Applying Without Crying: Tips to Smooth the College Application Process

Getting ready for college is supposed to be exciting, and it often is. That is, until you have to go through the application process. It can be stressful, frustrating, and more devastatingly, costly. With pressure to standout, a mistake could cost you both financially and academically as errors often derail the entire process.

However, applying doesn’t need to be so daunting. With planning and preparation, common mistakes can be avoided. Here are some tips that will help make the process easier.

College Choice

Selecting which colleges to apply to is the true beginning of the application process as institutions having varying levels of requirements.

Some students have their heart set on a specific school, while others have a long list of options. Having your choices narrowed down will make applying easier since your focus is honed in on one school, but that also means if you’re denied, you may not know where to go from there. Play it safe and keep a few options on hand.

Ultimately, there’s not a correct number of colleges to apply to, but having a list of three to five is generally considered a good amount. This doesn’t mean you must apply to every one of them. It’s meant to give yourself options.

As a senior whose attention is being pulled in several directions, it’s best to focus on a small number of schools. From there, organize them into categories such as “preferred choice,” “safe,” or “tough requirements,” etc. Doing so will help you keep in mind which colleges you’re likely to be accepted into, which ones have a very low acceptance rate, which institutions are your top options, and so on.

The key to this process is to define your college picks in a way that helps to prioritize your choices when applying. Remember, the application process isn’t the same for every school.

The Application

With your choices narrowed down, it’s time to fill out and submit your applications.

Common mistakes include grammar, incorrect information, incomplete forms, and missing submission deadlines. These are easily avoidable. Have someone proofread your application. Double check what and when things are due. If you think you’ve done it enough, do it a few more times.

Institutions receive a huge number of applications per year. Due to this competitiveness, some are looking for reasons to disqualify applicants. There’s no shortage of resources available to you when going through this process. Rely on them. Your school counselors, admissions offices, and caretakers—they can help.

One important thing to make note of is costs. Schools often require you to pay an application fee. If you have to resubmit an application, there’s a high likelihood you’ll have to pay for it a second time.

Finally, if you’re someone who doesn’t have a school preference, Common App might be for you. It allows you to apply to several colleges using a single application. This is great in many cases, but be aware that schools may require additional information and you will have to pay individual application fees for each institution.

The Essay 

What can ultimately set you apart from others is your essay. Universities normally provide a range of topics or ask you to spend a page talking about yourself. It’s their chance to get a gauge for who you are outside of your academic accolades.

Keep in mind that your essay is not meant to be long-winded or an autobiography of your entire life. The average length for an application essay is around 500 words. To give yourself the best chance, carefully read the guidelines and follow them. If you’re given a list of prompts, choose the one that sparks your interest the most.

You have a limited amount of space to impress admissions, so your essay should be attention-grabbing and creative. Some of the best ones are comprised of an interesting story that ties into the prompt. If you need inspiration, don’t hesitate to read examples to help jumpstart your imagination.

Common App generally updates their list of essay prompts yearly, so use this list to get an idea of what they could be. For those who apply using Common App, these prompts are what you’ll be responding to.

Again, have someone read your work. Make sure your thoughts are clear and that admissions will take from your essay what you want them to. Extra time spent triple-checking your information will go a long way.

Read this blog twice, and then do it one more time.

Good luck!

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