College Applications 101

College Applications 101

         It’s September, and you seniors know what that means: college applications. Congrats, this is an exciting next step in your education journey! However, it’s an important step too, and we know how swamping it can be. How do I choose the right university? How do I pick my major? How do I get in? Don’t worry! While it’s a big decision, the process doesn’t have to be complicated. We’re going to break it down, all of it, from choosing the right school, the application process, and more.

 

Step #1: What Do You Want to Study?

         Before you can delve into possible universities, you should decide what you want to study. So, what interests you? Medicine? Theatre? Advertising? Gender Studies? If you’re not sure, that’s okay. You can always go into your freshman year with an undecided major and figure it out along the way. Maybe you can’t decide between two options, and that’s okay too! You can always major in two studies, or even change it after you arrive at the university. Another good idea in choosing your major is to take “Major” quizzes, like this one from Loyola University Chicago, or this one from US News. Remember, you don’t have to do what these quizzes tell you, but they are a reliable guide to what careers transfer your interests into the job scape. 

         There are other factors to examine when choosing your major. Consider your abilities. Are you great with people? Are you creative? Is math your strong suit? While skills can be learned, these initial answers offer valuable insight on where to start. Also, consider your passions. If you have a wide array of interests, think about which ones fill you with the most desire and resonate with your future dreams. And speaking of the future, it has aspects to examine as well. What will satisfy you for a long time? What has a thriving job market? What will allow you to support yourself financially? 

         All in all, choosing a major is calculating a bunch of different factors to come up with one answer. It’s a process of self-exploration, which is fun and exciting, but a process nevertheless. Take your time, follow yourdreams for the future, and you’ll end up right where you need to be.

 

Step #2: Where Do You Want to Go to School?

         Now that you’ve identified what you want to major in, or narrowed down your choices, it’s time to decide where you want to attend. The two most important factors to consider are the department’s quality in which you want to major and the cost. So, let’s say you want to study journalism. Search for the best journalism schools of the past few years, and take note of those that interest you. Visit their department websites to learn about their courses and how that university approaches what you want to study. Does their coursework intrigue you? Great! You just found your first college option. Tally them up!

         Now, let’s talk about cost. Is your preferred school a public state school, or a private college on the beach? Will your yearly tuition cost under $25,000, or be double that? Whatever you choose, know that college will be expensive, and you’ll need a plan for how to pay for it, but don’t let that discourage you. There are scholarships, fellowships, and student loans to help you cover the price. That being said, if your #1 choice costs $75,000 a year, you need to be sure you really want to go there before undertaking that financial responsibility. While an iconic, private university is glitzy and honorable, your state school options are just as esteemed. Examining costs and financial possibilities will guide your decision in choosing a university so that you can take the next step: college visits!

         Now that you’ve made a list of potential universities with attractive, affordable course work, you need to scope out the campuses. This is a crucial step, as you’re going to see where you’ll live, eat, sleep, study, make friends, and more for the next three to four years. So, take notes of the university’s dorms, dining halls, student organizations, and your gut reaction. If you’re filled with an inexplicable tingling when walking across a potential campus, odds are it’s a good fit for you. In addition to student life, pay attention to the facilities of the department you want to join. For example, if you’re a prospective film student (like I was many years ago,) consider what resources a school provides to further your education. Do they have a vast supply of video camera equipment? Sound recording equipment? Sound stages? Green screens? Editing software? Will you have to provide any of these things on your own? Whatever your major, resource-based questions are always important to ask. 

 

Step #3: Time to Apply!

         You’ve visited your list of potential universities. Now it’s time to get down to getting in, and you’ll need several items. The first is your ACT or SAT test scores. For some background information, the ACT and SAT exams measure college readiness and predict future academic success, but do so differently. The ACT measures what a student already knows, covering subjects they should have learned in high school. On the other hand, the SAT is more of a predictor of what a student can learn, covering material they may not have learned in high school. Some universities accept both, though you only need to submit one, and some only accept one of the two. Whichever you choose to take, or must take depending on where you want to apply, know that test scores can sometimes take a while to process. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to receive your test scores before college applications are due! Additionally, look at the test score averages of accepted students at your prospective universities. This will help you gauge how well you should do to increase your chances of getting in. To learn more about the ACT, visit here. To learn more about the SAT, visit here. If you’re interested in ACT and SAT test prep, visit here to get started with Planting Seeds Tutoring!

         After securing test scores, it’s time to focus on the application process. Universities will have their own application forms and usually accept them in paper or online format. Additionally, many schools accept the Common Application, one application sent to many different colleges, so you don’t have to complete one for each university. Note that some schools require an additional supplement in their application process if you use the Common Application. Though you have until a university’s deadline to submit your application, it’s a good idea to get these done sooner rather than later. This gives you ample time to flush out and review your application and correct any mistakes that may occur.

         Along with an application form, universities typically require you to submit a personal essay. Each essay topic and length requirement varies by school, but either way, it’s a super important part of your application. It allows you to stand out amongst other applicants and share your qualities that can’t be expressed through test scores and grades. When writing your personal essay, be yourself. Don’t try to be what you think the university wants, because the university wants authenticity, and you have so much to offer! Just make sure your self-portrayal is a well-structured, well-written, typo- and error-free piece of writing. You want to impress these schools with your brawny brains and dazzling personality. Good writing practices will help both shine in your personal essay.

         Before sending off your college application, the last thing you need is a high school transcript, which shows your academic history thus far. Some universities only accept transcripts sent directly to them by high schools. Others allow you to get it in an envelope from your high school to send to the university yourself. If you do the latter, DO NOT OPEN THE ENVELOPE OR BREAK ITS SEAL! This could result in the rejection of your transcript, and we don’t want that. I recommend having your high school send the transcript directly to your colleges of choice just to be safe. This can take several days, so be sure you request your transcript with enough time for it to be mailed, delivered, and processed by the university.

         Now that you possess all the necessary documents and have completed your applications, you’re almostready to send these to your potential universities. Before pressing the “Submit” button, be sure your documents and applications are error-free. If not, you could have to wait a whole nother semester to apply, and we don’t want that! After going through your documents and applications with a fine-toothed comb, you’re all set to apply! Whoop whoop!

 

Conclusion

Applying to college is a big step and requires a lot of preparation. The main takeaways are: do your research, don’t procrastinate, edit and check your application necessities at least 3 times, and be you. After all, going to college is your educational journey, and should fulfill your dreams for the future. Here at Planting Seeds Tutoring, we want to ensure you can make those dreams come true. We offer top-notch test prep classes and tailored tutoring assistance to help get you into the college of your dreams. To learn more, contact us here, or read here about our test prep initiatives! We wish you the best of luck in your college application process, and are here to help every step of the way!