How Long Do College Applications Take
Technically, the college application process begins when you first enter high school as a freshman. The classes you take, the extracurriculars you choose, and your grades all throughout high school are all reflected in the final college applications that you send in during your senior year. That being said, the process of actually filling out your college applications and completing all of the necessary parts doesnt start until you are an upperclassman, and there are several time-consuming steps involved.
Luckily, you dont need to worry about remembering everything you need to do to complete your college applications. Weve outlined exactly what steps you need to take during the college application process, broken out by year of high school, as well as how long each should take you, on average. This way, you can plan and allocate time for your college applications far in advance and set yourself up for success.
Why Do You Need A College Application Essay
Many colleges require an essay from each applicant. The essay is also required on the Common Application, which is used by more than 800 colleges and universities. Most admissions officers take the college application essay into consideration in deciding which students to admit .
Colleges see the essay as a way to hear from you directly and to get a sense of who you are in your own words. Its a great opportunity for you to personalize your application beyond the grades, scores, and other information youve provided, and it can make a difference at decision time.
Plan And Prep For Standardized Tests
Most colleges require the SAT or ACT . For the majority of students, doing well on these tests requires a lot of prep and planning. Most take it more than once, even up to three times or more. Let’s consider what colleges want to see, why, and how it affects your college planning.
What Test Info Will You Send?
Most colleges, unless they’re test optional or test flexible, require that you send the SAT or ACT. In the past some have also required one or two SAT Subject Tests, but these exams will be discontinued after June 2021. Be aware that in the future, this may mean schools which formerly required subject tests may require AP exam scores instead.
Regardless of what test or tests you take, expect to wait at least three weeks to get your scores back, and be sure to request official score reports sent from College Board or ACT, Inc.
Why Do Colleges Care About Test Scores?
The SAT and ACT are standardized tests, meaning that the test and testing conditions are the same for all students who take it . While these tests can be controversial, their underlying purpose is to compare students’ academic abilities and achievement on an equal footing.
As we mentioned above, colleges have some sense of the differences among high schools and can thereby put your GPA and course selection in context. The SAT and ACT allow them to automatically compare scores on a more level playing field.
What Does This Mean For You?
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Sound Like Your Best Self
Admissions counselors say that the best essays help them learn something about the student that they would never know from reading the rest of the application. For example, this essay may be the ideal opportunity to draw attention to an achievement, a hobby, or a life experience thats barely mentioned on your application.
Personal Statements And Essays
Grades and test scores commonly come to mind as the most important aspects of an application packet. While academic merit remains a top consideration, intangible factors can also play a crucial role.A personal statement allows colleges to assess students beyond their academic achievements. Typically ranging from 250-650 words, these essays allow applicants to differentiate themselves by demonstrating their creative skills and writing ability.
Students dont need to write an essay trying to say what they believe the reader wants to hear. Be thoughtful, creative, and authentic.. Source: Dr. Gordon Chavis, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Services, University of Central Florida
While each college may require a unique supplemental essay, many use prompts from the Common App. These prompts generally include questions about overcoming obstacles, formative experiences, how your background has shaped you, and achievements that led to personal growth.
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Record Dates And Deadlines
Before your student begins filling out applications and financial aid forms, they should make a list of all the important dates they need to know, starting with . While most schools follow similar time frames for early and regular applications, its essential to get the exact dates for each school youre considering.
Regular Decision/Early Decision/Early Action
Many universities have to be aware of. For example, along with the regular decision application deadline, there may be earlier dates for Early Decision or Early Action . If your child wants to apply ED or EA, schedule enough time for them to have their application completed before the deadline.
Other schools use a rolling admissions process. Rather than having a date when all applications are due, these schools have a window of time when they accept applications. Your student can apply anytime when the window is open, but earlier is generally better. Most schools with rolling admissions make their acceptance decisions on a first-come, first-served basis.
Standardized Tests/Admissions Tests
Other important dates to think about are standardized testing days if your student needs to take or retake the SAT or ACT. Some colleges require prospective students to take an admissions test. If your student is applying to one of these schools, note the deadline for taking the test.
Financial Aid Dates
How Can You Build The Most Versatile College Application
Looking at college admissions websites and requirements can be overwhelming. Many colleges have slightly different standardized test and letter of recommendation requirements. Furthermore, some colleges require just one personal statement, while others require multiple essays and short answer responses. It can be a lot to keep track of!
So how do you go about preparing your college applications, when colleges seem like they all want slightly different application materials? And how do you make sure you are competitive everywhere you apply? We will explain how to make the most versatile college application.
By versatile we mean an application that will allow you to apply competitively to the broadest range of colleges.
This guide is suitable for students aiming for the most competitive colleges, but you can also tailor it to your needs if you’re applying to local state schools.
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Write College Application Essays
Your college application essays give you the opportunity to personalize your application. Colleges look for an essay that differentiates you from others and demonstrates your positive traits. Start brainstorming topics and drafting your essays the summer before your senior year to give yourself sufficient time for revising and receiving feedback.
If youre struggling for time, check out our tips on writing your college essay fast.
What’s A Good Essay Topic
There are as many potential personal essay topics as there are students applying. Every student has different experiences and passions that could make a great essay. The key is to write about something that is meaningful and specific to you.
Remember that a complete stranger will be reading your application. You want them to come away from your essay feeling like they know you, and what you can bring to their college.
For example, if you went through an incredibly challenging personal experiencea family member’s illness, an instance of discrimination, an unexpected setbackthat could be great material for you essay, especially if it has affected your future goals and interests.
Or if you are passionate about a certain topic or subjectfrom 18th century French history to making your own mobile phone appsthat could also be a great essay topic, as it will show your intellectual depth and give colleges an idea of what you might contribute to them.
The key is to write about something that will help tell your story, and help show what you will be pursue in college.
Don’t choose a topic just because you think it’s something colleges will like. For example, if you went on a service trip your junior year but it didn’t resonate with you or affect your future goals, don’t try and make up a story about how meaningful the trip was to you. It will be more effective to write about something you are actually passionate about.
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What Is Involved In A College Application
Are you ready to find your fit?
The year leading up to your first semester of college is an exciting time. It can also be hectic and stressful, particularly if you are not certain how to apply. Although the requirements for an application vary widely between schools, there are certain common aspects and there are also certain pitfalls you should try to avoid.
Finalize Your Balanced College List
If you got a late start, you might not have the luxury of visiting all the colleges on your list before its time to submit applications. Finalize your list based on your research, suggestions from your counselor, and any college visits or fairs you may have attended. Since time is short, plan to visit the colleges you havent had a chance to see after acceptances come in so you can make an informed decision about where to attend. Your list needs to be balanced, with an even selection of target, reach, and likely colleges. This will ensure that youre applying smart and will have a wide range of colleges to choose from once decisions come in.
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Write A Stellar Essay: Avoid The Fluffy Stuff
When you answer application questions and essay prompts, steer clear of the fluff. The redundant filler words and phrases can bore the reader and will not help your college admissions essay stand out from the rest. Write clear and concise sentences that directly answer the prompt, conveying exactly who you are and why you want to go to that school. Admissions officers are more impressed by simple and articulate essays than wordy, unintelligible language that sounds smart or is “trying too hard.”
Interviews And Campus Visits
Visiting campuses can go a long way towards helping students decide where they want to go to school. In addition to helping assess whether the environment is a good fit, these tours may actually boost your candidacy by demonstrating your interest in an institution.
Some schools keep track of student visits and consider this in their admissions processes. However, larger universities or Ivy League schools do not usually track student visits. Many colleges also require a formal interview with an alum or admissions officer especially Ivy League schools and other private universities. Most questions help interviewers develop a perception of you based on your interests, strengths and weaknesses, and aspirations. While most evaluations do not directly lead to a final decision, an engaging interview can certainly help your candidacy.In addition to the few dozen schools that require formal interviews, others offer them as optional components. If you’re applying to one of these schools, we recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to interview. Taking this extra step to demonstrate your interest can positively affect your chances of getting an acceptance letter.
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Know When To Ask For Help
Getting a late start on your college applications can cause a lot of stress and leaves little time for students to get the proper help they may need. If youre overwhelmed and need some additional support, dont be afraid to reach out to your college counselor or an independent consultant. Educational consultants like the ones at IvyWise can help guide you through the process no matter how much time you have left. Our counselors will help with essay editing, finalizing your balanced college list, and more in order to ensure that youre able to submit the best application possible by the regular decision deadlines.
While starting the college application process in November is not ideal, theres still time to maximize your college options. Stay on track with your application plan and timeline, and dont be afraid to ask for help if you need it! At IvyWise we have a number of options for current high school seniors to help guide them through the remainder of the college admissions process. Contact us today for more information.
Choose An Application Platform
Once your college list is more or less final, take a look at application platforms such as the Common Application and the Coalition Application, which aim to streamline and help you manage the college application process. Decide which service you prefer, create an account, and begin familiarizing yourself with the platform.
For a review of leading application services, see:
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Note: Many Schools Temporarily Test
As a result of the novel coronavirus, many students have had difficulty signing up for an SAT or ACT test date. Because of this, a large number of schools are test-optional for the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 admissions cycles, and some have become test-optional for the next two or three years. Almost all these schools will still review ACT/SAT scores if you send them, so a strong score will still boost your application, but it’s not a requirement for many colleges.
Fill Out The Common Application
If you dont have one already, make a Common Application account. This is a critical first step, as everything from here on out will be facilitated through your Common Application account. Get the basic forms out of the way name, address, parent information, and so on. Then, work on filling out your activity list. This can be the most tedious part of the application, so aim to complete these sections before you dive into your essays. That way youll have more energy to devote to writing and revising essays and wont be scrambling to complete the other parts of the application at the zero hour. If youre applying to a college that uses its own separate application, create an account on their platform, too.
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Completing Your College Applications: 10 Tips
Once you’ve narrowed down the list of schools you’re interested in, complete an application for each.
1. Know your deadlines.
Start your applications early enough to complete them by the deadlines. Deadlines are usually between January 1 and February 15, although they may be earlier if you are applying early admission.
2. Read the instructions.
Most of the mistakes on college applications are the result of not following the instructions. Don’t let this happen.
3. Provide all of the requested information.
Leaving blank fields or providing incomplete responses makes it look like you weren’t paying attention. Take care to be thorough.
4. Proofread, proofread, proofread.
And after you’re done proofreading, give it to someone else to proofread! Typos on your college application are just sloppy.
5. Be honest.
Admissions staff will verify the info you provide, so keep it on the up and up. Don’t exaggerate your accomplishments. Honesty is always the best policy.
6. Choose your recommendations wisely.
Use teachers, counselors, and others who know you well, both inside and outside the classroom. Give them enough time to write thoughtful and considerate recommendations, and be sure to thank them.
7. Make sure your essay represents who you are.
The essay is the only opportunity you have to explain why you are different from other applicants. Be original and make it personal.
8. Request copies of your high school transcripts.
9. Keep copies of everything.
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Create A Timeline For Writing And Editing Essays
This is easily the most time-consuming part of the college application process which is why its so important for students to get started as soon as possible. For students who have gotten a late start, its important to buckle down and begin writing now. It may seem overwhelming, which is why its helpful to create a writing schedule, to help you break up essay writing into manageable chunks and also allow for plenty of time for editing and feedback.
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College Application Tips You Need To Know
Increase your chances of getting in with these winning college application tips and techniques.
Take the required admissions tests well in advance in case you dont earn a qualifying score the first time you take them.
Applying to college is an involved process and with the right direction you can get into the colleges of your dreams. Prepare for applications by exploring our top 10 tips for college application success!
Making Your Final Decision
After all the hard work that goes into the application process, receiving your admission notifications can be exciting. Most colleges start notifying students in early spring, either by email, or traditional letter, or both. Upon receiving your notifications, you only have a few weeks to decide which school you will attend, since most colleges set May 1 as the deadline for committing to a school.
The difficulty of your final decision depends on how many schools you got into and whether you were accepted to your dream school, possible schools or safety schools. If you have been accepted by ALL of the colleges you applied to, ironically, your decision could be more difficult. To help, review the research you did on each school and your priorities. By re-evaluating what’s most important to you, you will find the right fit. If you have been accepted to only some of the colleges you applied to, your decision will actually be a bit easier. Use the same criteria to find the school best suited to you.
If you have not been accepted to any of the schools you applied to, you still have options. Though colleges rarely reverse an admission decision, you can try calling the admissions department to see what their policy is on an appeal. Appeals are usually only considered when you can prove there was information missing, overlooked, or that something was entered incorrectly on your application materials, such as your school counselor submitting the wrong grades.
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