As children, we’re often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Like most kids, you probably had dozens of potential career plans for yourself, but those plans probably changed a few times as you got older. Throughout their high school careers, students do a lot of thinking about college: what to study and where to school, for starters. Excitement kicks in when the time arrives to start making those decisions for real, but some people also wind up feeling a little bit overwhelmed. What should you do first? How do you even apply to colleges? Here’s a bit of general information that might come in handy as you begin your quest!
In addition to the tips and advice in this blog post, StateUniversity.com readers are invited to take advantage of college admissions counseling services from iAdmissions.
All colleges and universities have an application form that needs to be filled out if you want to apply to attend the school. Some schools will only accept their distinct form while other schools also accept the Common Application in addition to their own.
The Common Application is an undergraduate college admissions application that was designed to simplify the application process. (A student can fill out one basic form and submit photocopies to the various schools they are applying to attend.) At the moment, there are just fewer than 400 schools that accept the Common Application, which is available online, but be sure that the schools you’d like to apply to accept the Common Application before sending it in. Most schools require additional supplements, or extra information, in addition to the Common App.
Typical college applications require basic information, such as your name and address and information about your family and living situation. You’ll also be expected to provide the school with your potential field of study and some information about your future academic plans. You’ll also be expected to explain your high school grades and test scores, as well as any past achievements/awards you’ve won and any extracurricular activities that you participate in.
There are a few different application times / types.
Colleges accept what are known as Early Decision applications in November. They’re typically due by November 1st or November 15th depending on the school. With an early decision application, a student is required to commit to attending that school and willing to withdraw any other college applications that have been submitted should they be accepted.
Early decision applications are preferable if you already know which school you’d like to attend, because you’ll find out for sure if you’ve been accepted and start making your future plans earlier than other students. One drawback to early decision, though, is if you suddenly change your mind later in the year, you already committed to attend that school.
Should you decide to apply for Early Action admission (versus Early Decision admission) you can agree to attend a school if you are accepted, but without a binding agreement that is set in stone. Should you change your mind come springtime, you are not bound to attend the school.
Regular Decision is the term for all other college applications, or any application that’s not submitted early in the school year. Some colleges use a procedure called rolling decisions, in which a student applies to that college at any time during their senior year. These schools will let the student know if they have been accepted within 6 or 8 weeks. Other schools have a set applications admission date for which applications are due, usually sometime in January. Schools that use a specific application due date will make decisions regarding admissions by April 1st.
Most people agree that the toughest part of filling out your college applications is writing the essays that go along with your applications. Some colleges only have you answer one essay question, while others require multiple essays.
Wondering why essays are even necessary? Colleges want to evaluate your writing skills, and see what you have to say about yourself!
While it’s important to show your essay to others for opinions and proofreading before submitting it to the college, your essays need to be your own. College admissions officers are familiar with the typical writing levels and styles of teenagers, so it will be pretty obvious if you try to fake it. Don’t let a friend correct your essay so much that it barely resembles your initial work. Don’t find one on the internet. Don’t have your mother write it for you.
Many colleges require you to submit letters of recommendation along with your application. You can find out the specific requirements from the schools to which you’re applying, but you can usually turn in letters from your teachers or other “officials” you deal with on a regular basis. If you ask some of your teachers to write letters for you, realize that they may be doing the same for other students as well, so give them enough time to do so. They’re doing you a favor, so don’t ask them to write a letter two days before you need to turn it in. You’ll also have to submit your high school transcripts and test scores (SAT and/or ACT) along with your application.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the requirements of the college application process, you probably want to get started, but what if you have further questions?
You can always reach out to the guidance counselor at your high school, but they’re also trying to help other members of your class. According to recent studies, the state of California has just one counselor for every 1,000 students and the national average is one counselor per every 500 students. I honestly went through all four years of high school without ever meeting with my guidance counselor— the person who had to sign off on my high school transcripts didn’t even know who I was.
Another sad fact is that high school guidance counselors aren’t familiar with the admittance procedures at every single college. You might be aspiring to get into an Ivy League school while everyone else in your class wants to live at home while going to community college.
Your best bet may be to use college admissions counseling services, in which you are coached by professionals as you fill out your college applications.
Admissions counseling services offer assistance from former college admissions counselors from various schools. They’re able to prove information about typical admissions policies and other “insider information.” They can even read your admissions essay questions and provide feedback and assistance, but as I mentioned earlier, you must write your own essays!
iAdmissions is an admissions counseling service that’s comprised of former admissions officers from Brown University, Harvard University, and other top schools. iAdmissions has an extremely impressive success rate of assisting students in getting accepted into their dream schools. If you’re hoping to get into your dream school and you’d appreciate a little extra help, you should definitely take advantage of their services!
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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