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Last updated November 22, 2021
Applying to college can be overwhelming, especially if you have no idea where to begin. But you're in the right place! Here are some essential things you need to know about college applications.
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Q: How do I start a college application? Where do I send it?
A: If you visit the website of the school you want to attend, there will more than likely be an “Admissions” section on the main page. Once you find it, there should be an “Apply Now” section for prospective students. Once you click that, the application link will be available and you should be able to start filling it out online. Most college applications are digital, meaning, once you finish it, there should be a submit button and then you’ll be done! Most applications will allow you to save and come back to it if you need time to gather the required information. Make sure you complete the whole application before submitting it!
If you’re applying to multiple schools, we recommend using the Common Application. The Common Application is accepted by more than 700 colleges and universities, so it’s very possible that your school will be on the list! Click here to learn more about the Common Application and how it works!
Q: I got accepted into more than one college. How do I choose which one to go to?
A: First and foremost, congratulations! Getting accepted into multiple schools is awesome because you have more options to consider. There is no sure way to pick. However, there are some key factors you should consider to help you make a decision:
- Location – Where is the school located? Is it in a place where you don’t mind spending the next four years of your life? Is it too far from home or not far enough? What are the seasons like there? Will it be rainy or be hot all year? How far away is your family (for holidays and breaks)? Like we said, you’ll most likely be in this location for four years so make sure you’re somewhere where you’ll be comfortable.
- Cost – How much will you need to attend the school each year? Will your financial aid cover the majority, if not all of the cost? Are they offering you any scholarships? Which school will require less loans?
3. Major – Both schools may offer the major you want to pursue but which program is the best? Which has the higher graduate rate? Which one is the most recognized? What happened to the students who have been through the program before you? Were they mostly successful or unsuccessful?
Remember - you have college choice options! You're likely going to be spending around 4 or more years at your college of choice, so you should make sure the one you end up attending matches your personality, interests, goals, and values. If you’ve considered all these factors and are still unsure, try planning a visit to each school by contacting their student affairs office. Once you get a feel for it, your decision will come.
Q: Who should write your letters of recommendation?
A: Letters of recommendation should come from those who know you the best in an academic or professional setting. Those who can speak to your work ethic, how well you perform in school, or the content of your character will make the best options. This typically includes teachers, coaches, mentors, and employers. Letters of recommendation from family members and close friends are generally discouraged. Be sure to give your person of choice enough notice to provide your letter on time. We recommend asking at least a month before your application is due.
Q: When will my application be due?
A: Each college has its own due date for applications. Some of them may be the same, however, the only way to know for sure is to go to the school’s website in the admissions section and find out. Also, some schools offer early admission, which is a period of time (usually in October or November) where you can submit an application and be considered for admission before everyone else. Early admission is great because if you get accepted, you’re guaranteed a spot - but don’t have to commit to the school if you change your mind later.
In addition to early admission, there is also something called early decision. Early decision is similar in that you can apply before most people. However, with early decision you must commit to the school you are accepted to with early decision. This means that you are not allowed to change your mind and attend a different school if you get another offer, so choose wisely. Most schools have a maximum amount of students they can accept each year, so the earlier you apply, the better!
Q: What is a scholarship and how do I get one?
A: A scholarship is a grant or payment made toward your education through a sponsor - think of it as free money for college. Scholarships are great because you don’t have to pay them back, unlike loans - which will require you repay them after graduating. There are thousands of scholarships available on the web (start your search here) - you just have to find them. Each scholarship has its own requirements so you’ll need to check what they are before you apply. Check out our scholarship lists to start your search!
Q: How do I stand out in my personal or college essay?
A: In personal essays, you want to present your truest and most authentic self. The worst thing you can do is paint a false picture of who you are in it. It’s clear you want to attend the school, but why should the school admit you? That is the question you’ll need to answer in your personal essay, no matter which prompt you select. What in your life has prepared you to be successful at that college? What would you add to the student body? Colleges get thousands of applications every year. Of all the students who apply, what makes you special? Before you start writing, check out a list of the most common college essay topics here, and be sure to submit your essay to us for free review and feedback when you're done!