Planning for college can be exciting, and frustrating. There's a lot that has to happen before you actually become a college student. Whether your a first-time college student or pursuing an advanced degree, planning on attending class on-campus or planning to earn your degree online, the entire college admission process can be confusing.
Below is a basic overview of the process. Remeber, every college and university has its own admissions standards. Inquire at the colleges you're interested in attending for their specific enrollment and admissions procedures.
When should I start thinking about applying?
If you're an undergraduate student, we recommend you begin searching your junior year and applying to colleges early in your senior year. For graduate students or those taking continuing education courses, it's often more flexible.
Online college admissions procedures are often less constraining since in many instances, enrollment can occur at any time, rather than set the "enrollment dates" found at traditional, campus-based colleges. Again, inquire with the admissions office at the school you are interested in attending.
What information will I need to provide with my application?
In addition to your application, you will need some or all of the following materials - transcripts, standardized test scores, financial aid forms (FAFSA, etc.) if applying for assistance, one or more essays, letters of recommendation, and application fees.
Select relevant references - If you're applying as a pre-med, for example, make sure you have a reference from at least one science teacher, and preferably not just your freshman bio teacher. Select teachers who know you well and who will write well about you. Then ask them politely to write your references as soon as school starts in the fall.
Apply early - There's no guarantee that applying early will get you in, but it may boost your chances of admission significantly. Studies show that private universities admit larger percentages of early decision and early action candidates. Public universities with rolling admissions fill their classes on a first-come, first-served basis. So, if you know where you want to go and financial aid isn't a big consideration, apply early.
Read your application - Read every word of the directions before you even print your name.
Copy your application - Make a copy of the application and use that copy as a work sheet. Accidents happen and papers can get lost. Better to have a copy if you need it. Also keep a copy of your completed application for reference.
Keep organized - Be organized and keep all your information easily accessible.
How many colleges should I apply to?
We recommend students apply to at least 5-7 schools, some within your budget, some over your budget, and at least one under your budget as a safety net. If you have your heart set on one or two specific colleges, don't be afraid apply, even if it IS over your budget. You may qualify for financial assistance or scholarship programs that can help you pay for tuition.
What if I'm accepted at more than one college?
Select a college that best fits your individual needs. Which college fills your educational objectives? What can you afford? Does the college provide job placement assistance? Does the college offer other programs should you change your education focus in the future? If you're undecided on what field to pursue, select a college that has many options and programs.