First and foremost, watch your deadlines carefully: the importance of applying to colleges early
Each application is stamped with a date that it was received in the admissions office. It is to your advantage to have your application complete in the admissions office as soon as the institution is poised to receive applications for the up and coming class. I emphasize that the application package is to be completed as soon as possible with the help of your guidance office. You the student, and your parents have to make sure that the institution has received your application, your essays, your SAT/ACT scores, your letters of recommendations, and any other supporting documents ASAP. It is your responsibility to check with the admissions office to make sure that your application is complete. Don’t assume that your application is complete until you have checked on it yourself.
Colleges and universities will read those completed applications that they received first. It will benefit you to be in the first group of applications that will be considered for admissions. Towards the end of the applicant pool, the institutions will become a little more selective which lessens your chance for admissions especially if your profile is not extremely strong for that year’s applicant pool. The admissions process comes down to the strength and depth of the applicant pool for that particular year. It is not personal but a numbers game.
I cannot over emphasize the importance of submitting your application way before the expressed deadline. “The early bird gets the worm” is a saying that is appropriate for the admissions process.
The importance of a good and relevant essay: make sure that your essay is well written
By this time of the year, (fall) you should have your essay done and looked over by your English teacher. Your personal essay is your chance to put your application front and center. You can make your application come alive provided that you have written a good essay. Your essay needs to be well written and relevant. It should be an extension of you. It also should be about you or something that is very important to you. It should shed a light on you as the college admissions candidate. It can make or break your chance for admissions. Don’t confuse your personal essay with the short essays that you may have to write for some college applications.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: make sure that you apply to at least two (2) safety schools
My pet peeve is the lack of consideration of safety schools because most you will think and spend a lot of time researching your reach school and schools within your profile but not spend much time on the schools that you will most likely attend. When you apply to schools, make sure that you have a serious conversation with your parents about paying for school or schools on your list. You want to have a good idea of what schools you and your parents can afford to pay for with a little help or no help at all. I implore you to seriously have this talk with your parents because you don’t want to scramble to find a school that you can afford in May of your senior year. A school or schools that you can get in to and afford to attend is the most important school on your list.
You should apply to at least two safety schools, two schools within your profile and at least two schools that are your pie in the sky (if you get in and get enough financial aid, you will attend). In order to determine your safety schools, you and your parents should get an estimated Expected Family Contribution figure prior to applying to colleges.
Take advantage of any situation that will set your application aside from the general pool: emphasize any part of your profile that will give you a leg up on the current pool of applicants
Finally, before you apply to college, you and your parents should sit down and brainstorm about any circumstances that may give you a leg up in the admissions process. I also suggest that you sit down with your guidance counselor and go over any thing that you do to maximize your acceptance chances. Keep in that any unique situation that can help you get in to schools that you may consider a long shot because of your academic profile, may also land you a great financial aid package. These unique situations or talents can be anything from sports, performing arts, special abilities, race, and family situations. You should play any card that God has given you to advance your future. Don’t be afraid to use the race card even if you only have a small percentage of the minority race in you (you may be ¼ Indian for an example). The selective colleges and universities will always try to recruit talented minorities to their campus because they want to have a diverse campus. One of my sons benefited from the situations mentioned above (sports and race).
Conquering the college application process is easy if you work closely with your guidance counselor and the information on my website below.