12/11/2020 Staff

10 Things You Need to Know About Applying to College

It's application season, and to help you out, we have scoured our Webinar Wednesday series to summarize everything you need to know as you prepare to hit "send" to your top-choice institutions. 

  1. What you want matters.
    If you’re interested in physics and want to step out of your lecture hall into a bustling city—find a college that completes that picture. If you want to study psychology in a country setting and attend small, intimate classes, then that’s what you should do.

    “This is about finding a place for you,” said Christopher Muñoz-Calene, assistant director of admissions for access and inclusion at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. “If you show up focused on learning all that you can for you, 100% for you, then your curiosity will show authentically and organically.”

  2. Take advantage of virtual opportunities.
    Whether you’re in Colorado and would like to chat with a Massachusetts-based admission officer, or you’re in China and can’t make it to the U.S. to tour a Pennsylvania campus, there are options for you. From campus tours and information sessions to interviews and student Q&As, colleges are increasing their digital offerings. Take advantage of these to learn more about a college and discover if it’s right for you.

  3. Don’t be afraid to brag.
    You are what matters most in a college application. Be sure to show off exactly what you can bring to the table (or campus).

    “You’re so much more than your GPA and test scores,” said Emily Herbert, senior assistant director of admission and coordinator of transfer admission at F&M.

    In addition to your academics, include your co-curriculars, an essay, letters of recommendations, and do an interview if that is an option. In total, let the college know exactly why they would be lucky to have you.

    “We’re looking for students who will make an impact,” said Joseph Martinez, senior assistant director for international admission at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y. “Holistically, we want to know what kind of student will be on our campus, in our residence halls, in our dining spaces, and in our clubs and activities.”

  4. Write an exceptional essay.
    The essay is your chance to shine! It may feel weird to talk about yourself, but you are the primary subject of your essay, so don’t hold back.

    Whether it’s how you discovered your passion, what you’ve learned while babysitting your younger siblings, or why you do volunteer work, be sure to include something about who you are that the admission officer wouldn’t otherwise find out. Erin Bernard, associate director of first-year admissions at University of Massachusetts Amherst, noted it’s helpful to make a list of everything you want a college to know about you, then cross off what they’ll find out in other parts of the application. Whatever is left should be included in your essay.

    “Your essay is your voice in the application,” said Hillen Grason Jr., associate director of operations and communications at F&M. “[It’s] is your opportunity to differentiate yourself in large competitive applicant pools.”

  5. No SAT or ACT scores? No problem.
    More and more colleges are becoming SAT- and ACT-optional. This means that if you don’t want to include your SAT or ACT scores, you don’t have to do so. Instead, the college will review the other pieces of your application to make their decision.

  6. Financial aid doesn’t hurt your application, either.
    Institutions  that are “need aware” mean they will consider your financial aid request as part of your application; schools that are “need blind” means they will not. However, don’t let your financial need deter you from applying to those schools.

    “Just because you’re applying for aid does not mean that you’re automatically going to be denied from a school that is need aware,” said Sarah Schmidt, associate director for international admissions at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. “The vast majority of schools that are need aware often are need aware because they’re trying to have as generous a financial aid policy as possible.”

  7. Pay attention to deadlines.
    Some schools require financial aid information when you submit your application, while others don’t. Some schools have several early decision deadlines, and some only have one (P.S. Early Decision means if you’re accepted to a school early, you agree to attend that school and withdraw applications to other institutions). For every school to which you apply, keep track of what is due and when.

  8. Reach out to college admission officers.
    They want to hear from you! Remember, there are actual people reviewing your application—and they’d be thrilled to help answer any questions you have.

  9. Colleges want to find the right fit, too.
    College acceptance rates vary widely; some have an acceptance rate of 35% while others have rates closer to 60%. Don’t let those throw you off. Acceptance rates aren’t about filling numbers—they’re about finding the right fit.

    “Our goal is to admit the best class for each of our institutions as possible and continue to foster access to a higher education,” Grason said.

    Again, the most important aspect of applying to college is finding and applying to the schools that are right for you. Once you find that school, follow our tips and feel confident that you’re putting your best foot—and application—forward.

  10. Enjoy it!
    Your college journey is only just beginning—which is exciting! Ease your stress and enjoy every moment of your search, application process, and your time on campus once you’re there.

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