Applying to college is often a very a stressful process for most students. However, by being organized and remaining on schedule, you can ease a lot of that anxiety. Here is a general checklist of the essential components that you need in order to apply to college:
- Transcript: All schools want to know about your grades and your performance through the course of either three or three and a half years of high school. Most importantly, they want to see that you have challenged yourself within the context of your school. Be sure to sign any transcript release forms for your school and meet the deadlines by which you have to submit them.
- Extracurricular activities: Colleges want to know how you have been involved in school or out of school with a club, sport, job, or even family commitment. They want to see that you have taken an initiative and made an impact in your community.
- Standardized testing: The reason why standardized testing is near the top of the list is because you should be starting studying and taking these early on, perhaps about a year and a half or two years before actually applying. This leaves time to studying for the SAT or ACT, taking the test learning from your mistakes, improving, and taking it again to get a better score. In time, more and more colleges are beginning to stray away from standardized testing, however, as for now, test scores still have a significant impact on your application.
- Letters of recommendation: The number of letters of recommendation required vary from school to school, if they even accept them at all. Generally, colleges want one or two letters from teachers of core subjects and or a letter from your counselor and typically the teachers are ones from your junior year of high school. Therefore, try to create meaningful connections and relationships particular with your junior year teachers.
- School profile: The school profile provides admissions officers with a snapshot of your school and where and how you fit into your surroundings. The profile helps to better understand how you have challenged yourself within the context of your school because it shows the different courses offered and at what levels, for instance Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB). If you have not seen your school profile yet, I suggest you take a look at it.
- National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA): If you would like to play a sport in college, you have to take into consideration being recruited for those teams and register for NCAA as well.
- Application: In regards to the actual application, you have to figure out what website you are going to use to apply. For example, a few options include the Common Application, the Coalition Application, and the Quest Bridge Program to name a few.
- Meet deadlines: Over the course of your senior year, you can submit your application at various different times. You can apply Regular Decision, which for many colleges is around January; Early Action, which is typically around November; Early Decision, which is also around November but this is a binding agreement; and or Rolling Admission, which allows students to apply anytime within a large window. It is imperative that you meet the deadline for the application method that you have chosen in order to be admitted into college.
- Personal essay or statement: Most schools will require you to choose between a few prompts and write an essay of around 650 words. The purpose of the essay is for colleges to get a sense of what you’re like and who you are as a person.
- Supplements: In addition to the essay, college will ask you a few questions that you should write a thoughtful answer about. The word range for these writing supplements can range anywhere from 100 to 600. These short essays are also present to get a better understanding of you. While the writing supplements are often required, you also have a chance to submit an art supplement, which is optional. If you have a particular passion or affinity for a form of art, then you are encouraged to submit some of that art as part of your application.
- Interview: Even though many colleges leave the interview as optional or required and some recommend or strongly advise conducting one, interviews are a great opportunity to enhance your application and make it stand out.
After reading this guideline, I hope it has helped make you feel a less stressed and more reassured and organized about the whole process. All the best of luck to you!