Applying to college and being accepted is a wonderfully unique experience for both the student and his or her family. A lot of effort, determination and hard work goes into the application process, and this often involves help from education professionals and loved ones.

The tips for applying to college described here show there are numerous requirements involved in getting accepted into a college. As well as sitting standardized tests and achieving high grades, applicants are expected to produce creatively written admission essays, take part in out-of-school activities, and obtain recommendation letters.

It would be great if the only requirement for getting into the college of one’s dreams was to register and turn up for classes. That, unfortunately, is not the way things work. To get a place at college, the student first needs to apply. The checklist and tips for applying to college described here are designed to help aspiring students with the application process.

Start by Focusing on the Academic Aspects

One of the factors that is considered essential in the admissions process for almost any higher-level institution is having a good GPA from high school, particularly when this is the result of a challenging school curriculum. If the option exists, participate in as many challenging high school courses as you can manage. These may include AP (Advanced Placement), IB (International Baccalaureate), college preparation courses, and any others you think will help or are available to you.

Courses of this type will not just earn you credits but obtaining good scores in AP tests can significantly increase your prospects of being accepted. Irrespective of whether or not you attend these extra courses, getting the best grades possible should be your highest priority during your four-year stint at high school.

Do not let the prospect of standardized tests cause you stress.

If it is the case, your ACT or SAT got canceled, or you feel the results you obtained are not reflective of your real preparedness for college, submitting a score is not necessary. In recent times, a lot of colleges have made tests optional, and because of COVID-19, some have also suspended their normal testing practices. The scores from standardized tests are just part of the application process. Not submitting this score will not adversely affect your college application. And, remember, this score is merely one aspect of the application process should you decide to submit one.

Choose a Diverse Range of Colleges to Apply to

Another of our tips to get into college includes making sure you submit applications to several colleges, including schools in the “match,” “safety,” and “reach” categories. Early on in your junior high school year, ask the school’s counselor to help you assemble a list of the colleges that you meet the admissions criteria for. The schools or colleges you meet or surpass the criteria for can become your “match” or “safety” choices.

When you have submitted applications to these institutions, you can then send applications to “reach” schools or to colleges where you feel your chances of being admitted are slimmer because of their competitiveness. By submitting applications in this order, you are giving yourself a good chance of getting into one college at least, even if it is not your first choice.

Submit Your Applications Early

If there is a particular university or college, you really have your heart set on, applying as early as November is a good way of increasing your chances of being admitted. The reason for this is that many colleges accept a greater percentage of applicants during their early rounds of decision-making and action.

The practice among high school seniors of applying before normal deadlines is known as early decision. It is only possible to submit an application to one college or school using this system. Also, because these decisions are binding, students are required to take place at those colleges or universities if they are accepted.

However, while early action operates in similar fashion, this system is not binding so students are not required to take places at these schools. Therefore, if there is a school you truly love, are satisfied with your test results and grades, and have got your application ready by November, early decision and/or early action options are definitely worth pursuing.

Show You Are Interested

So, why are you applying to this college? Most colleges aim to increase the number of accepted students who go on to enroll, and they track the interest demonstrated by the applicants to meet this goal. If your interest in a particular college or university really is genuine, visit that college’s campus, schedule a tour of the campus, arrange non-compulsory interviews or reach out personally to a suitable member of the admissions staff.

You can also demonstrate interest by choosing early decision, contacting professors in a major relevant to your choice, following the institution on social media, and/or taking part in any seminars the school offers to potential students.

Should you decide to contact anyone at a school, whether it is a professor or an admissions officer, make sure you use correct etiquette for the type of contact (e.g., email). Check out the website for more information on good communication strategies, e.g., email etiquette for college.

Take Time to Develop Your College Application Essays

A very important aspect of the college application process is the essay part. This is because an essay is a great “sales” opportunity, i.e., a chance to tell readers about yourself beyond your test scores and grades. Therefore, it is recommended you take time to write a great essay that makes you stand out from your competitors.

Before starting to write, study the essay prompt carefully and think about any unique experiences, you have had. Aim to write an engaging and personal story on a subject that is meaningful for you and also corresponds with the instructions and prompt you were given. Once a suitable idea comes to you, start writing with a view to improving your work later through revision. Seek feedback from tutors and peers during the writing and revision stages and continue rewriting and editing until you are happy with the outcome.

Complete the Application Diligently and Carefully

Most college applications take around half-an hour to complete. This does not include the essay part (where applicable). Take enough time and focus on being accurate and thorough. Do not jeopardize a place at the school of your choice because of trivial mistakes. Seek recommendation letters from people who can vouch for your academic achievements and abilities, e.g., school counselors, teachers, etc.

Look for Excellent Recommendation Letters

College admission staff rely heavily on recommendation letters because these letters speak about the applicant’s character in a way that test scores and grades are incapable of. Therefore, you should ask for recommendation letters from people capable of describing your personality, achievements and skills in an enthusiastic and positive manner.

Think about asking counselors and teachers from your school or any employer with whom you have a good relationship. Try asking a current counselor or teacher or one from your junior year because colleges usually want a recent opinion of you. If a teacher agrees, give him or her a list of your accomplishments, which they can then refer to in their letter. Allow a month at least for the completion and sending of letters prior to the deadline. It is best to ask for these as early as you can.

Pay Attention to Your Online Profile and Reputation

In this age of digital technology, it is increasingly common for admission officers to look at a candidate’s social media profile. This can help them learn a bit more about the candidate and they may also be looking for anything adverse that could prevent the student being accepted. So, check that your social media accounts do not contain anything you would not want a recipient of your application to see. It is also worth Googling your own name to make sure there is nothing there that might negatively affect you.

Look for Effective Assistance and Sound Advice

The process of applying to college has the potential to be complex and confusing and it is best not to attempt this on your own. Whilst researching your options, make a list, prepare to take standardized tests, complete your various applications, and seek help from other people who are familiar with the process, e.g., teachers and counselors. Consult friends, parents, siblings and/or other relatives who may be able to advise on the admissions process.

Apply Prolifically for Scholarships

An abundance of scholarships are available to students who make an effort to find them and submit applications. There are even some that allow high school students to earn.

RaiseMe: This scheme enables high school students to earn through activities they are likely to be doing already, e.g., earning “A” grades, taking part in extracurricular activities, or visiting colleges. The money earned can be applied to any of RaiseMe’s 250+ partner institutions.

Search tools for scholarships: Websites such as CollegeBoard Search, FastWeb Search and FinAid Search can be used to find scholarships. Apply for everything – you may qualify, and every bit of help matters!

Ask the school or college you are applying for: A lot of these offer scholarships you may apply for upon admission.

Remember to check tuition fees and complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application.

Remain Optimistic

It is difficult to predict when normality will return or what our new normal will be. Nevertheless, remaining optimistic about your home and school life and about your future is the most effective way to use your time.

The phrase “we are all in this together” is something that has been said frequently during the pandemic. If you have feelings of anxiety about college applications you definitely are not on your own. Focus on each task and be confident you will be accepted into a university or college that will feel just like home for the next few years.

July 25, 2021
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