A Complete Guide on How to Apply to College

How to Apply for College

Congratulations! You are about to graduate from high school, and the possibilities of what’s to come are endless. Whether you decide to take a year off, save up for college, or start college right after graduating, this guide on how to apply for college will become beneficial to you at one point or another.

1. Junior year -- Make a list of potential schools

Before doing anything, it’s best to know where you want to apply before taking any further action. As you make the list, decide whether you would prefer a small or large school, whether you’d prefer a college town or a big city, and whether you’d rather commute or live on campus. Touring different schools will allow you to narrow this list down.

2. Junior year -- Check the prerequisites for admission

Visit each school’s website and look for the requirements for admission. The websites will most likely tell you where to submit the application, when the application is due, what the required high school GPA is, what the required SAT/ACT score is, how many recommendations are needed, and what the essay topics are.

3. Junior year -- Register for and take the SAT/ACT

Before registering to take these, check with your high school counselor to see if the school will pay for you to take the test. Also check to see if your high school offers the PSAT or a practice ACT. You might also be able to find free practice tests online. Depending on your practice tests and on your list of schools, decide whether you will need to take a prep course to meet the score requirements.

4. Junior year -- Talk to the schools’ admissions counselors

Once you get your scores back, talk to the admissions counselors to discuss whether you are admissible with the scores you got along with any other questions you might have.

5. Junior year – Narrow your list down

Now that you know what your chances are for each of the schools you listed, narrow your list down to five. Pick two safe schools that you will most likely get into, pick two that are somewhat out of reach that you could get into with additional effort, and pick one “dream” school that seems completely out of reach, because you never know – you might be exactly who they’re looking for.


6. Senior year -- Apply

Check with your high school counselor and the admissions counselors to see if they can provide you with vouchers to waive the application fees. For your letter of recommendations, make sure to give your recommenders a minimum of two weeks’ notice; do not ask for a letter of recommendation a day before the deadline. Finally, before submitting your essays, ask at least two people to read over them and make revisions; your English teachers will probably be happy to do so. Review your application multiple times before pressing submit.

7. Senior year -- File the FAFSA and apply for scholarships

Welcome to your new yearly tradition. The FAFSA is extremely important in your college application process because it will determine the financial aid award packages that the schools will offer you, and tell you if you’re eligible to receive any grants, scholarships, or federal student loans. The application opens on October 1 for the following school year, so be on the lookout. Also, as you have probably already realized, college is expensive, so apply to as many scholarships as you can; applying to the schools’ scholarships is a great idea.

8. Senior year – Look out for correspondence

Check your mail, check your e-mail, and do not ignore phone calls. Schools will use various types of communication to try to contact you. Notices of missing information and application statuses will most likely be sent to you.

9. Senior year – Make a decision

Once you receive all of your decision letters, compare the financial aid award packages and discuss your concerns with your family and friends – they will most likely give you guidance. If needed, go on additional tours, talk to students from the schools you’re considering, and look at post-grad employment rates. Take as much time as needed without going past the decision deadline.

The process of applying to college is a long and exciting one. You will feel nostalgia, anxiety, and fear along with a variety of other emotions. Your decision is yours to make, and others will have to understand that. You’ve come this far, and you have a bit more to go. You got this!

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