Applying to college may seem like a daunting process, and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you are applying to many schools or highly selective schools. However, getting started is often the hardest part! Refer to this blog to help you navigate the process and know what to expect.
Step 1: Fill out the Application
Most admissions applications can be found online through the college’s website. Look for a section that says “Admissions” or “Prospective Students.” There may even be a button that says “Apply Now.” Some schools will have you create a login so you can save your application and come back to it later. Here is a list of schools that accept the Common Application, which means less paperwork for you if you are applying to many of those schools. Some things you may want to have in front of you while filling out an admissions application are: social security number, electronic copy of unofficial transcript, senior year schedule, and a payment method or fee waiver voucher.
Step 2: Submit Required Documents
After you have submitted your application, make sure to send in any extra required items. All colleges will require your official high school transcripts; usually your counselor will help you send them. If you applied to a four-year school, you will need to send your ACT or SAT scores. Many two-year schools will require the COMPASS test. Some colleges will require an essay or letter of recommendation, others will have them as options. (Hint: ALWAYS write the “optional” essay!) Pay attention to any deadlines associated with these items so you don’t miss out on scholarship opportunities.
Step 3: Expect to Hear about Admissions Decisions
Some schools will get back to you within a week, others may take a few months to notify you if you’ve been accepted to their school. Once you receive your acceptance letter, read it carefully to learn if there is anything else you need to turn in or other steps you need to take. If you were not accepted and have questions, call the school to ask for explanation of their decision. Some schools want you to confirm your admission online so they know you are coming to their school (but only do this once you have made your final decision).
Step 4: Apply for Scholarships and Other Financial Aid
The more free money you can get to pay for college, the better! Apply for scholarships from the college and from outside resources. To apply for grants, work-study, and student loans, fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Some schools require an extra financial aid form called the CSS Profile. Many schools have a specific date by which they want to receive these documents in order to give you priority consideration for financial aid. You can find this date on their website or by calling the financial aid office.
Step 5: Make Final Decision
After you’ve received financial aid award notifications from the schools you applied to, you’ll need to make the final decision of which school you will attend. It is polite to notify all schools of your decision. Once you’ve determined which school you’ll attend, accept only the financial aid you’ll need for the year. You can accept financial aid online or via paper if you received your award notification in the mail. Read this blog to learn how to calculate your cost and figure out how much financial aid you’ll need.
Step 6: Apply for Housing
Many colleges will send you housing information soon after you are accepted. The best time to apply for housing and pay the deposit (usually around $200) is not always clear. On one hand, some schools have limited housing availability, so the longer you wait to apply, the less likely you will get the dorm you want or even be able to live on campus at all. On the other hand, sometimes the deposit is non-refundable, so it may be better to wait until you know for sure which school you will attend. My best advice is not to procrastinate with any part of this process so you’ll be able to make a final decision earlier.
Throughout this process, make sure you stay organized, keep all documents and/or emails sent from each college, and always be aware of deadlines! I worked with a student once who determined she missed out on $14,000 because she missed two deadlines. Don’t let that be you! Work with your high school counselor, college admissions reps, and EducationQuest to help make the process as smooth as possible.
Good luck and best wishes as you take the first step on your journey to college!