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College Preparedness: Admissions

This is to help high school students and their families know what to expect in the college transition process.

Applying to a College

Online vs. Paper Applications

Online vs. Paper Applications

Most colleges and universities provide the option to applying either online or through the mail.

  • Whichever format you choose, be sure to re-read and edit the information before sending
  • Online college applications are faster, more efficient, and reach the destination automatically
    • Online templates are available that can be used for more than one school, which limit how the information is presented
    • The personal essay can be admitted online
  • Paper applications allow for more personalization of your information
    • If you choose to use a paper application, it is best to type your information instead of hand writing it
    • The personal essay can be admitted via a paper application
  • Colleges evaluate both types of applications equally and do not prefer one more than the other
    • The choice depends on your personal preference

Application Deadlines

Things to Know About Application Deadlines

  • Deadlines are firm!
    • Use CollegeSimply to keep up with which colleges are still accepting applications
  • October is College Application Month
    • All students should apply to at least one college by October
    • Deadlines vary, but universities most commonly stop accepting applications for the fall semester in December or January
  • Most colleges offer Early Decision Applications
    • Early admissions usually have deadlines between October and November
    • By taking advantage of this option, students become eligible for additional financial aid and other benefits
    • Regular admission is offered as well
  • In December, students should follow up with colleges on the status of their admission
    • Send senior grades and test scores or re-visit the campus

Information You Need to Provide

Information Needed for Most Applications

(From the Princeton Review -

  • Your application and personal essay
  • Your transcript
    • You will need to request official transcripts from your high school for each college where you're applying
    • Some colleges require that transcripts be mailed directly from the high school
  • Your SAT or ACT score report
    • When you take the SAT and/or ACT,  you can request that a score report be sent directly to your prospective colleges 
      • You may also decide later whether colleges see one, some, or all of your scores
    • Schedule your test with enough time first to receive your scores (2–8 weeks for the ACT, about 3 weeks for the SAT) and then to request reports for the colleges on your list
      • Both ACT and the College Board offer rush or priority report options, for a fee
  • Letters of Recommendation
    • Most colleges require two or three letters of recommendation from high school teachers or guidance counselors
    • Pick someone who knows you well and can speak to your strengths
    • Request your recommendations—politely—about two months prior to the application deadline
    • Give your recommenders all of the information they need to complete the recommendation, whether it's a website with login information or stamped envelopes with hard copy forms (Don't forget to say thank you!)
  • Financial Aid
    • Be aware that applying for admission and applying for financial aid are two separate processes
    • Complete and submit your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible