Top 5 Tips From a Senior On the College Application Process

Donia Osman, Staff Writer

The college application process is new and scary for most people as they embark upon it. Nevertheless, there are specific things that you can avoid doing to try to make the right choices the first time around. Please keep in mind as you read that these are all tips based on personal experience and that there is no one right way to apply to college. At the end of the day, most people end up content with the college they choose and the process ends well.


  • Only apply to schools that you actually want to go to.


There are a lot of people who apply to schools simply because they know that they will get into them, also known as safety schools. While applying to safety schools is always a good idea in case you don’t get into your top choices, always make sure that your safety schools are still schools that you can see yourself in. Ask yourself the right questions when applying. How far do I want my college to be from home? What kind of college environment do I want to be in? Do I want to go to a public or private school? A big, medium, or small school? All of these questions are important because they will help you narrow down your list to only the schools that are a perfect or a very close fit to what you are looking for. Many people apply to way too many schools just because they can, and that only leads to confusion.


  • Stick to one major, if you have made your final decision.


If you have decided what it is you want to study during your time at college, then stick with your decision. Many people apply to more than one school within a college or to more than one major at different colleges to either see if they’ll get in or to give themselves more options in the long run. If you are unsure about your major, applying to a college or two as a different major can’t hurt. If you are sure, though, then there is no reason to put yourself in a position to reevaluate and rethink everything. Many students know exactly what they want and then decide to apply to an extra school as a completely different major and when they get accepted to both they run into a problem of having to decide what it is they want to study all over again. This can be easily avoided by sticking with what it is you want.


  • Don’t apply to too many or too little schools.


While it is extremely important to make sure that you apply to enough schools that you have some options come commitment time, you don’t want to overload yourself. It costs money to apply to colleges and applying to too many is simply confusing, time consuming, and outright expensive. At the same time, however, applying to few schools that are competitive can be scary since it’s possible to not get accepted to one of them. Many say that applying to two safety schools, two moderately selective schools, and two reach schools is a good template to go by. Of course this may not apply to all people, but the idea of applying to schools of different selectivity is always a good idea.


  • Do your research!


This tip is extremely important because different colleges can have different SAT scores that their looking for, different GPA, a unique amount or type of extracurriculars, and other things that help them determine who is accepted and who isn’t. Check each college’s website, call their admissions office, reach out to current student or alumni of that university, and use the internet to gain information on the college’s academics, their campus, faculty, and other factors. This kind of research should be done throughout your high school experience to try to align your SAT score and grades with what the colleges that you want to apply to regard as their average accepted SAT score and GPA. There are also resources like naviance and other online college search engines that may help you. If a college wants in a student what you have achieved, you are a step closer to being an accepted student yourself!


  • Know your deadlines.


Applying after the application deadline can cause your application to be withdrawn before it is even considered. This is a problem that can be easily avoided if you write down all your deadlines somewhere you will see it. Even if it’s a handwritten sheet of paper taped up by your desk, it’s enough to put yourself in a position where you can be on time. Applying as earlier as you can is best as some colleges offer early action (non binding), early decision (which is a binding commitment where you apply and basically state that you will 100% attend that college if you are admitted), and regular decision. Knowing the difference between the different timeframes is important as well as knowing your deadlines for recommendations and transcripts. Our school, for example, has a rule that transcripts must be requested ten days prior to the application due date, so it is important to have your entire application completed before this ten day timeframe. Recommendations work in a similar way and can be send to your college through your guidance counselor via naviance.