How To Ace College Applications
September 27, 2021
After three years of high school, seniors have finally reached the apex of their secondary academic career: college. Ironically, most upperclassmen have no idea how the application process actually works. Here are the necessary steps to ace your college applications and get accepted to your dream school.
The first step you need to take is to narrow down your list of colleges. It is not worth it to spend hours upon hours of time and energy crafting essays for schools you would not like to attend. There are multiple factors to consider when refining your college search like college size, extracurriculars, tuition, and location. Make sure to distribute your college list and include safety schools that you have a reasonable chance to get into and reach schools where it may be harder to be accepted.
The next step you should take is to assemble a list or spreadsheet of your potential colleges. You should list out the requirements of each school including the various deadlines, essay topics, and any supplemental information like recommendation letters or expanded resumes. This is a really important step because once you are in the thick of the fall semester it is entirely plausible that you will miss the deadline or not complete an important facet of your application in time.
You can now start writing your essays. Your essays should not be a regurgitation of your accomplishments and achievements – that is what your resume is for. Instead, it should focus on personal aspects of yourself. Remember, personal does not mean tragic. Most high school students do not experience harsh conditions like losing a parent or being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. However, you can take ordinary aspects of your life and expand on them. Perhaps you have had a profound experience while volunteering or found your passion through a school project or extracurricular.
You should also be considering your SAT and ACT test scores. Do they fall below, within, or above the range of scores of the school you are applying to? If they fall well below, you might want to consider applying test-optional. This is a great opportunity for students with more competitive GPAs who are unhappy with their test scores. It can be a good way to get admissions counselors to focus on your extracurriculars and experiences. Some schools may require you to submit supplemental materials like an essay or an expanded resume in order to gauge your college readiness potential. It may also be a good idea to try taking the test once more if you believe you can do significantly better.
One of the most confusing parts of the process is who you should ask for your recommendation letters. You should try to focus on teachers who have had you multiple years, are a sponsor for a club you are in, or who you have a good relationship with. Make sure to let them know at least a month in advance that you would like them to write a recommendation letter. It is highly encouraged that you give them a resume of your accomplishments, what major you are applying to, as well as a list of your best qualities so that they can tailor your letter to your entire application.
Finally, look for scholarships and financial aid. You can easily access local scholarships on the college and career readiness website run by Cy-Woods staff members. For larger scholarships, you may need to search online and submit essays or videos to be eligible to win something. You should also apply to FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to be eligible for need-based scholarships and grants. Even if you believe you may not qualify, you should still apply since there is no cost associated with it and the benefits are immense.
Applying to college is daunting but extremely worthwhile in a rapidly changing and competitive workforce. If you have any questions, make sure to reach out to your counselor or experienced teachers.