As you begin thinking about colleges you want to apply to, it’s important to understand how to submit a good college application so that you have the best chances of getting into the school you want. We’ve curated some helpful tips below to get you started.
Understand the College Application Process for Each School
When narrowing down a list of prospective colleges, we suggest you visit each school website to read about their application process, as each will vary slightly. For example, UC schools and Cal State schools each have one application that allows students to apply to different schools within their systems. In other words, students looking to apply to multiple University of California campuses will fill out one application that is then sent to each location they wish to apply to. Many schools use the Common Application, often called the Common App, for their application process with supplementary requirements needed depending on the college. The Common App allows students to apply to participating colleges by filling out one application. Approximately 600 colleges across the nation accept the Common App.
Before you begin an application, you’ll want to have the following things handy:
- An appropriate email address
- Social Security number
- High school transcript
- SAT and ACT test scores
Filling Out Your College Application
It would also be a good idea to prepare a list of all your extracurricular activities and any honors or awards you have received. There will be various spots throughout the application to share these accomplishments.
You’ll begin by entering general information about yourself, including school and parent or legal guardian information. Make sure to double check all your entries to ensure that you have added the most up-to-date information.
As you move through the application, there will be sections where you can explain your interests and unique high school experiences. You’ll have the opportunity to list all the extracurricular activities you participated in, such as sports, clubs, volunteering and leadership roles. You will also have the opportunity to share any honors or awards you’ve received.
How to Write a Good College Application Essay
One of the most crucial parts of the application is the admissions essay. While there are many sources explaining how to write a great essay, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Start writing your essay early. You should start essays as early as possible to allow plenty of time for revisions.
- Have school counselors, teachers, family and friends review your essay. School counselors are a great resource for understanding what college admissions officials are looking for. Also, since the essay is supposed to represent who you are, running it by the people who know you best is a good strategy.
- Don’t be afraid to be creative! No two essays will be the same and your goal should be to stand out among other applicants.
- If you’re writing essays for different applications, you may be able to reuse the same essay. But don’t use a cookie-cutter approach completely, make sure to edit your essay to appropriately fit the prompt. If your essay doesn’t work, don’t force it! Start from scratch if you need to.
Finally, some schools will require teacher and/or counselor recommendations to be submitted. Contact teachers and counselors that you are close to, such as teachers you’ve had for multiple classes or that have really helped you along your educational journey. Also, make sure to ask teachers and counselors early to allow them plenty of time to submit the recommendations.