The College application process is a long and arduous road, starting usually in the first days of your senior year of high school and lasting until mid to late January. There are tests to be taken – SAT and ACT pain to be had by all – essays to be written, letters to be gotten, and application fees to be paid. It’s good preparation for college though, where paperwork and aptitude tests are necessary evils that you will become all too familiar with.
There are a few different things to remember when getting ready to apply for college though, and this process begins even earlier than your senior year. I’m not talking about getting good grades or spending as much time as you can doing extracurriculars. No, I’m thinking of just knowing what you’re getting into, taking early tests, being prepared for the realities of your quest.
There are at least half a dozen steps to your college application process. The first is getting good grades and being involved in school. These are no brainers though. If you think you can coast through high school on a C average and go to the college of your dreams, you had better start thinking about alternate career options.
The second step for the college bound though is the taking of oh so many tests. You may think that this begins when you’re in your senior year. But what many people forget is that you can easily take all of your aptitude tests early, to at least see how you will do. When you finally do attend college, you might consider attending graduate school at some point or another, and this will come in handy once more as you prepare to take the GRE, essentially the SAT on steroids.
This is a wonderful tool available as early as your sophomore year. You’ll likely hear all about it from your guidance counselors and what not, but don’t ignore the importance of this test. It’s not only a basic run through of what you’ll face on the SAT, but if you happen to be a genius for some reason or another and weren’t aware of it, you can get a National Merit Scholarship for placing in the top percentiles.
This is the test you’ll be taking for college entry. More or less every college in the country wants this score, and you should be prepared to offer the best one you can. But, don’t forget that you can take the SAT as early as your Junior year, and then a couple more times before your senior year. If you get an amazing score at some point, stick with it. Don’t tempt fate by retaking it again. There are practice tests, yes, but there’s something more telling about the test when you take it in the test center under a set time limit with proctors watching your every move. You’ll understand when you get there.
Some schools require this test and for the most part it’s the same idea as the SAT. However, instead of just verbal, math, and writing sections, it throws science and some random other topics your way. The most important topics are still verbal and math, but when studying for the ACT, keep in mind that you’ll be wanting to get a good overall score, so spend a little extra time on that science unit just to make sure.
The actual application will sneak up on you like a raccoon on rotten garbage. Don’t forget when to apply, and most of all don’t put off your essays. You’ll have an essay to write for every school you apply to, your personal statement. Generally it’s the same, but some colleges might ask for specific topics to be covered and then you’re stuck rewriting it. Don’t forget to budget that time. Also, you’re going to want to have ample time for any specialty essays. A lot of colleges, especially bigger ones will ask for an essay on the topic of their choice with your application. It’s generally to assess your writing ability, but also to make sure you actually spent the requisite amount of time on their application. They don’t want someone who won’t even take that much seriously.
Write them all early, and then spend the rest of your time before deadlines having them proofread by your teachers and family. You’ll want at least one helpful teacher or adviser from school reading over everything you write to make sure it’s acceptable college level writing. Regardless of the quality of our High Schools, colleges still want to see that you can write when you’re accepted.
Have your application fees set aside early. Don’t forget to check how much all of this is going to cost you. You’ll want to speak to you parents and make sure they can help you, and if not, work a couple of extra shifts at the McDonalds to cover it. Your tests cost money, your applications cost money, and the postage to send them will cost you money.
And that brings us to sending those applications of. When you finally have your essays finished and your test scores firmly set, you’ll want to send everything off to all of the many colleges you chose. In this day and age, you’re lucky because most of your application can be sent without you doing any work. Transcripts are sent by your teachers, the application is submitted online, and test scores can be sent from the test centers themselves. But there are certain things that need to be sent by you; letters of recommendation, essays, and signatures. There might even be more, depending on the college to which you apply.
– When you finally send everything off, make sure you cover all of your bases.
– Send it priority. You want to know when it will arrive.
– Get delivery and signature confirmation.
– Don’t lose any paperwork. Keep duplicates of everything you sent.
If the college loses anything, you won’t find out until you get a rejection notice stating which materials were lost. And in that case, you’ll want a record that states you sent it to them and that they signed for it. The last thing you want is for the college of your dreams to lose your transcripts or essays and deny you when you’ve done everything right (and paid their stupid fee). Call them up, send them the signature confirmation, and have those copies on hand to send again and be immediately looked over.
Keep in mind, the college application process is long and arduous and the steps listed above don’t even begin to cover everything you’ll need to know and do in your year long quest to find that perfect college. You’ll spend hours studying, hours more talking to advisers, and plenty, plenty more trying to figure out exactly which colleges you want to attend. Just don’t forget the basics along the way.