Applying for college is not as straight forward as you may think it is. While it would be nice if all college students were accepted at every college to which they applied, that is simply not the reality of the situation. College applications are competitive, and you will need to understand the process if you’re going to get accepted, get a good financial aid package offered and going to get to go to the college of your choice.
To succeed, you’ll need to understand the college application process and learn how to present your best self so you’ll come out on top.
Select Colleges Carefully
You might assume that you want to go to the same college the rest of your friends are talking about, but you will need to be realistic about what college you can get into and what college will be the best fit for your goals and needs. There are many colleges you’ve probably never even heard of that might be a better fit than the popular college your friends are buzzing about.
Review college options carefully, evaluating the cost, the acceptance rate (what percentage of the kids who apply get into this college?), the average GPA of accepted freshman (compared to your GPA), the average entrance exam of accepted freshmen (check both ACT and SAT scores) and if any other demographical information will matter (gender, socio-economic status, race, religion.) Make sure you only consider colleges you will truly fit into.
Apply to More Than One College
You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. Much as you might have our heart set on a particular college, you need to keep your options open and apply to at least three colleges. It’s wise to apply to one “reach” college (one that it will be a stretch to get into), at least one “sure bet” college (one you’re sure you’ll get into) and at least one middle-of-the-road college. It costs money to apply to college, but you will want to apply to enough of them to ensure you will have options.
Make Sure You’ve Completed the Application Correctly
Different colleges request different information. You will need to read the application requirements carefully and make sure you get every piece of the puzzle completed before the admission deadline passes. Most colleges require GPA, transcripts, a formal application, entrance exam scores (ACT and/or SAT), an essay and a list of achievements and awards. Some will also require an interview.
Wait While Your Applications Are Reviewed
Once you’ve applied to all the colleges you wish to be considered for, you’ll have to wait for your application to be processed and reviewed. You might be contacted by someone from the admissions committee if the college has questions about you. If possible, attend college fairs and treat the interactions you have with college representatives as you would an interview; notes from interactions with you may be included in your application file. You may need to complete a phone, video or in person interview before you are accepted, especially if you are applying to an exclusive school or are up for a hefty scholarship.
Respond When Offered Enrollment
You will probably hear back from different colleges on different dates. It is wise to wait until you’ve heard from all of the colleges to which you have applied so you can compare financial aid packages and offers. Make sure you respond with a yes or no thank you before the deadline, which is usually May 1st of your senior year. You will need to make a deposit (payment) to ensure your enrollment.
Understanding the Wait List
If you’ve been put on a wait list, you need to make sure you have other options. The chances of getting admitted off a wait list are pretty slim, and you don’t want to get stuck with no options come fall of your freshman year.
If you want to be considered for a school, return the wait list card right away along with a letter expressing your sincere desire to be accepted to this school. Do not be afraid to sound eager or earnest – this may give you a better chance of being accepted.
What About Early Admission?
If you are set on a specific college, you may wish to apply for early admission. This will increase your chances of being accepted to the college of your choice, but it will also limit your options. Some advisors say this will also reduce your financial aid package, since the college will not feel like they have to entice you with a good financial aid package, but this assertion is up for debate. In any case, you should only apply for early admission if you are certain you want to go to a particular school.
Understanding the College Application Process
Applying to college can be harrowing, but you’ll make it to the other side if you do your research, apply to colleges that are within your reach and follow the directions on the applications.