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OPINION: Follow these steps to complete your college applications

 

By Elissa Koh,
BlueDevilHUB.com Editor-in-Chief–

Are you a senior in need of some help on how to start your college application process? Look no further! As a senior putting together college apps myself, I have learned a couple of methods and strategies that help with the process. Here are some steps to help you get things started:

Create your college application accounts.

As someone totally lost and clueless on how to even start college apps,  I discovered that it is good to start with your college application accounts. Students should first create their accounts and write down all their usernames and passwords as it can get confusing and easy to forget if they are creating more than one account.

So what accounts should a students create? Well, that depends on what type of colleges you are interested in applying to.

Most colleges, other than those in the UC and CSU system, use the Common Application. Students can apply to over 700 colleges using this one application. In addition to the Common App, the UC application is also open for students wanting to apply. However, the CSU application submission period begins on Oct. 1.

For whatever application students will be using, there will be questions and information that they can start filling out as you go along. When navigating through the websites, I advise that students answer a few every day since there is a lot to go through.

Choose your colleges.

A good next step is to research colleges and compile a list of colleges you are interested in. Although there are some good online resources worth checking out, such as College Board and Niche,I highly recommend reading “Fiske Guide to Colleges,” which gives an overview of the best colleges.

For each college included, the guidebook rates it on academics and social life, provides a short synopsis with quotes from current enrolling students, lists some of the most popular majors, gives financial information and more. I’ve found it to be very valuable and helpful in giving me an idea of where I want to apply to.

After coming up with a list of colleges you are thinking about apply to, narrow down your options by checking out each school’s websites, looking at their programs, campus life, financial services and more.

According to my counselor, Kimberly Liu, seniors should apply to no more than eight to 10 colleges, with the UC and CSU system each counting as one college. Many private and out-of-state colleges will require you to submit supplemental essays, so by keeping the number of colleges you are applying to lower, you can avoid a lot of extra work.

Check your requirements and deadlines.

After deciding which colleges to apply to, students should start mapping out their deadlines to keep themselves on track. It’s important for seniors to decide if they are going to apply Early Decision or Early Action and where to so that they can fill out the requirements on time.

Many private colleges have different requirements. A common requirement for private colleges is to turn in letters of recommendation. If a college you are applying that requires you to submit a letter of recommendation, approach your counselor and teachers that you know well and want to ask to write one as soon as you can.

When applying, students should not wait until the last minute to submit their applications. Unexpected things may pop up, so students should always submit a few days ahead of time as a safety measure.

Write your essays.

An important component of the application required by most colleges are essays. Students should check the prompts they are given, choose which one they want to write about and start their drafts.

Many private and out-of-state colleges require supplemental essays, so some students may be required to write more essay than others, depending on where they are applying to.

Each time students put together a college essay, they should get it edited by multiple teachers, peers or adults in general to get as much feedback as they can to write the best possible. English teachers are especially good options as they can give good advice on whether students are fully addressing the prompt and if they are maintaining a professional tone.

Apply for scholarships.

College can be expensive. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual price for undergraduate fees, tuition, room and board for the 2015-2016 academic year was $23,776 at private for-profit institutions, $43,065 at private nonprofit institutions and $16,757 at public institutions.

By applying for scholarships, students can save money. The two best places to find out information about scholarships are Naviance and the Career Center. Both are regularly updated and are great resources in order to obtain financial aid information.

More questions?

Get to know your counselor. If have question, make an appointment with your counselor and ask them. They are there to help you and can make the college application process less confusing for you.

These are just some general guidelines that may not apply to every student. Different colleges have different requirements or application processes and some students have different circumstances where they need to meet different requirements.

However, one thing is for certain: if you are a senior that has not gotten started on college apps, start now. Do not let the work pile up until the week before a deadline. As classes are getting busier and assigning more homework and tests, I am finding it increasingly harder to make time to work on my college apps.

College apps are like an additional class to your schedule, so try to finish everything as soon as possible to get that pressure off your shoulders.

 

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