With all the stress, turmoil, and drama that the final years of high school typically bring with them, it can be difficult to imagine starting the whole process over again just a few months after your graduation. But if you want a shot at getting accepted at your top choices for college, you’ve got to force yourself to dedicate some time and attention to the application process – and the sooner you get started, the better your chances of acceptance will be.
If you’re thinking that the college admissions process is as easy as filling out a few forms, signing your name on the dotted line, and then sending in your first tuition check, think again. In reality, the admissions process can take months to fully complete. Multiply that amount of time by the number of schools you want to apply to, and you’ll begin to get the idea of the effort that’s involved.
If you want to boost your chances at getting accepted at your school of choice, you’ll need to begin by getting a clear grasp of the steps involved in the college application process. Use this guide to help you get started.
1. Get everything organized. After you’ve picked out the colleges to which you’d like to apply, the first step is making an all-inclusive schedule and timeline. Experts suggest buying a calendar or date book that will be solely dedicated to keeping track of your admissions deadlines. Write down every important date, as well as a target date to begin working on each step. It’s also a good idea to buy a large expandable file to keep all of your application paperwork together.
2. Gather, request, and write application materials. Each school’s application requirements are unique, but there are a few basics that almost every college requires. These include three to four letters of recommendation, one or two personal essays, a list of extracurricular activities, clubs, and service projects, official school records, and all applicable standardized and admissions test scores.
3. Submit your applications on time. The due dates for college applications vary widely, so be sure to check and double-check the specific requirements for each school. Early admissions often require submission by November or December of your senior year, while regular admissions deadlines often fall between mid-December and mid-February. If you’re applying to a less competitive school, there may be no hard-and-fast deadline – these schools often have rolling admissions policies that allow students to apply at any time.
4. Hurry up and wait. After you’ve submitted all of your application materials, there will be nothing more for you to do for a few months. But if you just sit around waiting for the mailman, you’re bound to go stir-crazy. Try to use this time to begin other preparations for college, like sorting through your old stuff and deciding what you’re going to pack for school. Try to keep your grades up and avoid any trouble that could jeopardize your standing at your schools of choice.
5. Make your final decision. Most schools will notify you of their application decisions by March or April. After you find out exactly where you stand with each school you’ve applied to, it’s time to make a choice. Take your time – give yourself at least a week to consider everything and come to terms with your final decision.
If you’re a high school student, have you begun the college application process? If you’re already on campus, how did the application process go for you? Tell us your stories in the comments section.
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