College application season is upon us

The process can be overwhelming, but it can also help you think of yourself and your life in terms you hadn’t previously considered. Look at your application as the opportunity to celebrate who you are. This is your opportunity to shine!

Following these guidelines will help you put your best foot forward.

1. Find out if the college or university you’re applying to uses an online application. If an online application is available, use it. More and more often this is the preferred method of applying to college. If you are applying to several schools and they are part of Common Application or another similar program, applying online will save time because you enter your information once and it will automatically be sent to multiple schools.

2.  Read the application completely before entering any information.  This means read every word of the application. Don’t skim it, don’t assume you know what it is going to ask, actually read it. More errors have been made on applications because students thought they knew what was being asked instead of actually reading what was going to be asked.

3.  If you have questions, call the university admissions office yourself.  Don’t ask your parent or guardian to do it; they are not the ones going to college. You are. It is time for you to take care of business like this.  It’s OK if you want them in the room cheering you on, but you’re the one who has to take the initiative. This is your life, live it.

4.  Use proper grammar and capitalization. Ignoring the details, such as the simple act of capitalizing words that should be capitalized, is a huge mistake. That conveys carelessness, and you know you’re better than that.

5.  Request your transcripts and letters of recommendation at least two weeks in advance of your deadline. Remember, you are not the only student in your school applying for admission to college, so be kind to your school’s registrar or record keeper and submit your request early.  Also, ask yourself if you want a letter that shows you in your very best light, or do you want one put together hastily and under a significant time crunch? Which would you prefer to have sent to the people deciding if you get into college? Providing a self-addressed, stamped envelope is a kindness that needs to be given to the people you are asking the favor of.  Please do that for them.

6.  Use your essay to show your personality. Be certain you are writing on the requested topic, but relax and write from your heart. This is your chance to let your literary voice be heard. If it is an open-ended writing sample, choose to write about something that captures your enthusiasm. What are you considering studying and why? If you haven’t decided what to study, what are the options you’re contemplating and what moves you about the subject matter. Don’t worry that someone might think your ideas are silly, the majors you are considering exist because there are other people in the world who feel the same passion you do. Show it!

7.  Ask an adult at school to read over your essay. Sometimes it takes “fresh eyes” to identify areas that may need additional editing or that may not convey the thoughts you had intended. Asking your English teacher may seem to be the obvious choice, but consider asking someone who works in the field you may be studying. He or she may help you convey your excitement in your essay because they share a similar passion.

8.  Make a photocopy of your application materials. This will serve two purposes. First, if you are completing multiple applications chances are good each one will ask for the same or similar information. If you have it handy already then you won’t have to continually look up details or recreate statements. Second, if something happens and your university needs you to resubmit a part of the application, you’ll have it ready to go at a moment’s notice.

9.  Know your deadlines! Get your application materials submitted well in advance. That way if there are any errors or accidental omissions, you have time to correct them.

10.  When you’re done getting your applications submitted, celebrate!  One year a group of students decided to set a deadline for getting all their college applications completed and submitted even though they were applying to different colleges. When one student was feeling overwhelmed, the others were there to help her keep going. When their deadline came they all sent their online applications from their own homes, they then went to the post office in a group to drop off the paper applications. Finally, they celebrated a job well done by going to a movie.  The spirit of collaboration carried them through, and they had a great time helping each other over the weeks it took to put the applications together.

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