5 College Application Tips



Nathan Lee, Editor

The college application process can be a daunting process for many. The first couple words that usually come to someone’s mind when thinking about it is overwhelming and stressful. However that does not have to be the case when you plan things out. In this article, I will talk about a few tips about this process so you are prepared for when this period rolls around. 


  1. Start Early

Many students think that there is so much time from the time the portals open and when the deadlines are approaching. However, that is not the case. You need to give yourself time to write the essays and get all the necessary documents. For the essays, it may seem easy and quick, but it is not that easy you think. Every essay must have someone else look at it no matter how good you think it is. You may think your essay does not have any errors, but someone else like a family member or friend can help to nitpick even more errors. College admissions officers also most likely read similar essays everyday during the peak seasons, make your essay be the one that entertains the reader and truly allows the reader to learn more about you as a person. (Try to include a topic that was not already listed on your application.) Finally, another reason that you should start the process early is because requesting transcripts takes at least 3 weeks sometimes so if you don’t get started on time, your transcript will not be able to be sent to your college of choice on time which may be a red flag on the application. 


2.  Know the different admissions plans you can apply for. The most common ones that many colleges have are early action and regular decisions. However, many colleges also have early decision plans and rolling admissions. 

Early Decision: These applications are usually due on the first of November and decisions are released around mid December but some come as late as January based on the college. Early decision is a binding plan so if you get admitted, you must go. You should only apply with this plan if this college is 110% your top choice. 

Early Action: Early action applications are usually due around the same time as early decision which is November 1 for many colleges but some colleges like Virginia Tech have early action deadlines of December 1 so you need to know the deadlines for each college and stay on top of them. These decisions usually arrive sometime between January and February. This plan is not binding so you don’t have to go if you get accepted. I recommend that all of you apply early action because you get to know a little earlier than regular decision and it gives you more time to compare financial aid packages

Regular Decision: This is the plan that many people usually apply for since it has the latest deadline. However, this plan is something you should do only if you miss the early action deadline or you feel like you can not compile a quality application before the early action deadline. Regular decision rounds are usually more competitive due to the sheer number of applicants. 

Rolling Admission: This is a nonbinding plan that some colleges use like the University of Pittsburgh where you submit your application really early, usually in the fall. They usually get back to you as soon as possible, after about 4-6 weeks . This is a good plan to apply to if your dream school is a rolling admission school or if you want to just know as soon as possible that you will be attending college in the fall. It is usually in your advantage to apply earlier to the rolling admissions schools as they are typically space available. 


3. Check your emails often, daily if possible

Colleges often send emails regarding updates with the application if they either need something that you forgot to add initially or if they need more supplemental documents to get a better picture of who you are as an applicant like midyear reports. Try to keep email notifications up to date on your phone as that is the device that most of us probably check and use the most. Another reason to keep your email updated is that colleges sometime remind you if they are coming to your school on your email list where you can actually talk to an admission officer from that school. 


4. Talk to the person you are asking for a letter of recommendation letter before asking

It is always good to talk to the person writing your letter, in person if possible but email also works. Rather than asking for them to just write it based on what they think about you, provide them with a list of your best qualities, your extracurricular activities, and any other information that you think will allow the recommender to write the most unique and best letter possible. It may have been a while since this person last talked to you or even saw you.


5. Make a good and realistic list of schools that you are interested in

Having a well thought out school list is very important. It helps you to be able to keep track of all of the schools you are applying to without getting to overwhelmed. However, the most important reason a school list is important is so you can make sure that the schools you are applying to have varied acceptance rates.  You can do this by making sure that in this list, you have a safety school, a match school, and a reach school if you are planning on applying to one. A safety school is a school that you have a very high chance of getting into and your academic records are above the ones that are typically common for the school. These schools are ones where you have an 80 percent or above chance of acceptance. A match school is one where your academic records are similar to the one or slightly above/below what the school is looking for. These schools typically have acceptance rates between 40-70 percent. A reach school is a school that is usually in the top 50 and have very low acceptance rates typically under 30 percent. If you are applying to a reach school and your grades aren’t stellar as you want them to be, make sure that the other parts of your application stand out like your essays.


By planning everything out, the college application process can go from a stressful process to a somewhat fun process. You get to learn more about so much about the schools that you are interested in and really show the admission officer how you would fit into their school. Good luck on all of your applications!