A Step By Step Guide To Applying To College
The college application process continues to evolve, and many parents are surprised to find just how much its changed since their generation applied to college. For parents who have never gone through the college application process, it might seem overwhelming or simply unclear. In any case, applying to college is a lengthy and multifaceted process, and we at CollegeVine have made it our job to simplify it.
In this post, well briefly outline each step in the process and provide some resources for learning more. If youre looking for a quick overview of each step your teen should take when applying to college, make this post your first stop.
Research And Pick Schools
In order to be realistic and flexible you should know your options. There are thousands of universities and colleges in the United States. And there are good choices for just about everyone, from community colleges to private, liberal arts colleges and large, public universities. The ivy leagues arent the only universities with stellar programs. And dont forget about English language programs. This might be where you need to start your higher education career.
Here are some fantastic resources to get you started:
Your local EducationUSA Advising Office Attend higher education fairs in your country or sign up for virtual fairs online StudyUSA.com Your high school careers advisor U.S. News and World Report American newspapers and news websites
Pick 5-10 schools to apply to. Dont forget to read their admission requirements before applying.
Your 2020 Checklist For Getting Into College
If youre a senior in high school, youve already sent off your college applications. You may have heard back from a few schools already, or perhaps youre anxiously awaiting your decision letters.
At this point, your job is to finish high school strong, choose the college youd like to attend, and prepare to ride off into the sunset this fall.
But if youre a junior, your college application journey is just beginning. 2020 will be the year you send off your college applications and that can be a little overwhelming.
So, what steps do you need to take this year to land at your dream school in 2021? Weve made you a 2020 checklist! Follow the steps below to make sure youre on track for college admissions.
- Keep your grades up . The grades you earn junior year are the grades that are most closely analyzed by college admissions teams. Now that youre in the homestretch of junior year, keep your grades up and/or do everything you can to boost your GPA as much as possible. Ask for extra help, get a tutor, form a study group, etc.
Congratulations, youre a senior! Fall will be a busy time for college application season, so buckle up.
Get ready for any AP exams that you have. Remember, these can earn you college credit, which saves you time and money!
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Open University Automatic Entry Student
While most Canadian universities expect applicants to possess a high school diploma, others have open admission policies: the door is open to any student wishing to enroll. Neither diplomas nor age are a factor. Mature students are welcome to apply, but also younger students than the normal age for high school graduation. Some high school students may find themselves ready for university-level studies at an earlier age than that assumed by the Canadian high school system.
Open universities allow students to take recognized, accredited university courses regardless of their past or current educational situation. Open universities believe that it is the students responsibility to decide when s/he is ready for university, whether that be at age 16, 25 or 67. Open universities do not restrict access to post-secondary education, giving all students the opportunity to prove their academic abilities, regardless of their current age or past experiences.
Some open universities operate on the traditional university semester system, but others operate on a rolling admissions schedule where it is possible to begin a class as early as the first of the next month after registering.
Write Your Main College Admissions Essays
Its a good idea to start working on your essays the summer before your senior year. Some essays can be reused or revised for different schools, depending on the promptthough you might have to adjust its length if different colleges have different word count limits. The process of brainstorming and writing the first draft typically takes one to three weeks.
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Ask For Letters Of Recommendation
Whether you apply using the common app, the coalition app, or a university-specific application, you will inevitably be asked for letters of recommendation. Before you request these, be sure that you understand the requirements for them as dictated by your specific application. Some applications specify that these must be written by teachers, others request one from a teacher and one from a guidance counselor, and still others leave the decision entirely up to you.
In any case, the person who writes your recommendations should know you well enough to speak to your specific strengths and be able to provide concrete examples of these. Request recommendation letters at the end of 11th grade or early in the year during 12th grade. You learn more in our post 9 Rules For Requesting Letters of Recommendation from Teachers.
Create An Admissions Theme
A standout college application will present a clear picture of a student with well-rounded academic pursuits but specialized interests and experiences. Generally, to get into a selective college, you will need to perform well across the board in your academic classes, but you should also show some specialized interests, ideally ones that relate to your goals for the future. Your application theme is essentially your unique, comprehensive story of who you are as a person and a student.
For example, if you want to be a doctor, your application theme may revolve around this ambition. You would include STEM-heavy extracurriculars and perhaps a service project in the medical field. These are areas to highlight specifically on your application, especially in your essays and on your list of activities and honors.
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Start To Research Colleges Youre Interested In
Junior year is an ideal time to start researching some of the colleges youre interested in attending or that have grabbed your attention.
There are many ways you can get to know more about specific colleges:
- Read the official college website to see things such as what majors it offers, where its located, how many students it has, etc.
- Go to college fairs
- Visit college campuses directly to get a feel for the campus, students, and overall atmosphere
- Talk with former or current students about their experiences there
In addition, take care to openly communicate with your parents at this time. These are the people paying for your education, so its important that you involve them at least somewhat in the decision-making process so that they have an idea of which schools youre considering and what kind of aid they typically offer.
Also, remember to look for safety schools.
How To Prepare For College: 31 Tips To Get Ready
While you might think college preparation only happens during the summer before college, this isnt necessarily true. In fact, you can start preparing for college as early as 9th grade! But what exactly does the process of college preparation entail?
Here, we explain how to prepare for college at every grade level in high school. Specifically, we take a look at what you can do on the academic, financial, and extracurricular fronts, providing you with advice and tips, as well as a helpful preparing-for-college checklist.
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First Time College Student
I have, or will soon have, a high school diploma or GED and want to attend college for the first time.
New students are required to take the TSI Assessment unless they meet the approved exemptions. If you need to take the TSI you will be required to complete a Pre-Assessment Activity . Upon completion of the PAA, you may visit the TSI webpage or come by our office at 3013 Ayers, Room 125. If you have any questions, you may call the Testing Center at 698-1645.
All new incoming students who are 21 years of age or younger will need to show proof of vaccination prior to registration.
Need assistance in completing the process? Visit the Enrollment Lab or Outreach Events!
Write Outstanding College Essays
- When to start: Summer before senior year
The personal essay, sometimes also called the personal statement or writing sample, is the most challenging and time-consuming part of the actual application process. These essays give schools a deeper view into who you are as a student and applicant, so its crucial to dedicate time and effort to writing them.
To write excellent college essays, learn as much as you can about the college essay and how to come up with great college essay ideas. Its also important to learn about the less common types of college essays, such as supplemental essays, that are often required by selective schools in order to determine your fit with the schools culture and mission.
We recommend starting to work on all of your college essays during the summer before your senior year. This will give you ample time to polish and perfect them before application deadlines arrive.
College essays tend to take much longer than youd anticipate, and youre less likely to be able to write good essays if you wait until the last minute to start. Because of this, the absolute latest you’d want to wait to start your college essays is the beginning of your senior year, as soon as youve finalized the list of colleges youre applying to.
So when should you have your essays completed in order to meet your application deadlines? If youre applying early, most deadlines are in early to mid-November. If youre applying regular decision, most deadlines are around January 1.
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I Dont Think Ill Be Able To Make The Deadlines In Time What Should I Do
If you donât see yourself making the early January deadlines, donât panicâyou still have several options. Many colleges have later deadlines or offer rolling admissions look through a list to see if youâre interested in any. Community colleges might also offer more flexible deadlines, or allow students to start in the spring semester.
You can also consider taking a gap year and save applying to college for next year. A gap year can give you time to volunteer, work, or travel, and learn about the world in a way you canât in a classroom.
What Makes A Good College
When evaluating schools, there are a number of factors to consider. The size, location, and culture of the campus are all important. Knowing what you want to study also helps, particularly if you are very passionate about a particular subject. Most larger schools offer a wide variety of majors, but some smaller colleges will have slimmer pickings, so keep that in mind.
Affordability will be important for many students. You shouldn’t entirely dismiss pricier schools right away, particularly if you have a strong academic background and could earn a large scholarship. Still, if cost is of primary concern, you’ll probably want to limit your search to public schools within your state and states with reciprocity agreements.
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Revise Your Essays And Get Feedback
Start revising your essay after youve written your first draft. Most students go through multiple drafts and take about two to four weeks to revise and get feedback. Remember to take breaks between editing stages.
In August or September of your senior year, get feedback from two to three peopleideally people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college application essays. You can also get help from an essay coach or editor. Scribbr essay coaches can help.
Deciding Where To Apply
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Check All The College Application Boxes
Whether youre using the Common App or a colleges unique application form, ensure that you provide whats being asked by your prospective schools. Apart from carefully following instructions, double-check for grammatical errors and that youve highlighted all of your best academic achievements.
An accurate, meticulously filled-out application form tells the admissions committee that youre paying attention and youre serious about their school. Submit it along with supporting documents, and hurrah! youre nearly finished with your application.
General Rules Regarding College Enrollment For High School Students
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Make Sure Standardized Test Scores Make The Cut
Standardized test scores are still an important piece of college admissions, even as more and more colleges shift towards a more holistic approach. Standardized test scores are even sometimes used as an initial screening tool, especially at large colleges where they receive far more applications than they are able to closely review.
You should take your ACT or SAT for the first time during the spring of 11th grade. This will leave the entire summer to study and raise scores, while also allowing at least two more chances to take the test in fall of 12th grade.
Prioritize Your Standardized Tests
Your ACT/SAT scores will give admissions officers an idea of how prepared you are to dive into college-level courses. When applying to college for fall enrollment, plan on taking these tests during your junior year of high school. Earlier in the school year is best to allow yourself the time to retake the test if necessary before your applications are due.
Experts advise that you study and start taking practice tests during the summer after your sophomore year.
Remember to check the test requirements at your prospective colleges. Many schools offer test-optional policies, so you may choose to invest more energy in other application requirements. However, even when optional, a great test score can certainly help your application stand out.
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Get A High Sat/act Score
While more schools have started to adopt test-optional policies in recent years especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic SAT/ACT scores remain valuable indicators of college admission chances. In the NACAC survey, over 4 in 5 colleges considered standardized test scores moderately or considerably important.
Even if a college you’re applying to doesn’t require SAT/ACT scores, it’s usually best to submit them. Many students take the SAT or ACT their junior year, giving them time to decide whether they want to retake it the fall of their senior year.
The best way to prepare for either exam is to use official practice questions and tests, many of which are free. You can also buy an SAT or ACT prep book, enroll in SAT or ACT prep classes, and/or hire a tutor.