College application season is upon us and high school seniors everywhere are ready to do what they once thought was light years away: hitting that “submit” button on their applications. Before jumping ahead to the waiting game, let’s back up to the present and talk about what comes next.
Each part of the college application process has its own unique set of challenges, opportunities and expectations. Before sending an application into the abyss of the admission offices, students need to be prepared with the many items that make an application complete.
Essays + Supplements
Writing the main application essay is the part of the process most students dread. While it is one of the most time-consuming pieces of application preparation, it is one of the most impactful. The main essay, and any supplemental essays required by individual institutions, allow an applicant to become multidimensional. This is a chance to add their voice and personality (and sometimes humor!) to what might otherwise be a bland application.
The activity list on a college application gives an admission reviewer the opportunity to learn about an applicant’s life outside the classroom. Because a significant amount of the college experience revolves around the many extracurricular and social activities offered at an institution, admission officers use an applicant’s activity list to assess whether they’ll be active members of the campus community. It’s important to remember that colleges are looking for depth, not just breadth, in activity lists. They want to see students who are dedicated and passionate about their activities, not simply those who start or join clubs in an attempt to pad their application.
Teacher and Counselor Recommendations
Most colleges require students to submit teacher recommendations, a recommendation from their school counselor, and a copy of their most recent transcripts. Unlike in the past, all recommendation forms and records are now sent electronically from the student’s recommenders or school directly to the colleges to which they are applying. Students should ask teachers prior to sending the electronic request and be sure to give them several weeks to complete their recommendations. While the actual submission of recommendations is done by the counselor and teachers, the responsibility of confirming they’ve been received by the colleges is the responsibility of the student.
In addition to having high school transcripts and recommendations sent, students will need to have the results of their ACT or SAT testing sent to each college to which they will apply. While every college in the U.S. will accept results from either one of these tests, most colleges will use just the highest score from one test sitting. It’s important to check score reporting policies for each institution as there are some who are test optional and others that may require students to submit scores from every test sitting on their record. Also, requests should be made at least one month prior to an application deadline as delivery time of test scores to colleges can take several weeks.
Review Needed Materials
Students preparing materials should be sure to check specific application requirements for each institution. Colleges also may require interviews, auditions, portfolios or additional testing depending on the type of student and program they are considering. It’s important for students to pay careful attention to requirements and deadlines for each individual college. By ensuring all materials are submitted in a timely manner, and by providing information that helps the admission committee get to know them well, students will have the best opportunities possible once decision day arrives.
Kristina Dooley is a Certified Educational Planner and founder of Estrela Consulting, a Northeast Ohio-based educational consulting firm guiding students through the college search process. For more info visit: EstrelaConsulting.com.