With senior year right around the corner, you’re about to embark on a journey through the college application process. Though it can be long and tedious at times, the college application process can be conquered with a little bit of organization and preparedness. The journey will last several months, so it’s a project that you have to consistently stay on top of and plan for several steps ahead. With that being said, let me give you an overview of everything it entails!
There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. With so many different options of where to go to school – location, size, culture, prestige, programs – it is important to research several schools that fit your field of study. For example, if you know you want to study business as an undergraduate, you may want to consider applying to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. After doing extensive research, make a list of 10-15 colleges that you want to potentially apply to and make a list of their deadlines and application requirements. Most of the time, missing a deadline or forgetting to attach an essential document to your application can easily disqualify you as a candidate.
Now, what goes into a college application? What are colleges looking for?
- High School Transcript – This is considered by many to be the biggest factor in the college admissions process. Colleges look at a high school transcript as if you were running a marathon. They want to see if you have had endurance and consistency in your high school academic studies because this is their greatest indicator of your college success. They are also looking for you to have taken difficult, college-level courses because they want to see if you have challenged yourself. Taking AP or IB classes will increase your chances of being admitted to a top-tier university, even if you get a B- in your AP US History class when you could have gotten an A+ in a regular US History class. Whereas the SAT is just a score you are assigned after a 4-hour exam, a high school transcript looks at what you have accomplished in 4 years.
- SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Test Scores – Whereas different schools may use different grading systems in their districts, standardized tests allow colleges to compare students on an equal playing field. These scores will be used to supplement your transcript and determine whether you are ready to face college-level work. Sometimes though, these scores can be used as a deciding factor because they are a quantitative measure of your ability to perform on standardized tests. College admissions counselors find it difficult to judge a summer spent abroad in South Africa more important than winning a state basketball championship, or starting your own profitable business as more important than publishing your own book, and so these scores allow admission counselors to simply compare apples to apples.
- Extracurricular Activities – Colleges don’t only want to know what you do in the classroom, but how you contribute to your community and what sparks your interests. They want to see what makes you unique and sets you apart from the crowd, whether you have the endurance to stick to something over a long period of time, and how you have affected people’s lives. They want to see that you are a natural leader and not a follower, someone who isn’t necessarily part of 10 clubs at their school, but a founder and president of one club that really makes you tick and has you thinking at night. They want to uncover your passions and see if you are mature enough to time-manage so many different activities. You don’t have to be the star player, but you need to show that you have made an impact and significantly affected the people around you. Transcripts and SAT Scores sometimes only get you into the next round of college admissions, but your extracurricular activities can often set you apart from the rest of the pack.
- Recommendations – Colleges want to also look beyond your scores and accomplishments to see what type of a person you are, and who knows your character, attitude, and learning skills better than your teachers, coaches, and mentors? They simply want to make sure that you’re a good person. They want to see how your personality will complement their college campus and whether or not you will fit in at their school.
- Interviews – Though interviews don’t always carry a significant weight in the application decision, colleges just want to match a face to your application and see if you can personally articulate who you are and what you have accomplished. For the few colleges that still require interviews, they say that the college interview can only help your application, so you have nothing to lose.
- Essays – This is really your moment to shine. This is where you get to write about and reveal the person you are to college admission counselors. It’s your chance to demonstrate that you can clearly articulate your accomplishments and goals in a unique way that can separate you as an applicant. College essays are often the deal-breakers in the admissions process because colleges are looking to bring something special to their schools, an array of talented individuals into their campus. So take a deep breath and really discover your strengths. This is the one time in your whole application where you can distinguish yourself from the thousands of other outstanding students just by being yourself, looking beyond test scores and GPA.
So there you have it. Those are the 6 biggest components to the college application process. Not too bad, right? It may seem like a lot to do all at once, but remember that if you plan out your time and schedule, you’ll be done in no time. Stay tuned for more newsletters! Good Luck!
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