The Application Process: Part 1

One of the first issues to consider as relates to applying is that the schools you are interested in may have different application deadlines. Other than a regular deadline date, some may have an early decision deadline as well. Other schools have rolling admissions, which means there is not any specific deadline. Even with a rolling admissions policy, I recommend applying early in the fall of your senior year or even during the summer before your senior year. It is wise to obtain application deadlines before your senior year begins. This may mean that you need to apply before visiting the campus in some cases. Bear in mind that schools act on applications at different times, so it's a good idea to ask when you can expect a decision so that you aren't waiting by the mail box for several weeks.

Some schools may offer an application fee waiver to students who apply by a certain date. If you are applying to a number of schools at $25 - $50 each, this can save a considerable amount of money. Call during the summer before your senior year to see if the school has an early application fee waiver program.

A final point to stress here is that you are a unique individual. While one college may be perfect for your best friend, it may be less than ideal for you. You and your family need to consider all factors involved - academic, social, financial, spiritual, etc. Give yourself a chance to truly explore all your options, you will then feel more comfortable regardless of where your final decision may lead.

Once you know the colleges and/or universities to which you wish to apply, your attention must turn to the task of gaining acceptance. This process may seem simple, or it may push you to the edge of a nervous breakdown. There are some fundamental principles that must be followed as you work toward two separate and important goals.

The first goal in applying is straight forward - to gain acceptance. However, a second goal must be considered. The second goal is to demonstrate that you are the type of quality student and person the school wants to enroll. Accomplishing the first goal will get you in the door, but it's the second goal that will help position you for financial aid consideration. It's important to remember both goals in considering the application process.

While working in college admissions, the majority of applications that crossed my desk were adequate. A small number appeared to have been completed by the applicant's third grade brother, and finally there were a small number that I actually enjoyed reading. Needless to say, if you are reading this, you want to be in this final group. So how do you get there?

Let's begin by recognizing that nearly every school that does not have an open admissions policy represents a different level of challenge in gaining acceptance. A college or university with an average SAT of 1100 may not seem difficult to gain acceptance into if you have an SAT of 1250. Obviously, that same college or university may be very difficult to gain acceptance to for a student with an SAT of 900. Both the 1250 and the 900 SAT student should realize that the application process should be viewed with both of the goals mentioned above in mind. One of the mistakes that an academically stronger student can make is in not realizing that the application could impact their financial aid. The point is, never treat the application process lightly, even if you have a 1300 SAT and are applying to a relatively non-competitive school. Regardless of your situation, the following principles should hold true.

  1. Type Everything
    Does this seem obvious? While it may be obvious to you, believe me when I say that it must not be obvious to everyone. If the admissions office can't read your application, it is impossible to make a favorable impression. Every piece of communication and correspondence you have with the admissions office has the potential to influence a decision - negatively or positively.

    The admissions application is your opportunity to "shine". Don't put yourself at a disadvantage because you didn't want to take the time to make your application look professional. When I saw a typed application, I concluded that the student was serious about the school and the admissions process.

  2. The Extra Essay
    Have you considered writing an extra essay? This will almost certainly set your application apart. If the application requires no essays, take the initiative to include one anyway. I recommend a 250 to 500 word essay. Remember, the goal is to stand out and be noticed! Schools want students that they believe will positively influence their campus. Write an essay explaining how you will make a positive impact at the school.

    Let me stress the importance of knowing the difference between confidence and arrogance. You do not want to give the impression that the college or university would be foolish to overlook your amazing intellect and potential contributions. I recommend one extra essay. Please do not make the mistake of "overkill". The extra essay can backfire if you write a novel. You do not want to be remembered as the student whose application took an hour to read. Focus on your most unique characteristic or quality and strive for confidence rather than arrogance. One way to strike the proper balance is to also include how you believe the school will assist you in reaching your goals.

  3. Honors And Activities
    You may find that the application gives you the opportunity to list your honors and activities. I suggest typing SEE ATTACHED HONORS AND ACTIVITY SHEET in this space. Make it easy for the admissions representatives to see your accomplishments. Remember you are marketing yourself! Include everything you can think of - a community clean-up project, girl/boy scouts, church youth group, academic competitions, music competitions, student government, athletic awards, volunteer positions, and any other awards you may have received in high school. You may be pleasantly surprised at the length of your list once you take the time to sit down and think about what you have done for the past four years (parents can be a great help with this). If you have a lengthy list, you may want to have different headings such as: COMMUNITY/VOLUNTEER POSITIONS, SCHOOL ACTIVITIES, CHURCH ACTIVITIES, HONORS, ACADEMIC AWARDS, ATHLETIC AWARDS. If the application does not request such a list, include it anyway.

  4. Fill Out The Application Completely
    If a question is important enough to be included on the application, you need to answer it. Don't give the impression that you only felt the "important" questions were worth your time. A school may have a good reason for including a question that seems irrelevant to you. Even the "optional" questions are wise to complete.

  5. Meet Deadlines
    This point may be obvious, but sending in your application ahead of the deadline is even better. Demonstrating that you are organized and genuinely interested in the school by having your completed application in early can only help your cause.

This article continues here: THE APPLICATION PROCESS – PART 2