Every year, many colleges and universities receive more applications than they can accept. In determining which students to choose, admissions officials consider numerous factors. A quality application is key to catching their attention.
Applying to a college entails more than filling out a form. You also need to submit supporting materials like essays, your high school transcript, and letters of recommendation.
Though the process may seem complicated, it can be simplified by making a plan and getting a jump start well before you graduate from high school. You should take college-admission tests during your junior year, and visit campuses the following summer. Early in your senior year, begin compiling the information you need to submit. Most colleges’ application deadlines are between November and January.
You can save yourself time and effort by taking advantage of a free, online document known as the “common application.” Most postsecondary institutions accept this standardized form. It can be completed online and emailed to colleges.
It is important to check with the colleges on your list, to make sure they don’t want a different application form. Whatever form is required, take your time and answer all questions fully and honestly. Check your spelling and grammar.
One of the best ways to impress admissions officials is to write effective essays to submit as part of the application. Essays are opportunities to demonstrate your talents and strengths. They enable you to set yourself apart from other applicants who may have similar academic records.
It is likely that at least some of the colleges on your list will ask you to write a “personal statement” essay. It involves answering a question in at least 300 words. Begin an essay by making a list of the points you wish to make, then create an outline.
Write the first draft without worrying about grammar, spelling, punctuation, or sentence and paragraph structure. You can correct those details later. Have several people read your final draft to identify errors and make suggestions. Don’t just ask a friend to do this for you. Get a guidance counselor or teacher to provide input.
A college may request an essay on a topic that is familiar to you. Perhaps you have already written something about the subject for a high school class. If so, improve and rewrite your work for the application, crafting it to meet the college’s requirements.
In addition to making sure essays are well written and free of mistakes, use them to tell admissions officials what you want them to know about you. Make your essay stand out from the rest by giving it a personal touch that illuminates your character and qualities.
Your transcript is a document that contains information about the schools you have attended, your scores on the SAT or ACT test, other standardized-test results, a list of your classes, grade-point average and class rank, and attendance record.
Save yourself time and effort by researching colleges’ admission requirements regarding grades and test scores. If you fall short of an institution’s standards, scratch it off your list and move on to other schools. High school guidance counselors generally are responsible for sending students’ transcripts to colleges and universities.
Letters of Recommendation
Ask guidance counselors, teachers, employers, and others to write letters of recommendation for you. They should describe your accomplishments, attributes, personal qualities, abilities, work ethic, integrity, and maturity.
Do not wait until the last minute to solicit these letters. Give people plenty of time to write them. Be sure to ask for recommendations from those whose comments are most likely to support the image you are striving to project to admissions staff.
Your school profile, which likely can be provided by a guidance counselor, is usually expected to be included in application packets. Experts recommend attaching it to your transcript. The profile provides information about a school’s size, enrollment, academics, and other characteristics.
Colleges also want to know about awards or honors you have received as a result of academic, extracurricular, or personal achievements. Do not be bashful about listing your accomplishments. This is no time for modesty. You could be competing with a number of students for the chance to attend a college.
Having interests outside the classroom indicates to admissions officials that you are a well-rounded person with a passion for something. It helps show who you are. Participating in extracurricular activities builds social skills and teaches qualities like teamwork, which you are going to need in college.
If you are still in high school, look into the extracurricular alternatives that are available. They could range from sports teams to student groups devoted to music, art, drama, speech, debate, chess, film, language, and other interests.
Outside of school, you can gain real-world experience by getting a part-time job or working as a community volunteer. There also may be a group or club in the community that matches your interests. Having taken part in any of these endeavors during your high school years will enhance your college application.
Applying for admittance to colleges is a detailed process. You need to make sure you compile all the required information and materials. Essays and other writing must not contain spelling errors or other mistakes.
Do not try to do it all alone. Your high school guidance counselor may be able to help you identify colleges that meet your criteria, keep track of application requirements and deadlines, and obtain letters of recommendation. Admissions counselors, teachers, and older students also may be of assistance in preparing your application.
If you start early and take it a step at a time, you can put together an application that gets results.
High school graduates planning to pursue postsecondary education need to research the admission criteria of the universities they are considering. Schools’ requirements vary, in terms of academic standards and other factors.
Your list of potential universities may include institutions in the United States and Canada. The admission criteria of colleges in the two countries have quite a few common components, but there are some differences that students should know.
Admission officials in both countries place a high value on applicants’ academic performance, as indicated by their high school grade-point average. Minimum standards are often in place, disqualifying students with bad grades.
In the United States and Canada, a student’s application packet must contain a high school transcript, detailing classes taken and grades received; essays, which may include a “personal statement”; a list of extracurricular activities, jobs, and community service; and letters of recommendation from counselors, teachers, employers, or others.
The Canadian System
A major difference between the two countries is that, in Canada, admission criteria are set on the provincial level (rather than by individual institutions).
A student’s grade-point average as a senior in high school is the most important factor in gaining admission to a university. In some provinces, 11th-grade GPAs also count. Most universities accept students with GPAs of 70 percent, though some provinces set the bar higher. The grade requirement is often less demanding for in-province students than for those who live in another province.
Universities in Canada, as well as the United States, mandate that students pass exams to prove their literacy or language proficiency. This generally involves fluency in English, though exclusively French-speaking students are accepted by postsecondary institutions in Quebec and New Brunswick.
Applicants need to understand that the term “college” does not have the same definition in both countries. When Canadians speak of a college, they are referring to an institution similar to the community colleges and technical schools found in the United States. Students who attend such colleges often are pursuing two-year associate’s degrees or certificates in specific careers. While Canadian colleges also offer bachelor’s degrees, none of them have master’s programs. The word “university” is used for the same type of school in each nation.
In their applications to Canadian universities, students must declare a program. The usual choices are sciences, the arts, and business. Within each category are multiple majors, but students are not expected to immediately choose one.
A high school diploma or general-equivalency degree is a standard requirement of universities in both nations. In Canada, though, students older than 25 years of age (who have been out of school for at least two years) are eligible to apply for admission, even without having graduated from high school. Officials consider their intellectual maturity, interests, employment history, and financial need.
A student at a Canadian university must perform at least 40 hours of community service or volunteer work as a condition of earning a degree. U.S. schools impose no such mandate.
Unlike in the United States, applying to a university in Canada does not entail a lot of competition with other students. There are a limited number of placements in any program, and some types of degrees are more highly sought than others. However, most students find it relatively easy to be accepted by the school of their choice.
The U.S. System
In the United States, the “common application” makes it simple to send information to admission officials at multiple universities. Students may apply to as many institutions as they like. Most colleges and universities admit students to the school, rather than to a degree program.
The fact that each university determines its own admission criteria makes the application process a bit more complicated than the Canadian system. For instance, some schools accept only students with high GPAs. Applicants to U.S. universities must submit their SAT or ACT scores, for which an institution alsomight impose minimum standards.
The portion of applicants accepted by a university varies widely in the United States, from less than 10 percent to near 100 percent. Admission staff sometimes waive some of the academic criteria for students who demonstrate financial need, athletic prowess, or other characteristics. A person of color may be accepted in part because a university is striving to meet student-diversity goals.
Students and their parents are advised to begin their university searches as early as the junior year in high school. They need to set their priorities, research potential institutions, and be sure to meet application deadlines. Understanding universities’ admission criteria is essential, especially when schools in the United States as well as Canada are being considered.
6 Tips on Managing Admission Deadlines
While it’s exciting to begin a new chapter in your life, applying for college can quickly become overwhelming. Deadlines typically fall within the same week and there are different fees and requirements for each university. The best thing you can do when it’s time to apply for college is get organized. Sit down with your parents and plan out how you will work together to make the application process run smoothly.
Create a spreadsheet
Create a basic spreadsheet that includes columns for university name, essays, SAT or ACT scores, fee and deadline. Add columns as you need based on the requirements of the universities you decide to apply to. You may also add columns with a link to the online or paper application.
Create a contact list
You will likely have to contact each admissions office at least once in the application process. Create another spreadsheet tab for contacts at each university. Add a column for the university name, contact name, phone number, email, date of conversation and notes about your discussion. This information will help you keep on track and eliminate confusion about which representative said what.
Your application is your time to shine, so don’t be shy about accomplishments. Start by making a list of all the extracurricular activities you participated in throughout high school. Note any sports, clubs, musical groups and student government. Don’t forget any special accomplishments such as leadership -groups or honor societies you were invited to join. If you completed volunteer work, make note of that as well. Advanced placement classes and awards based on grades, attendance and overall performance should also be noted, as should volunteer work. You can also note activities outside of school, such as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, other advanced sports leagues.
Creating this list will provide you with a clear picture of your accomplishments. You will gain confidence in looking back at what you’ve done and you may find that these experiences help you in writing any personal essays that are required.
You may need to request copies of certain documents from your high school. Some colleges may want references from teachers, while others require essays. Review your spreadsheet and plan accordingly. It may take a while to receive copies of all the paperwork you need, so find out approximately how long it will take to get those items and make sure you request them far enough in advance. Be respectful of others. Don’t ask a teacher to serve as a reference at the very last minute. Give them at least to weeks. Complete your essays in advance so you can have 2-3 people review them for mistakes and clarity.
Preparing for college means a lot of paper and emails. Create new email folders, computer folders and file folders to help you organize important paperwork or digital documents. This may include test results, certificates or awards, or letters of reference. Label them clearly. You can also create a master file for each university that
It’s not uncommon to apply for up to five universities. Rather than applying for all of them on the same day, spread them out. There are often several pages for each application and you don’t want to make any mistakes. Applications require you to focus. Students and parents should sit down and schedule specific times to work on each application to avoid any mistakes that could result from rushing to do everything at the last minute.
Taking these steps will ensure the application process is less overwhelming. You will appreciate the freedom you have once deadlines aren’t hanging over your head.