How to Successfully Navigate the College Application Process

How to Successfully Navigate the College Application Process
  • Opening Intro -

    September is the first full month of education for most high school students with many seniors understanding that this is the last year that they will see some of their friends.


Classes, sporting events and club activities are part of their final year experience, but there is also another matter that higher education-minded students are handling and that is the college application process.

It may be September, but it is also the month when high school seniors will want to step on the college application pedal in a bid to get an early start and what can be a long, drawn out and stressful process. To that end students can successfully navigate the college application process, balancing that with their many other responsibilities.

1. Start now. Writing your first essays in September will help you avoid the stress of compiling several fast ones come November. Giving yourself an early start will allow you to practice what you will say and how you will state it. Likely, you will throw out several of your earlier copies and make massive revisions along the way. You have the leisure of time on your side when you start early; not so if you wait until the last minute.

2. Build your extracurricular activities. How well you do in class is certainly important. But, when it comes down to choosing one student over another one, college admissions officers will look at other criteria, particularly your contributions beyond the classroom. Colleges are looking for future leaders, individuals that have invested time in pursuing interests that matter to them. That could mean participation in a school club, your volunteer work at church and other community involvement. Colleges are not necessarily looking for a long list of pursuits, rather it is your involvement with a few that matter most to you that should be considered.

3. Obtain strong recommendations. The people that know you best are those that are best to approach for a recommendation. You will need at least three people and these individuals cannot be related to you nor should they be your friends. Instead, you want to choose teachers that know who you are, how well you performed in class and can vouch for your work ethic, your intellectual curiosity and your perseverance. The grade you received is not as important as what you got out of the class. Stick with those teachers you had in your junior year as well as your current crop of senior year instructors. You can also ask your youth pastor, club advisor or other community leader to provide a recommendation.

4. Review your transcripts and take your tests. Your high school transcript is given significant weight when you apply to college. You should know how well you have performed since your freshman year and have an excellent grasp of where you stand at this point in your senior year. This means maintaining or improving your grades and, if you lack certain classes, to take those before you graduate. Admissions counselors look at “academic rigor” and will expect you to have challenged yourself while you were in high school. You should also take your standardarized test (SAT or ACT) in the fall, retaking same if you believe that it will improve your test score.

5. Take advantage of interviews. If you are invited to a college interview, take advantage of that offer if possible. Your college application and essay may be quite good, but an interview can help you stand out in a crowded field. Expect that the interviewer will initiate the discussion with questions, giving you the opportunity to provide answers, to ask your own questions, to tell the interviewer about yourself and to mention whatever concerns that you have. Just as an interview can give a college a very good idea about who you are, you can learn more about the college as well as yourself.

Enjoy and Move Forward

As you work through the college application process, you may find it to be overwhelming. These feelings are normal, something you can reduce by maintaining perspective. By starting early, you can spread out the process and allow yourself to make modifications as needed. You should also enjoy your senior year, by building your friendships, enjoying your extracurricular activities and discovering who you are and where you would like to go with your life.

See Also7 Essentials of the College Application Process


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Categories: Education Tips