For students just entering the senior year of their high school career, this is a very exciting and action-packed season because it’s time to get serious about the college application process. Keep in mind that it is all about the deadlines. Miss a key date, and you could miss your opportunity to get into a great college, or possibly lessen your chances of getting the necessary financial aid to afford that college. Next you need to know the two types of deadlines – admissions and financial aid.
Carefully check your colleges’ websites and write down their deadlines, then backtrack about two weeks to come up with your personal deadlines. Write these in big letters on a calendar, or put them on your phone’s to-do list to keep them in front of your face – and then map out your application action plan.
There are several admissions possibilities – early action, early decision, and regular – although some colleges do offer rolling admissions opportunities where they accept applications all year long. If you are pretty set on your college choice, you will probably want to go with one of the earlier application opportunities to get your decision as soon as possible. Be especially careful with these deadlines as they may occur as early as October, and that might not leave you time to appropriately complete all the requirements.
That brings us to the actual application. Once again this requires careful reading of the colleges’ websites to determine their individual process. Most use the Common Application, some use the Universal Application, some only accept their own application, and a portion have a combination where they might use the Common App but ask for a few supplemental requirements. Changes to the Common App for this year include:
• Courses and Grades: The Common App will ask for names of classes and grades from all four years in high school, so be sure to have that information available.
• Google Drive: If you have worked on your essay or resume in Google Drive, you will be able to upload that information into your application.
• Advisers: You will be able to invite school counselors and advisers from community-based organizations to view your progress and advise you on your work.
• Spanish: Key information will be translatable into Spanish.
• Essay Prompts: There are minor changes to some wording and the addition of two new essay prompts, including the return of the popular “topic of choice.
New to the field is the The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success which represents a group of colleges that have come together to offer a free platform of online tools to streamline the application process. Also check for any special requirements in your field of study such as a portfolio or audition. Some colleges might even want you to submit a video, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to put your very best foot forward.