how to start applying for college

How to Start Applying for College | Where’s My Dream School?

Preparing for college can seem like a very intimidating process, especially if you don’t have someone like a parent or older sibling who has already been there to  provide some good advice. Luckily, there are plenty of preparatory resources that students can access through their school to show them how to prepare for college. Some of those resources include talking to your school counselor, attending college fairs hosted by your school, or even talking to a few classmates who may have had older siblings that have already attended college. Applying to the school of your liking isn’t something that can be done over the weekend, unfortunately. The process for applying to college begins in your junior year of high school and ends somewhere around the end of your senior year of high school. To help ease the process a little bit, we’ve created a list for how to start applying for college. 

The process for applying to college will start usually during the spring of your junior year, if not sooner. During this time, you’ll want to;

  • Make a list – Choosing a college can seem very overwhelming. Make a list of colleges you want to go to. As you create your list, take into consideration the location, tuition, reputation of the school, the size, and if the school has a good program for the major you plan on taking when you are there. Using a ranking list is a good way to help you decide which school you’d like to attend. 
  • Take the SAT/ACT – If you haven’t already begun the process, we suggest you hit the books ASAP. There are plenty of test preparation courses you can take either through your school or privately, to help you prepare for taking the SAT/ACT. Taking a preparation course will teach you the process of elimination, answering every question, and skipping those you’re not sure of and coming back to them later. 
  • Maintain your grades – Junior year is the year that counts the most. Your academic scores and GPA are analyzed the most during your junior year of high school by college admission officers. During this time, you’ll want to make sure you are staying on top of your grades. Do everything you can from utilizing tutors, to taking advantage of extra credit opportunities to keep those grades up.  Be sure not to let it slide during your senior year as colleges can rescind their acceptance if you get complacent!

After you’ve created your list of potential schools and taken your SAT/ACT, prepare for a busy summer ahead. 

  • Be productive – Schools like to see how you spend your spare time. Get a part time job, play a sport, do some volunteer work, join a camp, etc. 
  • Create your college application calendar – Each school has a different deadline for its admissions applications. You’ll want to know how much time you have for early admission application, regular applications, scholarship applications, and if any, test dates. 
  • Obtain a FSA ID – The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines your eligibility for student aid. Create a username and password (FSA ID) that way when the time comes, you are able to file for financial aid.

Summer is over and you have officially entered your senior year. Congrats! This is where we start to piece together the puzzle.

  • Narrow your list – Applying to too many colleges can be time consuming and expensive. Narrow down your list to the top 5 to 7 schools you’d like to attend. Have the top two schools of your choice and then a couple of backup plans in case things don’t work out as planned. 
  • Retake the SAT – The nice thing about the SAT is that if you weren’t all that happy with your score the first time around, you have the option to take it again and try and improve your overall score. 
  • Complete FAFSA – Over the summer, you created your FSA ID. On October 1st of your senior year, you’ll want to make sure your application for financial aid is in. Gather all the information you need such as parent’s income, tax records, bank statements, Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses. 
  • Draft up your essays – Many colleges will require a college essay as part of your application process. You’ll want to get started on these sooner rather than later, especially if you plan on applying to several colleges. Have a teacher, parent or tutor proofread your essay to provide any necessary feedback.
  • Letters of recommendation – You’ll want to ask for letters of recommendations from your teachers. Typically you should go for your teachers from your junior year as they would know you better than your senior year teachers would. Be sure to give your teachers plenty of time to write the letters. Ask for the recommendations a few weeks in advance. 
  • Submit early applications – Most early application deadlines fall on November 1st. Do not wait until the last minute to get this done. The deadline will arrive before you know it. It’s better to start the process as soon as possible. 
  • Transfer your transcripts – Have your guidance counselor transfer your transcript to the school you are applying to. Several other students will be applying at the same time as you so be sure to give your counselor about two weeks before the transcript needs to be sent. 
  • Finish up applications – Regular admission deadlines usually fall between the 1st through 15th of January. During this time, you’ll want to make sure that you have all your college applications submitted and apply for any scholarships that you think you may qualify for. 

That’s it! Now you sit around and anxiously wait to find out whether you have been accepted into the college of your dreams. If you plan on attending university abroad or in another state, you’ll want to make sure you that all your documents are up to date. Let us know at VitalChek if you need an extra hand. We can provide you with any vital record you need quickly and securely. We hope our list of hope to start applying for college has provided you with all the information you need. Best of luck to all future applicants!


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