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Ready to Apply? How the College Application Process REALLY Works

Posted by Megan Maryott on Thursday, Sep. 3, 2015

college-applicationIt’s time. You’ve done your homework, researched the colleges you want to attend and even started visiting a few campuses across the great US of A.

Now comes the fun part: actually filling out the applications to all those schools you’ve envisioned yourself at for the next four years.

This is the moment when you need all of your proverbial ducks in a row.  The last thing you want is for some technicality to disqualify you from attending the college of your dreams, and that’s where we come in.

Today, we’re offering you some important tips that will reveal how the college application process really works. If you keep these things in mind, you shouldn’t be thrown off by any part of the process.

College Selection Timeline Link “Those Other Colleges Mean Nothing To Me, I Promise…”

Imagine you’re being asked to the prom (or, for the gentlemen out there, you’re being asked to the Sadie Hawkins dance). It feels pretty awesome to be asked, especially if it’s by someone you’ve been crushing on. But what if you found out that person has been asking every other person in your class to the same dance with the intent of only taking his or her best option?

Guess what? Colleges aren’t immune to jealousies either. Each college wants to feel special, like we’re the only college you’ve ever loved. We would be heartbroken to find out you’ve been stepping out on us with some floozy state college.

That’s what it feels like when we receive written personal statements that have clearly just been copied and pasted from one application to the next. While we understand deep down you’ve been applying to other schools, no college wants that knowledge thrown in their face.

Make your written statements feel personal. Answers application questions from the heart. Tell anecdotes and stories that suit each school you’re applying to. If you make the college feel special, their admission decision becomes a lot easier to make.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Standardized tests aren’t fun. When fall rolls around, you want to go to football games and movies and hang out with your friends on Friday night. What you don’t want is to have to wake up on Saturday and sit in a classroom for four hours.

To this, we say: too bad. Your entry into many colleges hinges on standardized tests and so does scholarship money. Take the ACT two or three times and then take the SAT for good measure. Go to the study sessions offered by your high school and buy the prep books.

Yes, it’s not fun to wake up on a Saturday and trudge to yet another classroom. But a couple of Saturdays taking a test is a small price to pay to secure precious financial aid and entry into your dream college.

Honor Thy Deadline

When you first start looking at colleges, it’s easy to see that far-off deadline date on a calendar and let your application work slide for a few months.

Not so fast. Those weeks and months will slip by quickly, and before you know it, you’re scrambling to get all of your materials in by the deadline. And heaven help the person who didn’t take into consideration that their college still kicks it old school with actual (gasp!) paper application materials that need to be mailed.

Start your prep work early and stick to the deadlines. In fact, do yourself a favor: find out your application deadlines and then plan to have everything done one month sooner than the deadlines suggest. That leaves you time to take care of any unexpected occurrences that pop up in the interim.

The Senior Trap

A clever student might peruse the application deadline and think: “Aha! These application deadlines are all early fall and I’m in school until the spring; I can coast this entire year! Bwa ha ha!”

Easy there. Before you get a case of extended senioritis, remember: admission, scholarships and financial aid at many schools hinge on all grades, and that includes your senior year. Think of a positive admissions decision as a trial period: you’re technically dating the college, but you’re still allowed to see other people. If a poor grade brings your GPA below a certain threshold, there could be consequences.

Continue to work hard your senior year. This is when you want to seal the deal rather than drop the ball.

Instructions, Instructions, Instructions

Every college admissions office has distinct instructions that spell out precisely what to do to apply. We can’t stress this enough: follow these instructions to the letter.

Visit college websites, work with guidance counselors, call the admissions office if you have to. Whatever you do, make sure you do exactly what’s required of you. No cutting corners, no foot-dragging and certainly no hiding from mom and dad the fact that you didn’t follow the directions and now they’re calling the admissions office and looking foolish when they find out their little angel conveniently left out a certain detail and now you can’t go that party because you’re grounded and college is out of reach and your life is ruined and…

Sorry, got carried away for a sec. What we’re saying is, follow the directions and you’ll be good. Ask questions if you’re confused. Future you will thank you for it.

And if you’re still lost, guess what? We’ve got something that can help. Download our College Selection Timeline to keep all of your deadlines organized and yourself on track. It’s a useful tool for anyone currently weighing their college options.

College Selection Timeline Link

Topics: preparing for college