How to apply for colleges? Is it an easy and achievable task for everyone? What steps should students take to be admitted to their dream school? It may sound complicated, but this blog will guide you through the application process and provide valuable tips on admission preparation.
What documents do you need to have to apply to colleges? What tests should you take? What scores are the best for college admission? Here you can also find an elemental timeline for planning your application process and tracking deadlines for each step.
But before we discuss the required tests, admission essays, and recommendations, let’s celebrate your decision to go to college! This choice will definitely change your life! And our admission essay writing service is at your complete command to help you nail your admission.
College Application Requirements
Before discussing when to apply for colleges, you must clearly understand what documents you must prepare. In most cases, the requirements for applying to college will be the same. However, application forms and the number of recommendation letters can differ.
Look at the standard list of items you need for college application:
- Application form It can be a standard form for schools or a specific form for some high-rated institutions. Here, you will share general information about yourself, primary activities, and particular interests.
- Academic transcript Submit an official high school or other educational institution transcript to your college applications. It should include your grades and all classes you took.
- Letters of recommendation Ask someone who knows your academic performance and can evaluate your study or academic success. Usually, schools ask for 2 or 3 letters.
- Personal statements Colleges and universities want to see your motivation and hear your individual voice. This essay can vary – some schools will ask for more personal text, and some will ask to focus on career goals.
- College essay College application essay is your chance to showcase your writing skills and share your story and goals with the admissions committee.
- Standardized tests Demonstrate your score in such tests as SAT or ACT. Check with colleges about what type of tests they require from applicants.
- Financial information You may also provide financial information about your family to consider you for the scholarship or tuition remission.
When to Apply to Colleges
Another essential and complex question is, what is your deadline for applying to colleges? The whole application process in the US is quite long and can take almost a year or two.
There is an early decision deadline, usually in November. If you are applying by this date, you may already have your decision in December. Also, students can focus on a regular deadline, usually in January. In this case, you will know the decision in early spring and accept the offer before May 1.
In any case, you need to learn the deadline for your specific institution before you start applying to colleges.
College Application Timeline
It can be tricky to remember all deadlines for your application – you should know not only the deadline for submitting your documents but also when to take tests and request recommendation letters. We have a college application process timeline that can help you track the deadlines and ensure you get all the important dates.
You may also be interested in our Assignment Calculator. This tool allows you to plan out your application writing and stay on track with your deadlines.
What College to Apply?
Signing up for colleges can be the most hard decision in your life. This is why you must pay extra attention to choosing the right study place. This is the place that will define your career in the future.
Before you apply to college, conduct your own research, create a list of colleges that may be the best fit for you, visit them, and then compare which one you will choose. Let's look more thoughtfully into this process.
Make a College List
The most common formula when you apply to colleges is to select a few places you dream of to be accepted, even if you don't have resources or excellent grades for them. Then focus on colleges that satisfy your interests and can be the best for your career. This is the most critical list of institutions – they are high-rated, and you can be admitted.
You should also include a few colleges in your college list as safety choices. These should be places you definitely will be admitted to.
This is the first step in analyzing the most valuable college. Then you should look at this list precisely and leave only those you will visit and possibly apply.
Start your school research with a “test drive.” The college application process can start with visiting a few places within an hour or two from home. Visiting a college is a widespread activity for high school students in the US. This is a great chance to look at the college facility, speak with students, and learn more about teaching styles. Some schools offer to come for open-door events online. However, if you can drive to campus, seeing it in person is always better.
During such visits, you may find that you actually like the school that you didn’t consider before. Or you may visit an Ivy League university and recognize that it is not the right place for you.
Compare Colleges to Make a Decision
After you finish with your list and college visits, you should analyze all the options carefully and compare the schools you are considering. Looking at the college from different perspectives is vital for finding the best place for you.
How to choose the best school? What questions to ask admission before your final application decision?
Here is what to consider for starting the college application process and comparing different places:
- What college on your list is with higher ranking? You can check it online through ranking websites.
- What is the cost of tuition in each college?
- How expensive is the city each school is located in?
- What is the career and salary of people who attended the same college?
- Which college has better-planned student activities?
For an efficient college search, try online tools for comparing 2 or 3 colleges.
Characteristics of a Good College
Before choosing a college to apply you should know how to evaluate it. What is “a good college,” and what information do you need to look at while searching?
Here is what you must consider before you start applying to colleges:
- State and world ranking for your school in general
- The graduation rate
- The acceptance rate for evaluating your chances
- Financial aid and possible scholarships
- Research opportunities for students
- Student to faculty ratio.
A good college also invests a lot in future students' careers. Learn how much alums from your university earn a year.
College Application Process: Step-By-Step Guide
The college application process can look like rocket science for someone who has just decided on an application. However, accepting each step in this process will make it much more manageable. You will start by choosing a good college and finish submitting your documents to your dream school. The following steps can be a complete application guide for future college students!
1. Choose a College
When you apply for colleges, choose the list of institutions that are a good fit for you and your career plans. You must research the departments and professors’ qualifications, classes, and research topics to find the right school.
Remember that you will pay an application fee for each document submission. Can you afford to pay for 20-30 college applications? Or is it better to be critical with your college list and focus on 5-10 schools you will be happy to study at? College list decision is one of the most essential steps in the process.
2. Consider Application Deadlines
Applying to colleges is a long story. You may start the process in early fall and become a student only the next fall. It can take a year of your time! That is why you should create your deadline spreadsheet or use a template we have for you!
Here is what you need to know about time limits for application. First, some schools have multiple deadlines. The early decision deadline usually comes in November; you will already know if you were accepted by December. Acceptance is binding – it means you need to accept or decline an offer once you get it. Some schools have second early decision deadlines, usually by December, and also come with binding acceptance.
Most comprehensive schools have regular admission deadlines that range from November to January. An admission decision will come by the middle of April, and they will have time to accept an offer.
Many schools have rolling admission, meaning committees evaluate submissions as they come and make a decision.
Check a basic template for the admission deadline.
Yes, it is binding
Yes, it is binding
End of November - mid-March
July - April
Up to 8 weeks after submission
Non-binding. The process will stop if the school reaches a target number of accepted applicants.
3. Request Financial Aid
Financial aid is a form of monetary assistance supporting your study in college. There are numerous options to get this aid; you must research what is accessible. Some colleges have specific scholarships to support students, and some offer paid jobs that cover tuition fees. You may also apply for grants in your particular field of study.
Let’s look at the most common options that help students to finance their education.
- Free Application for Federal Students Aid (FAFSA) Many students are eligible for financial aid based on family circumstances. This is “need-based” support. The FAFSA collects information about a student's income, assets, and family size to determine their Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is used to determine the student's financial need and eligibility. You must fill out a FAFSA form to get it. Check if you can apply for FAFSA; if positive, you’ll get aid from the government for tuition. It also can be a government loan to cover your education expenses.
- Scholarships Each university has various scholarships for students and helps them pay for their education. When you apply for a college, some institutions will automatically consider you for a scholarship. In other instances, you’ll need to write a scholarship essay to receive a grant. You also may check local or community grants. You will usually find something covering at least a part of the tuition fee.
- Fee waiver Another financial aid option is to request a fee waiver from the institution. Paying $50-100 for an application is not a big deal, but the total sum can be significant when applying to 10 or more colleges. First, check availability. For example, students from low-income families or those who have received fee waivers for standardized tests like the SAT or ACT may be eligible for a fee waiver for college applications. Additionally, some colleges may offer fee waivers to students who have attended campus visits or college fairs, or to students who are members of certain organizations or programs.
Contact our scholarship essay writing secrvice to increase your chances of getting funding.
4. Take Standardized Tests
Many colleges already do not require submitting your score from standardized tests. However, it is still an option. Check if you need to raise test scores and plan your testing if required. Those tests measure your general knowledge from high school and can be critical in case the school needs to choose between two similar candidates. Be aware that almost all highly ranked schools still require your test scores.
Here are the most common college tests students take:
- SAT It is one of the most common globally recognized college admission tests. The test center will send your score to 4 universities, and you can pay for additional copies. It would be best if you chose your schools to send reports 9 days before the test, and you’ll pay $12 for each other report. Also, be well-prepared for this test and SAT essay, as there are 6 times a year you can take it.
- ACT This is another standard test to evaluate your knowledge from high school. It covers 4 skills – reading, English, math, and scientific reasoning along with an optional ACT essay (mandatory only for some colleges). There will be 4 free score reports, and testers will pay $16 for additional reports.
- Advanced placement exam This test can evaluate if you can do college-level work while studying in a high school. It is not a very common test for the application, but you need to check if it is required. It can be taken in May. Like other tests, it has a rigid structure. The highest score is 5.
5. Prepare Your College Application Essays
Finally, we came to an essential part of your application. Most admission will consider your college application essay in the first place. That is why you must be apparent about what the school wants to learn from your essay.
College essays require you to write about your life and learning experience and how it relates to your college choice. This could be anything from a life-changing event, to a difficult challenge that you overcame, to a meaningful relationship that influenced your values and beliefs. You could also focus your college essay on activities that you are particularly passionate about. Remember that college admissions committees are looking for authenticity and a clear sense of who you are as a person, so focus on your actual experience and aspirations.
In most cases, you will be able to use one essay for all applications. For example, while using Common App or other online tools to apply for college, you may be requested to prepare only one common app essay that will be submitted to all schools from your list.
High-rated schools may request additional essays. However, check with your school what essay they need or specific questions you must address in your text. For example, they may ask for an essay on your research interests or diversity statements. At the same time, they will explain each additional essay they require.
Getting feedback from trusted individuals such as parents, friends, or teachers can be a valuable tool in improving your college essay. Feedback from others can provide a fresh perspective and help you identify areas that may need polishing.
6. Create an Account and Fill In Your Personal Information
Besides the list of documents and essays you may prepare for school, you also should fill out the form in application portals. On the institution website, you will see the link to the admission section, where you can usually find an online form.
What information you’ll need to apply?
First, it will be general questions about your background or family. Also, you will be asked to upload non-official transcripts and test scores. Official documents should be sent by the institution directly to the school. If you are firing a student, you must also evaluate your transcript through one of the official services. As it takes time, check all requirements in advance.
However, the application can also ask for additional questions. For example, what is your favorite book, what influenced your decision to apply, and who is your hero?
You may be asked to complete the online form on the college website or use common apps to apply to a few schools simultaneously.
7. Write a Personal Statement
You may be asked to submit a few different self-introductory documents. However, a personal statement is an essay required by almost all schools. That is why you need to pay extra attention to this type of writing.
The admission commission often starts the application review by reading your personal statement. Сolleges want to find the person that will be the right fit for their programs. Your statements should focus on your strong skills, future plans, and how this college can help you to achieve them.
Some schools may ask specific questions to answer or give you an idea of what they seek in statements. It is also a case that some schools require 2 types of statements – one personal statement about your life and career goals and the other one – statement of purpose to explain your choice.
Usually, your personal statement is approximately 750-1000 words if a university does not specify it. You may ask current students to read your statements to ensure you are in the right way.
>> Read more: How to Write a Personal Statement
8. Submit Letters of Recommendation
When applying for colleges, you must provide two or three letters of recommendation from teachers who can evaluate your academic prosperity. It is better to request LOR in advance and ask for it at least one month before the submission deadline.
Some schools will ask you to submit contacts of your recommender when filing online application forms. Then your recommender will get an email with a unique link to upload a LOR. Sometimes, you must send the university hard copies of your letters directly.
Be confident with people whom you will ask to write a recommendation. It can’t be your friends or parents. But it can be a person who supervises you in your volunteering or your school teacher. This person should know you very well.
>> Learn more: How to Ask a Professor for a Letter of Recommendation
9. Provide Transcripts
College applications also require you to submit a transcript from your high school. This is the list of courses you took and your grades. You must upload a non-official pdf document when working with your online application. However, you need to request your school send original documents directly to the university.
Check how to request official transcripts and ensure they will be sent on time. You may also use particular websites to order your transcripts if you can’t contact your school. However, you will need to pay for this request.
10. Write a Resume
Some schools may require a resume together with all the documents for submission. However, it is not a common practice for undergraduate studies. A resume or CV is mandatory for grad school. But if you need to submit a resume, focus on your study achievements, activities in high school, and volunteering.
Possibly, you had an internship related to your future field of study before applying for college. You can also add public talks or presentations that will underline your skills.
11. Check Your College Application
The last compelling step is to check all the documents for your application and ensure you have all the essential essays or recommendations for your college. First, you must proofread your personal statements – you can’t miss any grammar or spelling mistakes. Also, revise essay and all additional documents you may be asked to submit. Double-check with your recommenders that they submitted your LORs.
If your submitted package is incomplete, your application won’t be considered for admission. It means that even a tiny detail can be pivotal for your future.
College Application Process Checklist
How to ensure that you don’t miss essential documents for the application? This is quite a common question you can hear from students. And this checklist is your guide to the application process!
Here is a common checklist to use when you start applying for colleges!
- Make a list of schools for application – dream schools, target, and safe options.
- Compare schools and define which one is in highest priority.
- Check application deadlines.
- Make a list of documents you must submit to each school. You can use tools like
Trello, To-do, Notion, and other online instruments.
- Check all required tests you need to submit.
- Find people who can submit good letters of recommendation and request them in advance.
- Write personal statements. Get feedback from friends or parents, and edit the essay.
- If needed, write other essays for application.
- Proofread your essays.
- Register your application and fill out all required forms online. Download the required documents.
- Request your official transcripts.
- Create a resume and proofread it. You may buy college essays or CVs from specialists proficient in this task.
- Learn about financial aid. If possible, request an application fee waiver.
- Apply for a scholarship if it can not be done automatically.
- Submit your application!
Let’s Recap: How to Apply for Colleges
In a nutshell, the whole application process is long but quite manageable. All you need to do to apply to colleges is to follow concrete steps and be clear with your study goals. Let’s look at all the steps and brief timing for them.
Bottom Line on How to Apply to Colleges
Are you ready to make one of the most crucial decisions in your life? No doubt that college life will influence your future. And to be accepted to a dream school, you must start preparing a few years before the deadline.
We provided a detailed guide on how to apply for colleges and choose the best one. You can also use a checklist to ensure you have all the college application steps. We also outlined vital points about financial aid available for students.
Make your study dreams come true! Use this guide for complete preparation and application to the chosen school!
In case you need some help apart from a guide, you’re welcome to visit our academic writing service. Our writers are available 24/7 and ready to fulfill any request once you ask them to 'write my apllication essay.'
FAQ About How to Apply to Colleges
1. When should I apply for college?
You should apply for college during the fall of your senior year of high school, typically between September and December. Some colleges may have different application deadlines. It's important to check with the specific colleges you're interested in to ensure you meet their application deadlines.
2. How many colleges can I apply to at the same time?
There is no limit to the number of colleges you can apply to at the same time. However, applying to a large number of colleges can be time-consuming and costly, as each college may require a separate application fee. It's important to carefully research and choose the colleges that are the best fit for you, rather than applying to a numerous schools simply for the sake of increasing your chances of acceptance.
3. Can I use the same documents for applications for different colleges?
Yes, you can use the same documents, such as transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation, for applications to different colleges. However, each college may have its own specific application requirements, such as additional essays or supplemental materials, that you will need to provide separately. Carefully read and follow the application instructions for each school to ensure that you provide all of the necessary materials in the correct format and by the specified deadline.
4. How long does a college application take?
The amount of time it takes to complete a college application can vary depending on the paarticular requirements and preliminary preparation you have done beforehand. Generally, you should plan to spend several weeks or months on your college application, including researching educational institutions, preparing for standardized tests, and drafting essays. The actual application process itself typically takes a few days to complete, as you will need to provide personal information, academic records, and other materials required by the college or university.