therefore, the student will need to submit a request for this transcript to their school.

SAT or ACT scores are subject to different policies. For example, while some colleges require the tests, others might have a test-blind or test-optional policy. The former means that the college won’t consider test scores, while the latter means the scores will be considered if submitted but won’t be deemed necessary.

Finally, letters of recommendation should come from teachers who know the student well and can testify about their academic and personal abilities and achievements.

Completing the College Application

Many things require the attention of an aspiring student when applying to a college. The process can be pretty technical, and there’s plenty of research to be done.

Now that we’ve gone through the essential aspects, the entire journey should appear much clearer.

To summarize, the crucial considerations are building a healthy mindset, preparing for the application, and taking all the necessary steps to successfully complete the college application.

If you take it one step at a time and plan your actions carefully, the process will no longer seem overwhelming, and the road to college will start to open up.