Tips for College Application
No one would ever subject themselves to a multi-hour test as a means to an end. After you’ve nailed the exam, it’s time to make sure the rest of your application to the school of your dreams is as strong as the score you worked to achieve.
Applying for Schools
With your ACT or SAT score in hand, you’ll be better prepared to select colleges where you wish to apply. With literally hundreds to choose from, it may seem like a daunting task; however, asking yourself some important questions will help narrow things down.
Not all schools offer the same learning programs and some schools are stronger in some areas than others. Having an idea (or two) of what you want to study will help you narrow down your school choice. Find schools that excel in your desired field of study and add them to the top of your list. You can use tools like College Navigator and College Search to help you narrow down schools that focus on your interests.
Where you go to college will also determine where you can live. If you decide to attend a college close to home, you will be able to see your friends and family more often and may even be able to save on living expenses by living at home. However, moving out allows you to better experience your college’s culture and community. Part of college prep is learning valuable skills for living on your own so that when you do move out you will be prepared.
- How Much Do You Want to Pay?
College tuition can vary widely between institutions. When you consider that a semester of college can set you back anywhere from $5,000 to $60,000 per semester, it pays to do your research before you apply. Talk to your parents and school advisors about your college decisions and keep in mind that just because a school is more expensive doesn’t mean you can’t apply for scholarships to lower your tuition.
- Big School or Small School?
This point largely depends on what you prefer from your educational institution. Small schools have smaller class sizes with more opportunities for one-on-one instruction, while larger universities often have more amenities and degree options to choose from. Apply to some large schools and some small schools if you’re not sure what will work best for you.
Remember to narrow down the list of schools you apply to. Many universities have application fees that can get expensive and applications also tend to be very time-intensive.
Three School Considerations
The best way to pare down your list of potential schools is to place them in one of three categories: reach, match, and safety.
- Reach Schools—these are the schools on your list that have high academic standards and selective acceptance rates.
- Match Schools—these are the schools that you have a good chance of getting accepted to. Your grades and test scores are reflective of the average required for acceptance at these universities.
- Safety Schools—These are colleges that you are nearly positive you will be accepted to because you have test scores and grades well above the average acceptance rate.
By separating different schools you would like to attend into these categories, you have options to choose from should you not be accepted into the school of your dreams. If you are not accepted to your reach school or match school, you will still have a safety school to fall back on if needed. Submit at least one application to each type of school.
Tips For Applying
Submitting a college application requires keeping track of many different things. We’ve compiled a list to help you stay organized during the application process.
- Pay Attention to Deadlines
Deadlines for applications sneak up quickly and even the best essay will never get you accepted if no one gets a chance to read it. The best method is to write down all your deadlines on a calendar or record them in a way that ensures you won’t forget they are looming ahead. Missing a deadline means you won’t be attending that college.
Pay attention to what the school’s requirements are and complete all of them when you apply. Certain application requirements may be unique to certain schools.
Organization is key to college preparation when filling out many applications. Get any school information, like transcripts, letters of recommendation and other documents, as early as you can. Create backup copies in case the mail gets lost in transit. When the unexpected happens—and it will—you’ll be grateful you were prepared.
Things can and do get lost in transit so it’s always best to check with your school and make sure they received your application and documents. If you submitted an electronic application, you will still want to make sure that the application appears in their system. Make sure you give the schools a few weeks before checking in because it can take time for documents to arrive via mail or process through their system. When you do follow up, make sure you check with college admissions that you’ve finished everything they need for your application so that they are not waiting on information from you without you realizing it.
Tips for Essays
College preparation and school applications require a lot of thought, planning, and work. They often include an essay requirement as part of the application process. It’s easy to overthink the essay, but here are a few things to keep in mind so you don’t stress about unimportant details:
It is always important to be able to convey who you are through your writing. Admissions essays are meant to express who you are to your potential university and how you plan to contribute to the university and society. Make sure to write as though you were speaking, but veer away from slang and other overly casual wording as you write. Have someone proofread your essay for voice to make sure it still sounds like you.
This is an opportunity to show the admissions office what kind of person you are through your actions. Give examples of attributes you have instead of just listing them. Saying, “I’m a hard worker,” is great, but giving an example of a time you actually worked hard is much better.
Before you write your essay, sit down and pick one or two main ideas you want to focus on in your writing. If you try to cover too many topics, your essay will be flimsy and lack depth. It’s always better to cover one or two topics in depth than to spread yourself thin.
Spell check is great—for catching spelling errors. Grammatical errors, awkward wording, and organizational mishaps won’t be picked up by the best spell checker in the world. Read over your paper by yourself and make edits for grammar and word choice along the way. Reading out loud is a great way to hear if words sound awkward and to catch grammatical errors you may not have noticed otherwise. Finally, have someone else read and edit your essay. They may notice errors in organization and flow that you didn’t catch.