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How to Apply to Colleges

Applying for college admission is detailed and difficult. Though some countries may have slightly different requirements and timelines, some basic guidelines pretty much apply across the board. The process ideally begins in the junior year of high school. Usually prospective students are required to meet multiple requirements, some of which have strict deadlines.

Preparation, and taking it a step at a time, can make the system less daunting. Advisers are available to guide students through the steps. Here are some tips for how to apply to colleges.

1. Start in High School

In your junior year of high school, start making a list of possible colleges. Consider their academics, programs, costs, location, size, and other factors like entrance examination requirements etc.

Learn about their admissions policies and standards, to discern whether they might consider your grades, test scores, and other qualifications adequate. You may not have taken the right classes in high school to get you into a college.

If your shortlisted colleges require you to take any admission tests – like SAT- 1, ACT, IELTS &/or TOEFL – the ideal time to appear for any of these tests is by the end of your Junior Year or at the begining of Senior year. Since most examination scores have a validity of – at least – two or more years, this schedule would ensure you can devote optimum time to your senior year academics and grades.
By the summer before your senior year in high school, you should be ramping up your efforts. This is the time to decide where to apply. Read guidebooks and school rankings. Get help from admissions-office advisers or private counselors.

Schedule campus visits, and while at the colleges complete their interview requirements. Take admission tests or entrance exams. Whittle your list to a few schools, and begin writing the mandated essays.

2. Prepare Applications

The typical deadline for applications to colleges for the fall semester is Jan. 1, though some schools accept them as early as the previous fall. It is recommended that you file as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance of acceptance.

The actual filing of applications and associated paperwork has become much easier in recent years. While this can still be done by regular mail, most colleges accept the common application. It is a standard online form, developed by a nonprofit organization, that makes it easy to email applications to all the schools on your final list.

Some colleges have their own forms, or require essays and supplementary materials. Applications generally ask for grade-point average, standardized-test scores, class rank, SAT or ACT scores, extracurricular activity record, awards, and other information.

3. Pay Application Fees

At last report, colleges were charging an average of $60 in application fees. Some impose fees of $200 or more. However, there are schools that waive these costs for online applicants.

Some colleges provide free applications for relatives of their alumni, students recommended by other graduates, and those who demonstrate financial need. You might be able to have fees waived by taking part in interviews or writing additional essays.

4. Submit Other Materials

Colleges vary in their requirements, but it is common for them to ask for an essay that is sometimes called a “personal statement.” You will be asked to answer a question, in your own words, in 300 or more words. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, word usage, sentence structure, and other writing abilities are needed for this task. You might have to write other essays, as well. Have someone possessing such skills edit anything you write.

In addition to essays, you will have to send each school your high school transcript, and recommendations by teachers or guidance counselors.

The competition is intense for admission to many colleges and universities. Only those who have the proper credentials are considered. There are ways to improve your odds of getting into the college of your dreams, or at least one near the top of your list. Follow these steps, and get a great start on your post-secondary experience.