You've narrowed down the massive list of school choices to a select
few to which you want to apply. But there's a lot of work to be done so that
you can plead your best case.
The first step
is to gather the information required for your application. Entrance requirements
can differ for every school, so pay close attention to the application forms
to make sure you provide everything they need. The earlier you determine the
requirements of each school, the better.
Start by printing off a copy
of each application form. Create a file folder for each school to store copies
of all materials you send to that school. Put the date on everything so you
know when it went out.
Jot down all the admissions deadlines on a
calendar or in a date book -- and check it often. You may want to record the
deadline dates on the outside of each folder as well.
Doing the Work
general, schools will look at the following factors: high school courses,
grade point average (GPA), class ranking, SAT/ACT test scores, personal essays,
extracurricular activities, other personal or special skills and letters of
recommendation. Sometimes a school will conduct an entrance interview.
Read the instructions carefully and fill in all the
information. Double-check spelling, grammar, the name of the school and any
numbers you had to enter.
Transcripts If there's no formal
time period for students to fill out transcript release forms at your school,
talk to your career or guidance counselor about getting one completed. Do
it early -- at least a few weeks before the college needs the transcript --
to give the office enough time to fulfill your request.
Most of the
time, your transcript will be sent directly to the college, so you don't have
to worry about sending it yourself unless you're directed to do so. Make sure
you know what the school prefers.
schools don't need letters of recommendation. Some only require the letters
for scholarship applications. Check how many you need and who they should
be from. (For example, are they looking for any teacher or a particular subject
teacher?) Once you know exactly what you need, make a list of possible names.
Ask yourself who knows you best -- as a student and as a person -- and would
be willing to write a unique and positive assessment of your abilities and
Approach the person early in Grade 12 so they have lots
of time to compose a thoughtful letter. Make an appointment to detail what
it is you need, establish deadlines and follow up to collect your letters
Finally, include the letters in sealed envelopes with your
application materials, or arrange to have them sent directly to the college
if that's what the school wants.
Not all schools
require an essay. But if you do have to write one, consider it a blessing.
Think of it this way: an essay offers a chance for the real you to shine through
to the admissions board. Contrary to popular belief, schools aren't looking
for studying machines -- they're looking for bright, well-rounded people.
Here are some tips to help you:
- Give yourself a deadline and stick to it.
- Since most topics will ask you to talk about yourself (your interests,
goals, accomplishments), start by doing some self-analysis. List all your
activities, travels, significant life events, hobbies, dreams, heroes, embarrassing
moments, anecdotal stories and personality traits.
- Write what you know, not what you think you should write to make a good
- Let your first draft sit for a few days before you read it again. Then
read it out loud or have other people read it to you so you can see what sounds
- Make sure your work is fresh and original. Don't copy someone else's essay,
or have someone else write it for you. Don't rework a school essay you've
- Be simple, concise and forward -- don't wander all over the map. Have
a central theme. But remember: being direct and clear doesn't mean being boring.
You can be creative and original without gimmicks.
- Don't be vulgar or tasteless.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread! Spelling, punctuation and grammar should
- Relax, be yourself and have fun!
Not many undergraduate programs require
an interview, except some selective programs such as engineering or nursing.
For private, independent colleges, however, interviews are often necessary.
If one is required, be yourself and do your best. Here are some tips:
- If possible, schedule the interviews with your least favorite schools
first. That'll give you some valuable interviewing practice.
- Look professional. Be sure to check on the dress code.
- Research the school ahead of time so you can ask intelligent questions.
- Keep your answers short, but don't limit them to a one-word response.
- Send a thank-you note afterwards.
Submitting Your Applications
Be sure to print copies of all
your applications and prepare any additional packages that need to go out.
It's time to send everything off!
While you're waiting for the school
to respond with its decision letter, make sure you keep working hard at school.
A sudden decline in grades at the end of the year -- which happens all too
often -- may mean a closed door where there could have been a welcome mat.
You'll also want to update the schools of any new events. If you receive
any awards, for example, send the new information along.
If you get accepted to your first choice, great! If you're stuck
in the happy dilemma of having to choose between two or more schools, try
(1) making a pros and cons list, (2) following your instinct, or (3) visiting
the schools again.
When your decision is made, be sure to tell the
other schools that accepted you so they can offer your spot to someone else.
In the event that you're not accepted or put on a waiting list, talk
to your counselor about your options. Try to find out why you weren't accepted.
Maybe it was a minor reason, like something missing from your application
package or a misunderstanding about your academic information that you can
If it goes beyond that, however, talk to someone
at the admissions office and see if they will tell you how to increase your
chances of acceptance the next time around.