Maybe the prospect of applying to college riddles you with so much nervousness that it makes your stomach turn. Or you’re just so excited for the next chapter of your life to start that your fingers can’t move across the keyboard fast enough. Maybe it’s a bit of both. Whatever you’re feeling, know that millions of high schoolers across the world are feeling the same exact way.
You might be confused about where to even start applying. You might be overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the task ahead of you. You’re not alone. That’s why we’ve broken down the college application process into manageable steps, to make it easier for you as you embark on this next part of your life.
Do Your Research
Before you begin applying to colleges, you have to know where you want to go. This may seem like a daunting task, but it really doesn’t have to be.
First, consider what you’re looking for in a college. Would you like to live close to home or far away? How big of a school would you like to attend? What college is best suited for your major? If you can, try to visit some schools you’re interested in to see if you like the environment.
However, even if you’re unable to go, you can still do a lot of research. Check out school social media accounts and scour their website. Another good resource is online forums where students post about their experiences at the college. Try to piece together the life you might lead at the college and whether you will be able to prosper and grow there.
Make a List
At this point, you should start compiling a list of colleges you would like to attend. One thing to consider while making this list is having at least a couple of “safety” schools—universities that may not be your top option, but ones where you are likely to be accepted.
The key to safety schools—which should be obvious—is making sure that these are schools you would actually enjoy attending. Many students apply haphazardly to safety schools, not expecting their other plans falling through, and end up stuck at a college they don’t like. That’s why it’s important to research, research, research.
While you’re researching, it’s also a good idea to start looking for scholarships and grants to see if you qualify for any the school offers. The U.S. Department of Education awards an estimated $46 billion of grants and scholarships each year to high school students, a good portion of which tends to go unclaimed. Pursuing higher education is not a cheap endeavor, so it’s important to be diligent in your search.
Once you’ve figured out which colleges you want to attend, it’s time to do the actual applying. Many colleges have you apply through websites such as the Common Application or Coalition. Others, like Bob Jones University, have you apply directly through their own website.
A lot of schools will also charge a significant fee just to apply. It’s a good idea to narrow down your list of colleges so it doesn’t get to be too much. Or look for ways to get the cost waived.
Be aware of the deadlines for applications. Some colleges have deadlines and others rolling admission, but it’s smart to apply as early as possible. The later you apply, the less financial aid you’ll get and the less engaged you’ll seem in the process.
Fill in Your Application
Once you’ve filled out the basic information, it’s time to start on the real application—the essays and the short answers.
The importance of the essays varies from college to college. But though the essays are significant, they’re not so much so that you need to agonize over them during every waking moment.
You don’t need to exhaust a thesaurus in order to write them, either. The entire goal of the essays and short answers are to see a glimpse of you as a person. To see what you’re passionate about, to see if you’d be a good fit at the university. That’s why it’s crucial to be articulate and sincere.
Get Everything In
This is probably the least exciting portion of the process—and unfortunately the longest. This is the part where you submit your high school transcript, your SAT or ACT scores, and your recommendations. It’s important to get all of these things in on time, as most colleges won’t even review your application unless they have them all in.
After you’ve done this, the only thing left to do is to review your application and submit. Then you can breathe.
Once your application is in, there’s nothing else to really do except sit back and wait. Though it’s excruciatingly difficult to be patient as you wait on the decisions, there is assurance in the fact that you can trust in God (Proverbs 3:5–6) because no matter what happens, His plans are the best for you (Jeremiah 29:11).
College, though it may seem otherwise, is not the end of the road. Even if you don’t get the answer you want, there are still a million paths to take sprawled ahead of you. Regardless of whether you get accepted into every college you applied to or none of them, your life is still in God’s hands and He is constantly molding you according to His will.
By Andrew Redding for the Office of Admission at Bob Jones University, which is committed to providing an outstanding accredited Christian liberal arts education purposely designed to inspire a lifelong pursuit of learning, loving and leading. Visit bju.edu for more information.
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