Thinking about applying to colleges can be an exciting and overwhelming process. College is a great way to further your education and pursue passions, but it is also important to make the right decision for you. The college application process can be time-consuming and confusing, but you’ll find tips and advice in this article to help guide you on your college application journey.
When to start applying for college is at the forefront of many high school students’ minds and can lead to stress, but we hope to provide insights to help inform you. If you’re looking for colleges that offer hands-on learning or the best questions to ask when visiting colleges keep reading and schedule a visit with Western Colorado University.
When do you Start Applying to Colleges?
College applications should be on the radar of juniors in high school. This doesn’t mean that you need to start applying right after you finish your sophomore year, but you should begin to start researching and visiting schools to find what interests you during this year. Starting early can help give you a better idea of what you want to do in college and be sure to stay up to date on important dates.
We recommend beginning the application process during the summer before your senior year. Starting in the summer gives you plenty of time before a majority of deadlines near the beginning of winter. If you want to be more proactive, you can even begin some college applications during your junior year to reduce stress.
We asked college students: When do you start applying to colleges? Most agreed that you should start as soon as possible to give yourself more time to ensure you make the right decision. Applying sooner means you’ll hear back sooner and gives you time to confirm your decision or explore other options.
If you begin your applications in the summer, you should be ready to start sending in your applications in the fall for schools that are high on your list. Some schools offer early decision, in which you can send in your application before their standard deadline to express your interest in the university. This is a great way for those who know where they would like to go and reduces the amount of work you’ll need to do for the rest of your time in high school.
Some of the tips you can explore in this article are:
Before you start applying for college, it’s important that you complete this checklist:
- Complete SAT, ACT, or AP Exams (If required)
- Discuss Letter of Recommendation
- Review Application Form
- Draft Essay Topics
- Stay Focused in School
- Speak to Your College Counselor
- Visit Colleges
Exams like the SAT and ACT have been a popular way for many colleges to set guidelines for their applicants. Recently, these exams have become optional in the application process as many colleges are no longer requiring scores to be reported. This does not mean that you shouldn’t take these exams as they are a form of a college aptitude test, but they do not define your ability to be successful in college.
Review Western’s application requirements for first-time freshmen.
AP Exams are also not necessary for some colleges. Certainly, like Ivy League schools or other prestigious universities, AP scores may be required. Be sure to check the school’s website for more details. Even if these scores are not factored in your application, they are a great way to start accruing college credits and help guide a decision regarding picking a major.
Letters of recommendation are an essential element of the college application requirements checklist. Letters of recommendation help admissions officers read between the lines of numbers and letters from the standard portion of the application. These letters are personal as they come from people who know your personality and ambitions well. They help paint a more holistic picture of who you are as a person.
Be sure to reach out to people who have played a crucial role in your life. Great examples are teachers, coaches, employers, or any other role models who you feel comfortable reaching out to. Be cognizant of the schedules of whomever you ask and remind them of the deadline to ensure you have this piece ready for your application on time.
Once an application opens, review the questions and materials necessary to complete the form. Understanding what is required of you to complete the application is a crucial part of the college application requirements checklist. You’ll be more prepared if you read through the application to start brainstorming answers to the questions and be prepared to attach the necessary documents.
The essay is an important part of the college application requirements checklist and the application itself. Here is your time to explore a topic of your interest and explain its importance to you. The essay, like the letters of recommendation, allows the admission officer to get to know you better and see you beyond your academic requirements.
Take time to read through the essay question and start to brainstorm ideas and write drafts to convey the message you intend. Find your tone and voice, do you want to be funny, serious, or adventurous? The possibilities are endless, and you have the power to craft your story. If you are struggling to come up with ideas, try reading other essays submitted by admitted students to the colleges you are applying to.
It can be exciting to think about going to college, which may also lead you to be distracted by your current academic responsibilities. College application offices review your academic history through your high school graduation. Colleges have the power to rescind offers due to the actions and academic standings of incoming students. Finish out your high school career strong while looking into your school and its programs.
An extremely powerful resource highly recommended on the college application requirements checklist is to talk to your school’s college counselor. These counselors are equipped to help find students a good match based on their academics and interests. Building a relationship with your college counselor can unveil valuable information in deciding on what kind of schools to apply to, based on location, size, cost, and so much more.
Finding a college that is the right fit is not an easy task. There are many factors to consider from the academic to the social side, but there are ways to ease that decision and solidify your decision. Make sure to ask questions to your college counselor that match your interests, like finding out the top colleges for outdoor enthusiasts.
College counselors are great resources, but you can also reach out to friends and family you may know who are current or former college students to gain insider information about specific schools. Deciding on where to go to college is a personal decision and you should feel comfortable with your decision through thorough research.
One of the most crucial guidelines of the college application requirements checklist is to get out and visit different colleges. It is almost impossible to get a better understanding and feel of a school without touring and visiting. Walk around the campus, ask questions to your tour guides, and take time to explore the school for yourself.
We recommend starting touring early to visit as many schools as you would like. Schools drastically differ depending on the region, from the culture and student body, be sure to know what interests you and find a school that feels like a great fit. If you have friends or family at a school, try to have an overnight college visit or spend an extended period seeing the school from a student’s perspective.
There are seemingly an endless number of college applications, which can be difficult to juggle all the different dates. Here are a few important dates to remember:
|Rolling Admissions||Depends||1-2 Months After|
|Regular Decision||January to February||March to April|
Many college applications open around the beginning of August, providing students with a couple of months to complete the applications and send them in.
One of the most popular applications is the Common Application. For schools that accept this application, be aware of the open date, August 1st, and close date, January 1st or January 15th. Be sure to understand what application the schools you are applying to accept and according dates they are due. College application deadlines may change over time, so stay up to date on whichever application you are completing.
Early action is a great option for students who like to complete their work early and are eager to hear back about the application decision. Early action is not binding, but it expresses interest in the school to inform the application officer that you are responsible for completing the application early.
If you are applying to stretch or reach schools, this option is a great choice as you’ll also find out the status of your application before the deadlines of submission for many other schools. This offers flexibility for students to complete more applications in the event of being waitlisted or declined and ensures they have enough time.
Early decision is the perfect option for students who are completely committed to attending a specific school. This form of application is binding, meaning there can be negative consequences for receiving a letter of acceptance but choosing not to attend. This application shows your dedication and commitment to your school and may or may not have an impact on your application status.
Be aware that you are applying to a school before viewing your financial aid offer, this can be a concern for students who may depend on financial aid. Some schools will help you explore your financial aid options, but there is no guarantee you will find the appropriate solution.
Rolling admissions open generally around the beginning of fall allowing for students to submit their application anytime between the opening and closing of the application. Students who are prompt with their applications can submit their applications at any point while the application is open. There are no direct benefits to when you apply, whether that be earlier or later, but admission offices may appreciate those who are mindful of college application deadlines.
Applying sooner in the open period may mean you will find out the status of your application sooner as fewer applications are being processed versus the end of the period when all applications will be submitted. If you don’t have a specific preference for a school but are impatient, rolling admission is a great option for you.
Regular decision is the standard option for most students. This type of decision gives students the most amount of time to complete their application. The deadlines for schools offering regular decision is usually sometime around January to February, and students will hear back between March and April. There is also a requirement on the school’s end to inform students by May 1st, at the latest.
For students who are unsure of where they would like to attend, regular decision is a great tool to apply to many colleges at once, allowing for students to research the schools and determine where they could see themselves.
There is no step-by-step recipe on how to get into college, but there are steps to take prior to applying to be prepared for the application process. By no means is this a comprehensive guide, but should offer valuable tips to help you find what would be best for you. Make sure that college is the right decision for you and is a crucial step for a career you would like to pursue.
Questioning When Do You Start Applying to Colleges?
Thinking about how to get into college can be demanding and a life-altering decision. Make sure to take the appropriate amount of time to ensure this is a decision you are ready to make. There are many alternatives to going to college right after graduating high school. Some of those options are:
- Taking a gap year
- Working an internship
- Pursuing a trade
- Traveling and exploring
- Pursuing a passion or hobby
Get Ready to Apply
Now that you know the steps to take, start to think about colleges that interest you and the programs they offer. It’s never too early to start thinking about college and is a great way to further your education and pursue a field of interest.
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