College Applications: Where to Begin
Applying to colleges is a lot like moving, and moving isn’t fun. Every time I’ve moved, the packing process goes something like this:
(6 weeks before) I should really start sorting and packing!
(4 weeks before) There’s so much to do, I don’t even know where to start.
(2 weeks before) This really isn’t going to be fun, but I know I should get going.
(1 week before) I should get boxes.
(2 days before) *throws everything jumbled into boxes*
The college application process can feel overwhelming, but don’t stress. There are ways to manage the college application process. Here are some tips:
Print out a Calendar and Mark the Following:
- Application deadlines of the schools you’ll be applying to.
- Early decision deadlines
- Scholarship application deadlines
- Financial Aid application deadlines
Make a Spreadsheet with a Checklist for Each College and Its Requirements.
Colleges may have different requests so you want to make sure you have it all mapped out. Some may ask for letters of recommendations, some may request an interview or multiple sets of SAT or ACT scores, examples of essays, artwork or other projects.
Fill out the Application
Most colleges accept the Common App, most Texas schools accept ApplyTexas, however some schools have a supplemental application they’ll ask you to fill out. Applications will ask for basic information like your name, date of birth, address, parents’ names, Social Security number, high school code, etc. They will also ask you to list your coursework, standardized tests taken, and extracurricular activities. Sometimes they will leave a space for you to comment or explain something irregular on your application, such as a semester missed because of an illness or a trip abroad that you earned credit for.
Organize Which SAT/ACT Scores You Want to Send to Which Colleges
Some colleges want to see more than one SAT score, and some are satisfied to see only your best score. On your spreadsheet and/or calendar, mark which schools you’ll be sending your scores to. College Board has a great tutorial on how to use their Score Choice option.
Write the Application Essay(s)
No matter which school you’re applying to, you’ll likely have to write a college application essay. There are infinite numbers of approaches you can take to the admissions essay, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s a chance for the admissions officers to see the person behind the grades and test scores. The admissions essay should reflect your personality, passions, achievements, and convictions. Don’t rush through this – take it seriously and make sure it’s proofread before sending it off.
Ask Teachers for Letters of Recommendation
Not all colleges require letters of recommendation, but in case the colleges on your list do, think about whom you might want to ask. Some colleges require that the letters of recommendation come only from your teachers. If not, church leaders, coaches, and employers are appropriate adults to ask for a letter of recommendation. The point of the letter is for someone else to attest to your academic skills, your character and work ethic. Family friends or family members should not be asked to write letters of recommendation. Whomever you decide to ask, make sure to give them plenty of time to write the letter. Don’t wait until the last minute. You want them to have enough time to write a thoughtful letter to the college admissions board.
Schedule an Interview, If Required
While most don’t, some school require an interview. Make sure to schedule yours as soon as possible in order you have a good option of choices for dates and times.
You won’t be able to pack an entire house in a day, but packing a few boxes is a good way to start. Taking the first few steps of a big process can make the whole thing less scary and just might motivate you to tackle the rest. With college applications, you’re either ahead or behind. Sketch out a plan for the process, don’t stress, and take it step by step.