How to apply colleges best1
Keituber.com – The college application process can seem daunting, especially if students don’t have parents or siblings who can offer advice.
Because there are so many steps involved, like writing essays and receiving letters of recommendation, experts say a good way for students to get started is to create a to-do list during their early high school years.
“Once you can visualize the number of tasks and the schedule to do them, it makes a lot easier,” says Christine Chu, a premier college admissions consultant at IvyWise, an education consulting firm in New York. “It takes away a lot of stress.”
While there’s often prep work, students generally begin filling out college applications in the summer between junior and senior high school, experts say.
Here’s what undergraduate students need to know about completing a college application.
What are important college application deadlines?
High school seniors have several deadlines to choose from when applying to colleges.
A step-by-step guide to applying to college
First are the early decision deadlines, usually in November. Students who apply through Early Decision or ED are admitted to college earlier than their peers who apply later. ED admission decisions are usually issued in December.
However, students should be aware that ED acceptance is mandatory, meaning that an applicant must be enrolled if offered admission.
Some schools have a second Early Decision deadline, ED II, which is also mandatory. The difference is in the timelines. ED II deadlines are usually in January, Chu says. ED II admission decisions are usually issued in February.
Early Action is another application deadline that tends to be in November or December. Similar to early decision, students who apply through early action will return to schools sooner. The difference is that EA admissions are not mandatory.
Students can also choose to apply by the school’s formal decision deadline, which can be as late as November. 30 in some colleges, but usually January. 1. Students applying for formal decision will return from school in mid to late March or early April.
Another entry policy to be aware of is entry registration. Enrollment schools review applications as they are received and issue admissions decisions on an ongoing basis. These schools may have an early registration date, but generally do not have a cut-off date for applications. Institutions will continue to accept until all places in the incoming class are filled.
How to apply colleges best1
When deciding when to apply, as well as how many colleges to apply to, students should consider financial aid implications. Experts say that if money is a concern, as many college student families are, applicants should opt for non-binding deadlines — EA and Formal Decision. This allows families to compare financial aid offers from multiple schools.
For regular decision deadlines, students have until May 1 to decide which school to attend and pay the registration deposit.
Which college application platform should I use?
Students have many options when it comes to college application platforms.
One popular option is the Common Application, which is accepted by more than 900 colleges, and some students from outside the US can fill out the Common Application once and submit to multiple colleges.
However, in addition to the core application, Common Application schools often have an additional section, Chu says. The supplement sometimes includes additional writing prompts, so students may need to schedule more writing time.
Other application options include the Coalition Application, the new platform accepted by more than 150 schools, and the Common Black College Application, which is accepted by more than 60 historically black colleges and universities.
Additionally, some colleges have school-specific or university-specific applications. For example, the University of California system has its own application — the only platform used by UC schools — and students can apply to multiple campuses with one application.
Students can visit the college website to find out which application platforms are accepted. Also, the Common Application, Coordinating Application and CBCA websites list partner schools.
What should I know about the college application essay?
As part of the application process, most colleges require students to submit at least one writing sample: the college essay. This is sometimes used as a personal statement.
There is usually a word limit of several hundred words for a personal statement. The main article on the Common Application should be about 650 words.
“The application’s essay prompts are broad and open-ended, and I think that’s what sometimes challenges students the most. But they’re open-ended for a reason, and that’s because we want to see what students choose to write about, what students feel is important,” says Niki Barron, admissions associate at Hamilton College in New York.
In the essay, students should try to tell their own story, experts say, and this does not mean writing about a big and impressive achievement.
Barron tells the most memorable essays to focus on more mundane topics. “But they’re done in a self-reflective way, so it helps me get to know who a student is as a person and understand the student’s voice,” she added.
What are the other key components of a college application?
Here are other parts of the college application that prospective students should be prepared for.
personal information. In the first part of the college application, students must provide basic information about themselves, their school, and their family.
High school transcript. Colleges require an official high school transcript, which shows the courses students have taken and their grades.
Admissions offices typically request that a transcript be sent directly from the high school rather than from the student, says Geoff Heckman, school counselor and department chair at Platte County High School in Missouri. Students usually submit a transcript request to their high school’s counseling service, but some schools allow online services such as Parchment or SENDedu to send students a transcript through a secure online service provider, Heckman said.
Students can send their transcripts through the registrar instead of through their school’s counseling office.
Standard test results. Many schools require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. These results are usually sent by testing companies. As the coronavirus pandemic has elevated these tests, some testing centers across the US have closed in 2020 and 2021, significantly reducing the number of schools requiring standardized test scores.
Prospective students should be aware, however, that testing policies vary even when such tests are not required. Keywords you should pay attention to include test-blind and test-optional. Trial-blind means that scores are not counted if entered. In contrast, test-optional colleges do not require ACT or SAT scores, but will consider them as part of your application.
“Admissions officers still want to see test scores if possible,” Chu said, adding that only high scores help. A good ACT or SAT score varies by college, and Chu encourages students to look at the college’s first-year student profile to determine their admissions goals.
SAT test takers are allowed four free score reports each time they register for the test. According to the College Board, which administers the standardized test, students can choose which schools they want their scores sent to before or up to nine days after the test. The fee is $12 for each additional score report.
Similarly, students who sit for the ACT can send their scores to up to four colleges at no cost, according to the ACT website. Additional score reports are $16 each.
Students should seek out mentors — often teachers or counselors — who know them well and can comment not only on their academic abilities, but also on their personal character and accomplishments, Chu says.
It’s a good idea to give student advisors copies of their resumes to help cover all of these bases, Heckman says.
Students should request letters of recommendation before the application deadline. Chu recommends at least two months before.
“When students give the authors of those recommendations, I think those recommendations become more profound and helpful,” Baron says.
Do I need to submit a resume?
On some college applications, students may have the option to upload a resume.
But much of the information on a typical resume — such as awards, work experience, and extracurricular activities — is asked for in other parts of the college application, often in the activities section.
In this section, students should detail all the ways they spend their time outside of the classroom, says Baron. This includes structured activities like sports or clubs, as well as family obligations like looking after siblings or working part-time, she says.
How much do college application fees cost?
There’s no set price for college application fees, experts say, ranging from $50 to $90 per application, though costs can stretch to more than $100 in some cases. Prospective students should check college websites to determine these individual fees.
How do I get the college application fee?
Students who receive an SAT or ACT test fee waiver are eligible for college application fee waivers from testing companies. The College Board will send such releases directly to students. Not all schools accept these offenses, but many do.
Similarly, the ACT has a student waiver request form that school counselors can fill out and send to colleges. The National Association of College Admissions Counseling provides a fee waiver request form.
Additionally, eligible students may request a fee waiver as part of certain college applications, including the Common Application.
There are other times when schools waive application fees, not just for low-income students. Students can sometimes waive application fees by participating in Instant Decision Day events on their high school or college campus. While some colleges waive application fees, applicants should observe free application periods in some states.
Using a college visit to decide where to apply
A common recommendation given by admissions counselors and college officials is to visit campus. Visiting a college helps prospective students understand the culture and community and understand how they fit in or don’t fit in. While not part of the formal application process, college scouting can help students decide which schools to apply to.
Tours like these give students who live and study on those campuses a “day in the life view,” Chu says. But if a visit isn’t possible — say, due to cost constraints or other travel restrictions — students should consider virtual tours, which have emerged as a popular option for applicants since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
While virtual tours may provide fewer opportunities to make personal connections, students should still try to establish them.
“Virtual tours may be the next best thing” to physical tours, Barron notes. She also encourages applicants to “look at college websites and explore opportunities to connect with current students, admissions staff, professors, coaches and others.”