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.
What to include in a college application
A college application consists of several different parts that work together to allow universities to discover the qualities of an applicant. While academic criteria are quite important in most universities, there are several other things that they look for in applications other than grades and test scores. Given below are some of the most important components of a successful college application:
An important part of any college application is the essay. It is important to select an essay topic that really means something to you. Always try to write an essay in your own words, style and voice. Do not use big words or complex sentences that you would not normally use in everyday life. The goal is to provide the university a sense of who you truly are. Always proofread the essay and have it read by a few friends and family members to get a different perspective.
Prepare a statement of all your extracurricular experiences and achievements that demonstrate that you have taken leadership positions in the past, are deeply committed to whatever you do and take pride in activities and tasks that are important to you. Extracurricular activities showcase that you do whatever is possible for the people around you and contribute positively to your community. Universities are looking for vibrant, active students who do more than just cram for exams.
Recommendations form a very important part of any college application. They provide universities an idea about the way you work and study, your overall attitude, how well you function in a classroom environment and how you contribute to your community. When getting recommendations from teachers, it is best to approach those who know you the best and will be able to discuss you as a person instead of just another student. Universities want to know more about your work ethics and your curiosity level.
Avoid getting recommendation letters that are generic. The best recommendation letters are specific and thoughtful. They should talk about your progress, your contributions and your personal characteristics. It is also important to ensure that your application has the right number of recommendations. For example, two recommendations that provide a good insight into your application will work really well. However, adding a third recommendation that simply praises you without adding anything meaningful to your application will just be distracting.
Test scores and transcripts
Transcripts are what the universities will look for first in any application package. Universities consider the overall record, the courses you studied and the curriculum to understand if you are academically competent and how they reflect on your overall potential. Standardized test scores can add a little weight to your application but are not a vital component of the application. However, if you have taken a few tests and have good scores, it is always a good idea to include them in your application.
A college application needs to be thoughtfully put together based on your understanding of what the college is looking for in its future students.
6 Tips for Writing an Essay
Multiple-choice and problem-solving questions on exams are not the only methods by which you are tested as a college student. You also must know how to write essays, because professors frequently assign them. Some universities require essays as part of the admissions process. There also may be opportunities for you to enter essay contests in your field of study.
Though the task may seem daunting, composing an essay is an easily learned skill. It can be broken down into a series of steps, which makes the process more understandable.
1. Do Your Research
After determining the subject of your essay, the first step is to compile the information you need to write it. Do this with an understanding of the types of material, and the sources of information, that will be deemed acceptable. For example, a professor may not want you to cite user-generated websites.
Conduct web searches of various combinations of words and phrases related to your topic. Check academic data bases, look through your textbooks and other class materials, and go to the college library.
2. Analyze the Information
Carefully consider arguments posed in essays that others have written about your topic. Writers who agree with your point of view will give you ideas about how to craft your essay. Those with contrary opinions also are of value, because they challenge you to defend your notions. Keep an open mind as you learn new perspectives on your subject matter. In the process of reading other essays, you also will develop a better sense of how to write one. Study the style of writing and how the information is presented.
If there are professors or graduate students on campus willing to share their insights, schedule interviews with them. As you make notes during your research, begin to organize the information in subtopics or categories. This will help later, when you create an outline for the essay.
3. Determine a Thesis
An essay is constructed around a central thesis, or proposition. The document makes a claim and provides information to support it. To determine your thesis, you must begin by sorting through all the data and opinions collected in your research. Look at the claims you think you wish to make, as well as propositions posed by others in their essays. Consider the evidence, ensuring that it supports the claims.
Jot down key points. Make lists. Use whatever technique you find helpful in organizing your thoughts. Think long and hard about what you really want to say. This will help you identify the thesis and the points you need to make in support of it. Your essay must be unique, reflecting not only your point of view but also your voice.
4. Make an Outline
You are now ready to create an outline. Organize your arguments and supporting information in sections. Determine the order in which the elements should be presented, to ensure a logical flow of text that the reader will find easy to follow and comprehend. Make lists of the material you wish to include in the various sections.
5. Compose the Essay
Come up with a title that states the main point and catches the reader’s attention. Compose an introduction that defines the subject, provides your thesis statement, and gives an overview of how the essay supports the thesis. Some introductions are constructed by describing a problem and then suggesting solutions. You want to make your subject matter sounds interesting, so people are compelled to continue reading.
Section by section, turn your notes and lists into prose by creating sentences and paragraphs. An essay section typically features a topic sentence stating a proposition, followed by bullet points of details supporting the claim.
Finish your essay with a conclusion. It should summarize the material you have presented and restate your thesis. Suggest the significance of your conclusions, and how readers can use the information to better understand the topic. The final sentence should emphasize the essential idea that you are trying to communicate.
The length of essay requested by the professor will help you figure out how many details, and the number of arguments, to include. However, in your first draft, do not worry about being concise. Write down everything that you think you may want to use. Essays generally are expected to be in third-person, rather than first- or second-person, form. Learn the difference between active and passive voice, as many professors prefer the former.
6. Proofread and Edit
Your first draft may be wordy and unorganized. But don’t get discouraged. It’s all part of the process. Your next chore is to go back through the essay, rewriting passages to make them clearer. See that paragraphs follow one another in a logical fashion, and that essay sections flow in a sensible way that consistently supports your thesis. Eliminate redundant statements and unnecessary words. Check your spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Go through the essay several times, on different days. You will find that you are able to improve your work with each edit. Read the essay out loud to test how it sounds, and read it to someone else to get their feedback.
If your idea for a thesis is sound, and you follow the steps outlined in this article, you will be well on your way to creating a strong essay. Do not be intimidated by the prospect of having to write such a document. It really is not that hard to do, if you work hard and take it a step at a time.
9 Tips for Taking Exams
Taking exams is much more than what happens on the day. In fact, to do well, you can easily break down taking exams into two main parts. These are:
A. The Preparation
- Passing or failing will depend on whether you took the time to prepare. It is important to revise before your tests. If revision classes are offered, make every attempt to attend. Take practice tests if possible to get a feel for what to do.
- As simple as it sounds, make sure to have pens and pencils with you if you are taking a written test. If you are taking the test online, you may still need a writing implement so that you can jot down your thoughts before typing your answer.
- Get enough rest the night before any test. While some people can function on just a few hours of sleep, most students will be better able to focus after a good night’s sleep. You should aim for between seven and eight hours of sleep on the night before an examination. Sometimes this is not possible, but at least three hours of sleep is necessary.
- Try to get to your exam site before the starting time. Any number of things can happen that can cause a delay.
B. Taking the Exam
On the day of the exam, your level of preparation will make all the difference. This goes without saying, but some good tips for doing your best are:
- Relax. Nervousness can prevent you from thinking clearly. Wear suitable clothing to help make sure you are comfortable.
- Read the instructions carefully. Many students have failed not because they did not know the correct answers, but simply because they did not read and interpret the instructions correctly. Take your time, and re-read the instructions just to be sure you understand what is being asked. Depending on the type of exam, some instructors (or invigilator in some counties) will provide clarification.
- Look at each question before starting. This the best way to determine how much time each question should take. This also helps in identifying the easier questions to start with.
- Determine how much time to spend on each question. This is a good way to ensure that you attempt each question. Without budgeting your time, you can easily run out of time to complete all of the questions. Having a watch with you will help you keep track.
- Make an outline for essays. If you are working on essays, create an outline of what you know about the topic on a blank sheet of paper or in the margins of your working papers. Useful information includes dates, and names of people and places.
- Work on what you know. If you come upon a difficult question, do not think about the parts you cannot remember. Focus on the parts you do know, and sometimes that will be enough to get you through that question.
- If you are stuck on a question, leave it and move on to those that you can answer. If time allows, go back to it after you have completed all the others.
- Try to answer all the questions on your paper unless you will lose marks for incorrect answers.
- Take breaks. Take periodic breaks by closing your eyes and clearing your mind if possible. If you begin to feel stressed or anxious, this can help you to regain focus.
Finally, proofread your work before handing it in if time allows. At this time, do not change the answers unless you are sure that the original answer is incorrect.
After the exam, do not stress over how well you did. The exam is over and you cannot change your scores at this point in time. Becoming good at taking exams is a habit you develop over time. Find what works for you to ensure your success.