Are you a high school senior looking to apply for college?
Applying for college is a complex process with a lot of moving parts. However, the process doesn’t need to be confusing! Here are 10 steps you can take to better prepare for your early application deadline.
High School Classes
The beginning of the college admissions process begins in the summer before your freshman year of high school when you are picking classes. Admission offices don’t only look at GPA, but they also consider the types of classes you have taken. They like to see that you are challenging yourself while remaining true to your passions. This means that if you are passionate about art you are taking not only a variety of classes, but also you are challenging yourself with classes such as AP Studio Art.
What if my school doesn’t have AP courses?
That is totally okay! When college admission counselors receive your application, they will often receive a profile of your high school. The most important thing to remember when selecting classes is to choose classes that interest you.
The next step we suggest in preparing for college is taking those standardized tests. While you may be in a love hate relationship with standardized testing, most universities and colleges require some form of standardized testing for admittance. The two most common standardized tests are the ACT (American College Testing) and the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). Before signing up for either of these test, visit websites of colleges you are interested in to see what test form they accept. Some high schools dedicate a day to standardized testing. If your high school does not offer this, you can sign-up online to take a test on a Saturday. When should you start testing? In our opinion, it is best to start testing as soon as possible because you can retake both test forms multiple times. However, the majority of students start testing the summer before their junior year.
Making a List
After receiving your test scores back it is time to begin the search for a college or university that fits you best! We like Cappex and Niche for searching and comparing universities. Cappex will even project your chance of being accepted based off of your GPA and test score. Our suggestion is to find two universities that are “reach” schools (meaning they would be difficult to get into but you would love to go there), find three universities that are “perfect” schools (meaning your credentials fit perfectly into their requirements), and finally find two “fallback” schools (meaning you are in general overqualified for the school but would still have an amazing time attending). Once you have made your list of seven schools, it is time to start applying and visiting.
Note: There is no limit on applications…the more the merrier when it comes to investing in your future.
Once you have your list of schools, it is time to start the long, but rewarding process of applying. It is important to find out when applications open up and when they close. Some schools offer rolling admissions meaning that their application process is always open, and you can apply at any time. Most colleges, however, have strict deadlines. Some universities offer early decision and early action programs in addition to regular admissions. Early decision and early action allow you to apply and find out your admission decision sooner. However, beware that when you apply early you are required to sign a binding contract that requires you to attend the university regardless of financial aid, scholarships, or other circumstances.
Note: Most universities now do their application online through their own website or through the Common Application
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are a great chance for universities to understand who you are as a person and what type of student you are. Think of all the wonderful mentors and teachers in your life and consider which ones would be able to adequately write about how awesome you are. Once you have an idea of who those people might be, it is time to ask if they would do you the honor. The best way to ask is to do it in person, while this can be scary, remember that your teachers and mentors want to support you and see you succeed. Additionally, we suggest that at least one of your recommenders is a core curriculum instructor from your junior or senior year.
Note: You can never say thank you too much. Once your letters are sent, write cards to your recommenders to thank them for their time.
As mentioned before, many universities use the Common Application for their admission process. Part of the Common Application is counselor forms. These forms allow your high school counselor to provide information about your high school and some more insight on who you are as a student. Ask your guidance counselor if they prefer to fill these forms out online or if they prefer hard copies.
Note: Not ALL applications have a counselor portion.
Turn in Test Scores & Transcripts
Remember all of the hard work you put into your classes and standardized tests? Now it is time to show off your brain power. It is vital that you send your test scores and transcripts to all schools you are applying for. Most test scores and transcripts can be sent electronically to the schools you are applying for, however, some high schools prefer to send their transcripts by mail. So, it is important to check with your counselor.
Note: Figure out who your admissions counselor is for each school you are applying for, and notify them when you are sending them materials and ask that they send you a verification email once it is received.
Some schools require supplementary materials in their application process. For example, many schools ask that you supplement your application with a writing exert. Additionally, if you are applying for a specific program within a school they may ask for a resume or for a portfolio (Ex: art portfolio). To make sure you are not missing any materials, contact both your admissions counselor and the program director of the specific department you are applying for.
Perhaps the best part of applying for college is going on college visits. Not only do college visits allow you to experience a new city, but also they offer an inside look into life at that university. Do not be afraid to be the one that asks loads of questions, because most people have the same questions. We also suggest that you try to get an inside look at the dorms and maybe eat a meal in the dining hall while on your visit. While these things may seem very insignificant now, they greatly impact your quality of life and college experience once on campus.
Looking to save some money?
We love using YouTube as our own personal tour guide into universities throughout the country. Also, many schools now have virtual tours posted on their web page!
After you have worked long and hard on filling out applications, it is time to begin the hardest part…WAITING!!! While some schools reply within weeks, other schools can take months to reply. During this time it is important to relax and enjoy the final moments of high school. Also, it is important to remind yourself that regardless of your admission outcomes everything happens for a reason. So, if you are accepted to one school…or many, be humble and grateful for any opportunity you have. If you are not accepted, remember that life goes on and there are other opportunities out there for you (and you can apply again). Best wishes!