Most colleges have some form of application that asks for basic information, like the applicant’s name, social security number, parents’ names and addresses. They also often ask for transcripts, standardized test scores (SAT or ACT), and letters of recommendation from teachers or counselors, club or team coaches, work supervisors, or volunteer organizers.
Choose Your Colleges Wisely
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing schools, and some students have a very clear idea of what they want from their college. These students should only apply to schools that meet their academic, social, and financial needs. Other students may need to take more time to decide what type of school is right for them. They should create a list of reach, target, and likely colleges (sometimes called safety schools). This list helps them ensure they are applying to the best possible schools within their application fee budget.
They should also research individual schools to find out more about their campus life and culture. This includes dining and housing options, club and activities opportunities, and social life. This is an important step because college isn’t just about academics; it’s also a huge social experience. A school’s culture can make or break a student’s college experience, so it’s worth taking the time to choose wisely.
Create A List Of Requirements
College applications require a variety of different materials to showcase your education, experiences, and abilities. These materials include an application form, a copy of your high school transcript, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and personal essays. You should start working on your applications early in your senior year so you have plenty of time to prepare and submit all the necessary documents. Some colleges may have additional requirements, such as a college-specific essay prompt or supplemental essays. Colleges also usually provide specific instructions on how long your personal essay should be, and many will have a spell-check feature to ensure your writing is free of spelling and grammar mistakes.
You should ask for letters of recommendation from teachers, tutors, mentors, coaches, and other individuals who can adequately assess your abilities and accomplishments. It’s important to give your recommenders plenty of time to complete their letters. They will probably be busy with their own work and might not have time to write a letter near the application deadline.
Make Sure Your Transcripts Are In Order
Most college applications require that you submit transcripts from your high school and colleges attended. You’ll likely want to have your counselor or a service like Parchment order these transcripts well in advance of the application deadline, which will typically fall in the fall of your senior year. Your transcripts provide admissions officers with important information about your academic history. They’ll list the courses you took, your final grades and both your weighted and unweighted GPAs. They’ll also include other important details such as extracurricular activities, leadership positions and academic awards that you participated in.
Make sure you request the highest-quality official transcripts you can get from each college you’ve attended, even if you were there only briefly. Some schools require that you submit SAT and/or ACT scores, so if you haven’t already done so, take these tests your junior year to have results ready for your applications. Also, remember to have your teachers or other guidance counselors submit letters of recommendation, and give them the forms they need in plenty of time before application deadlines loom.
Write Your Essays
A well-written college essay is an opportunity for a student to shine in his or her application. Admissions officers have a limited amount of time to review each student’s application, and a strong essay can make or break an applicant’s chances of acceptance. Students should review the essay requirements for each school to ensure they follow guidelines. They should also be aware that many schools ask for supplemental essays in addition to the Common App or Coalition Applications essay prompts.
Students should start their essays over the summer before senior year so they have plenty of time to work on them and to get feedback from friends or teachers. They should focus on showing rather than telling in their essays by providing details and anecdotes to support their points. They should also avoid sounding arrogant or braggartish in their essays. Admissions officers are looking for students who will add value to their campus, including energy, resilience, leadership, passion, inclusivity, and unique outlooks on life.
College applications require a lot of work. Applicants should make sure to complete all components of their application by the deadline. Admissions committees are most interested in what distinguishes applicants beyond grades and test scores. Essays are an opportunity to illuminate that story.