College Applications: Things to Know

You and your student might not be anywhere close to deciding on a college yet. Perhaps you haven’t decided if he wants to go to college at all! That’s perfectly fine; junior year is a time of preparation more than it is a season of decision. Since you’re in the preparation process, here are some things to know about college applications.

Check Deadlines

Every college has its own set of deadlines for applications. Many offer “early decision” deadlines that are occasionally accompanied by a scholarship. By now you will have narrowed down a list of 5-7 colleges you’re considering, so make note of their application and admission deadlines for future use.

Be Aware of Fees

While you’re checking deadlines, also take note of application fees. These amounts are nice to know so you aren’t taken by surprise when placing your application. Students who are income-eligible may receive a fee waiver for some college applications; read more here.

Prepare for Essays

Many private or more selective college applications require an admissions essay. The essay topic will vary. Practice essay writing in your regular high school curriculum and also through your test preparation, even though the writing portion of the SAT is optional. Here is a great article on admission essays from Peterson’s.

Send Your Transcripts

Those records you’ve been keeping of classes, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities are about to come in handy! Colleges need high school transcripts in addition to the application in order to review a student’s file. The fall of the senior year is the normal time to apply, but some students send in applications earlier in order to create a file with a specific university. If you plan on applying in your junior year do so after the fall term is complete. The college will want to see a transcript reflecting 9th, 10th, and at least half of 11th grade.

Send a Preliminary Test Score

If your student has taken the ACT or SAT already (which I encourage as practice tests in 9th, 10th, and 11th grade), ask the appropriate testing agency to send the scores to the colleges you’ve picked. Unless you are just utilizing the free score reports, wait to send test scores until after you’ve submitted an application, so your student has a file to which the test scores can be attached.

Don’t worry if you hope to improve the test score. Colleges look for the highest score and will take a new score through your student’s senior year (and sometimes after). Some colleges even “super score”, taking the highest score from each section (e.g., on the SAT, the highest math and critical reading from each test that was taken) and put them together for maximum academic aid.

Stay in Touch

Even if your student isn’t ready to actually apply, stay in touch with the colleges you’re interested in. By keeping in contact, you can stay abreast of changes to the admission process, appropriate deadlines, and new policies.

Questions? Email [email protected]