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.