It’s easy to get nervous when filling out a college application—you have to answer questions, and hope that you “pass.” It can be a very stressful process to go through, but it doesn’t have to be. By keeping organized and staying determined, you can submit the best application possible that will get you on the road to your future!
KNOW YOUR DEADLINES
It is crucial to know your deadlines and the importance of meeting them. Starting the application process as early as possible gives you the time to correct any issues quickly, which will help in securing scholarships and loans. A helpful idea is to write all of the deadlines down and schedule them into a calendar, or create a simple chart.
Early FAFSA deadlines are also something to know inside and out. The FAFSA, or the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”, is how millions of students qualify for grants, scholarships, and loans to help pay for college each year. Beginning 2017-18, the FAFSA form will allow students to submit by October 1st, allowing several new advantages:
- Students and families will be able to start the application process earlier
- Students and families can use tax information that has already been filed with the IRS
- This means the answers to complicated tax question can be easily pulled in from the government
- This makes FAFSA filing much easier and reduces the possibility of error
- Filing earlier also means more time for students to explore and understand financial options
Knowing deadlines and starting the application process early will reduce stress and give you peace of mind.
When going through the admissions process, many students find it beneficial to visit the admissions department at the campus of their choice. The admissions department can answer all of your questions and help you understand what the school is looking for on an application, what types of students they want, and whether the school is a good fit for you.
A few good questions to ask:
- Should I send supporting materials with my application?
- What qualities do you most look for in students?
- Will there be an interview as well as the application?
You’ll probably have lots of questions to add to this list. Don’t be shy—this is your chance to get informed answers to your questions! Admissions counselors appreciate when students are engaged, and they are there to help and serve you.
References are people who know you personally in an educational, extracurricular, or professional way, and are willing to recommend you as a qualified student who is ready to pursue college. Your references may be asked to write a letter of recommendation for you, and this can become a critical part of the application review process. This is why you should make sure that you decide on the right individuals to help show you off.
How do you decide on the right references? Think of teachers, coaches, mentors, pastors, or supervisors who have known you on a developmental level. Try to choose individuals who have seen you progress and grow in your abilities, particularly in the area where you’re interested in studying. If you’re not sure what you want to study, a reference who has known you in an extracurricular or professional way may be best: someone who may have seen examples of your spirit, talent, or leadership. Whomever you choose, be sure to give them plenty of advanced notice so they have time to think through what they want to share about you in their letter of recommendation.
The essay portion of your college application is the best opportunity you have to stand out. It’s the area where you introduce yourself to the school and get to shine. Here are some key components to your essay:
- Present your accomplishments. Do so honestly without embellishment.
- Explain why you believe you will be successful.
- Tell how you will benefit from the uniqueness of this particular school.
- Make the case that you are a great match for this institution.
And never underestimate the importance of the following:
- Have your essay ready before you sit down to apply. Having it already prepared will relieve some of the stress that comes with the application process. You can review the essay requirements ahead of time.
- Be accurate. Proofread and spell-check multiple times, and have others read it to ensure that it’s coherent, informative, and magnetic.
- Be authentic in sharing who you are.
Remember: In your essay, you should be telling the college something that they can’t find anywhere else in the application. You should show interest and passion, and be the unique individual that you are.