Your college admission application should do an effective job of accurately portraying your high school accomplishments; it should be a detailed account of all four years, including all your achievements and associated activities.
Knowing how to properly complete your college applications could have a huge impact on your acceptance and even the college funding package you are offered.
Inside Admission Applications …
When to Apply
Although most admission application deadlines are usually in December or January, the student who applies early most-often has an advantage. The Admissions Officer will usually have more time to spend reviewing and evaluating your application if it has been submitted ahead of the deadline.
Methods of Applying
A great number of colleges and universities now accept online applications. You may check each school’s website for online admission application availability.
Some schools may still require, however, a paper application. You may obtain a paper admission application by writing, e-mailing, or calling the admissions office at the college.
Many schools now also use the Common Application. The Common Application was designed to make the college admission application process more convenient for the student, and for the institutions. The Common Application may be completed once and used for several institutions. You may also complete the Common Application online. Be sure to check first and see if a school where you are applying accepts the application.
Your Core Application
It’s a good idea to prepare ahead of time all the items and information necessary to effectively complete and submit your college admission applications. All colleges are slightly different and will most likely have different admission form requirements. By creating a core application file, you will likely have all the necessary information at your fingertips.
Items to include in your core application packet:
- Unofficial high school transcript
- SAT and/or ACT scores
- Recommendation letters
- High school counselor
- Community leaders
- Business and/or professional people
- Members of the Clergy
- Essay (generally 500 words) on an influential experience
- List of work experiences
- List of references who can comment on your skills
- List of volunteer and/or community activities
- List of positions held in high school that show leadership
- Copies of documents to verify your accomplishments
- An audition tape or sample if applying for art, design, or music
Tip – Use your recommendation letters to round out your admission application; rather than just a source for reporting redundant information. If at all possible, have each recommendation letter include information about you as a person that will not be found anywhere else in your application packet.
Admission application fees differ from school to school and commonly range between $35 and $75. The application fee is usually non-refundable; even if you are denied admission.
To keep your enrollment (and funding) options open it is important to apply to at least six schools. Admission application fees can add up; however, some schools have the ability to waive the application fees. Typically, private institutions are much more likely to waive fees over state-funded schools.
You may contact the admissions office where you will be applying and request that the admission application fee be waived. You may also have your high school counselor write a letter outlining your financial need and submit your written fee waiver request to the college or university.
Your Admission Essay
The challenge you have in writing your college essay is to get the attention of the Admissions Officer who is reading it; at the same time, however, this challenge gives you an excellent opportunity to express yourself as an individual.
Your essay is your chance to tell who you are; your likes, your goals, what you have learned and experienced as a person, and why you are ready for college. The admissions essay also gives you a chance to fill in the blanks on your application. Your essay should convey an honest, dynamic, and self-motivated image of you.
Tip – Always provide the college with exactly what they are requesting. If they ask for a 1,000 word essay on an experience that has had special meaning in your life, give them 1,000 words; not 700 or 1,500. Remember, colleges pay close attention to detail and look for students who do the same.
First, brainstorming to get an outline of your ideas on paper is a good practice. Don’t worry much about spelling, grammar, punctuation, or flow of your sample essay at this stage; that will all come in a later draft. In your brainstorming, include the following:
- Accomplishments that took a great deal of effort to achieve
- List of personality traits that you value most about yourself
- List of major travels you may have taken
- List of all your activities during your four years of high school
- Offices held
- School activities
- Jobs held
- Community volunteer services
- Two common sayings (or ideals) from your household
- List of top ten favorites from the following:
- Sports (may include sports heroes)
- Famous people
- List of what other people commonly say about you
- List of any people who have motivated you throughout your life
Next, create your first draft from the subject you choose, or the subject assigned by the college. Incorporate the type of writing style that you are most comfortable with … you may either pre-plan your work, or write and re-write your essay as you go along. The main goal is to let your ideas flow and your personality come out in your work. Colleges are looking for your true thoughts, goals, and ideas.
After your first draft, review your essay to decide which sections are working and which may need to be reworked and/or removed. Keep the main idea that you are trying to convey in mind when reviewing your first draft.
If you are trying to get across several ideas or events, it is important to find a way to link them together. Prioritize your topics and give them a specific order of importance; achieve a common connection between all of them.
A few hints for reviewing your draft:
- Read your draft aloud
- Let your draft set for a few hours, or days, and then re-read it
- Ask your English teacher to review your draft
- Ask a parent or friend to review your draft
After you have had a chance to receive input from others and review your work personally, now is the time to make any appropriate changes and create your final draft. There are four basic methods of changing / updating your original draft:
- Add detail
- Combine sentences to allow the essay to flow
- Edit any phrases that are repetitive
- Re-arrange some of your original ideas
These techniques will allow you to smooth off the rough edges and arrive at your final copy.
Here are a few other hints and ideas that may help in your essay final draft preparation:
- Always run a spelling and grammar check
- Usually double-spacing your essay is best
- If a part of your essay bothers you, re-write it
- Ask your English teacher and parents to review your final copy
- Always type, never hand write, your essay
- Make sure your essay fits the specifications set forth by the college
Finally, with your essay, you have the Admissions Officer’s undivided attention; make sure you take advantage of this opportunity to stand out and set yourself apart from the other applicants.
Admission Application Tips
Some admission applications may be complex, with many sectors; some areas of the application may weigh much heavier than others. Although most colleges choose not to talk about it, every college uses a scoring system to rank its applicants.
Guidelines to follow:
- Apply early – be first in line
- Keep your options open – apply to 6 or 8 schools
- Follow each school’s requirements carefully
- Do not write in longhand
- Do not use whiteout
- Do not leave any required questions blank
- Do not make the Admissions Officer search for the answer(s)
- Never be a wise guy
It is vital that your admission application be as organized, complete, and accurate as possible. The real key to filling out and submitting your college admission applications are to actually know all the items the Admissions Officer is looking for and the prior arranging of all necessary information into an effective application packet.