A Brief Debriefing of The College Admissions Process


September’s almost over; it’s time to anticipate the arrival of fall and all her mirth. The weather’s turning cooler, the days are turning shorter and the Early Action/Decision deadline for college applications is drawing nearer. This is a hectic time for applicants around the world as they scroll frantically through CommonApp. Those personal questions are no joke and they can be demanding as you try to remember the last time you volunteered someplace. 

Let’s start at the beginning- differentiating between Early Action, Early Decision, and Regular Decision. Both Early Action and Decision allow you to apply to schools earlier and you get your results by mid-December. Under Early Action, you are able to apply to multiple schools, but Early Decision is binding between you and one college. Regular Decision is the normal application process usually due around January and applicants get their results by April 1. No process is more advantageous than the other, it all depends on your schedule. 

The basic college application usually consists of 

  • Application Fee
  • Basic Application
  • Personal Statement/Supplemental Essays 
  • High School Transcript 
  • SAT/ACT Score Reports
  • Teacher and Counselor Recommendations 
  • Financial Aid Information 

The application fee is the least mentally demanding part of the process. Fees are usually in between $30-$60 based on the school you’re applying to. Fee waivers are possible to acquire based on deadlines and special circumstances. 

The regular college application will consist of basic questions about yourself and your interests. This is the part where you can talk about your extracurriculars, clubs, volunteering and special interests. Some schools may ask for a high school resume which isn’t that difficult to put together. Sources such as Canva have easy to follow templates to upload your resume information. 

The meatier part of the application is your personal statement essay. If you’re applying through CommonApp, there will be a list of essay prompts available under the personal statement page. Some colleges may require additional supplemental essays and specific prompts will be listed under that college’s application. It’s important that you get a head start on this part of the application because it is time consuming and speaks the most about you — it characterizes you past number scores. 

Your high school transcript is another component of your application that admissions officers need to properly evaluate you. Official transcripts must be submitted by your counselor, otherwise, mid year transcripts must be submitted directly to the school. Each procedure varies by school. 

Due to COVID-19, many schools have decided to go “test-optional”, meaning that not choosing to submit your SAT/ACT score will not be penalized against your application. Not all colleges are test-optional, make sure to check the application website before further action. If you have taken multiple SATs, some colleges may ask to see all your scores for deeper evaluation. Direct score reports can be sent directly to colleges through College Board. 

Many colleges ask for 2-3 letters of recommendation from your teachers and counselors. Be sure to give your recommenders adequate time to fill out responses before your application is due– don’t wait until the last minute! It only makes the experience more stressful for everyone involved. When requesting for a recommendation online, the application will ask you if you want to waive your rights to see what is written about you. Many people believe it’s more beneficial to do that, because you come off looking trustworthy. 

Lastly, let’s dissect scholarships and apply for financial aid. College is expensive; you don’t want to end up hanging to pay full price. Organizations such as FAFSA and CSS help distribute need based scholarships but these are time sensitive. They operate under a first come basis, so it’s important to be prepared with your application. Be sure to thoroughly research your school’s financial aid policies and be mindful of deadlines. 

That was a lot — piled on top of school work and extracurriculars, the process is very overwhelming. It’s important to take it step by step. Plan out parts of your application you want to get done by a certain deadline so you’re not scrambling the night before it’s due. 

Take a deep breath. It’s your future- you’ve got this.