For a student who plans to attend college, the final years of high school can be a dizzying experience. Between extracurricular activities, standardized testing and keeping up grades, there’s a lot of college prep to tackle, including applications.
While every college or university is unique, there are some common suggestions about how to best apply and get accepted to school. We spoke to admissions professionals from three local institutions to help you aid your child in getting a leg up in the process.
Preparing the Best Application
Once your child has decided which schools to apply for, taking the time to thoroughly and thoughtfully complete an application is key. While there is no silver bullet that will guarantee a student’s acceptance, the experts offer the following tips.
“Everything we ask for in the application is valued, from the academic transcripts and test scores to recommendations, extracurricular involvement and leadership,” says Bob McCullough, director of undergraduate admissions for Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “Everything we ask for helps us evaluate and understand a student’s preparation and potential for success on our campus.”
He advises students “not to be modest about your achievements, and make sure your application reflects who you are.”
On a technical note, McCullough says that while it may seem obvious, students should ensure their application actually went through.
“For example, if a certain field in an online application was left blank, the application may not have been submitted,” he says. “Pay attention to all the requirements and follow directions closely.”
“Colleges and universities are looking for well-rounded students whose credentials demonstrate academic success, involvement and leadership,” says Nancy DellaVecchia, director of admissions for Kent State University. “The most valued aspects of a high school student’s career are the rigor of the coursework taken; the grades earned in the core curriculum courses; the overall grade trends for the entire high school career; and standardized scores from ACT or SAT tests.”
She advises students take the time to thoroughly and accurately complete the application. “Do not rush filling out the information. Each question asked on the application serves a purpose for the admissions review and the university. If asked to prepare an essay, take time to write a thoughtful and relevant essay for each application.”
Because applications are completed online, they often are very standard and seek mainly demographic information. A student can stand out from his or her peers in the essays, letters of recommendation and the interest he or she shows in the school, says Kimberly Gentile, senior associate director of admissions outreach at the University of Akron, who adds another factor colleges examine is the engagement level a student has had with that institution.
Planning in Advance
While it’s recommended that high school students apply to colleges the fall of their senior year, in reality, the college planning process starts much earlier.
“Students and their families should start the college planning process in the sophomore and junior year,” Gentile says. “Start by considering college characteristics that are most important — majors, distance from home, campus size, activities like sports or fine arts, and cost.”
She suggests families gather information about colleges to narrow the list, and visit those schools during a student’s junior year. “The more you do in sophomore and junior years, the less anxiety you’ll have senior year,” Gentile adds.
DellaVecchia recommends students apply by Thanksgiving their senior year to stay on track. “It is very important for students to check deadlines for each university they are applying to because a variety of deadlines for applications are possible for early decision, honors programs and qualification for merit scholarships.”
What do you do when your child has an essay to write in one night? Read these tips on getting their writing into tiptop shape in a hurry.