The US college application season starts in late summer or early fall to gain admission for the following academic year. Students typically start working on essays the summer before senior year of high school, and submit their applications as early as November! It is an exciting time of exploration and growth for high school students. You get to pursue your academic interests and open yourself up to new possibilities. However, it can also be a stressful experience if you don’t have the right resources and information.
That’s why we created this post – to give you all the information and tips you need to feel confident as you navigate the college application season and the entire process in general. You will learn about admission requirements, making a convincing personal statement, and much more. For further assistance, give college counseling a shot.
1. How to research and choose the right college for you
During the college application season, it is important to consider various factors. Choosing the right college is a big decision! Here’s what to do some research on and consider:
Look at the colleges that offer programs in the field you’re interested in. For example, if engineering is your thing, you might want to look into universities with great engineering departments, like MIT or Stanford. But those are some of the most competitive universities. There are a ton of great schools with engineering programs! Don’t count out smaller or lesser-known schools. They can be perfect fits for students.
You should think about the social and cultural environment you want. Are you looking for a campus with lots of diversity and activity or something more small and intimate?
Think about where you want to be. Would you like to be in an urban, suburban, or rural setting? Also, take into account things like housing options, how close it is to your family, the weather, and the opportunity for future internships and networking.
Make sure to check out tuition costs and the financial aid options available. Don’t be afraid to seek college counseling for financial aid advice.
Do some research and check out a few colleges. Tour the campus and chat with students or alumni to discover what makes each school special. You can also take virtual tours or attend webinars if you can’t make it to a school in person.
2. Tips for writing a great college essay
Writing a great common app essay or personal statement can make a real difference in your application. Here are a few tips to help you create an outstanding essay:
- Brainstorm ideas – Talk around, read books, and watch movies. Seek inspiration for your application piece.
- Be authentic – Let your unique story and voice shine through the common app. Admissions officers appreciate candid and personal accounts that reveal your personality, values, and ambitions.
- Show, don’t tell – Rather than simply listing your qualities in the application essay, provide concrete examples and anecdotes to back them up. This helps the reader gain a better understanding of your experiences and viewpoint.
- Keep it concise – Make your points clearly and succinctly. Avoid redundant language and make sure your application essay stays within the word limit.
- Take time to revise – Give yourself enough time to review and refine your application essay. Ask for feedback from teachers, mentors, or family members to enhance clarity, grammar, and structure.
Aiming for Ivy League schools? You should learn about what they look for in an Ivy essay application.
3. How to get letters of recommendation
Strong letters of recommendation hype your college application to a higher level. They shine a light on your academic abilities and personal qualities. After all, how do universities verify the extracurricular activities of an applicant? They refer to your letters of recommendation.
To include them in your college application or common app, take the following steps:
- Pick the perfect recommenders: Make sure to choose teachers or academic mentors who are familiar with your work. They will speak to your strengths and accomplishments.
- Plan ahead: Reach out to potential recommenders as soon as possible – at least a few months before the deadline – to give them plenty of time to craft a meaningful letter.
- Provide details: Share your academic and extracurricular successes, as well as any specific points you’d like them to emphasize. This will help them write a more tailored and effective letter.
- Check-in: Send a polite reminder closer to the deadline to ensure your recommendation letters are submitted on time.
4. How to create a strong college resume
When putting together your college resume, showing off your achievements and experiences is essential. However, it should correspond to what you have written in the common app essay. Here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of it during this college application season:
- Keep it organized: Divide your resume into sections like education, extracurriculars, leadership roles, community service, and work experience.
- Show off what you’ve done: Draw attention to your successes in each section. Provide numbers to give a better picture of what you’ve done whenever you can.
- Personalize it: Tailor your resume to the college you’re applying to. Highlight the experiences and skills that make you the perfect fit.
5. How to prepare for college interviews
Not all colleges require an interview as part of the admissions process, but some still do. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, and more interview their candidates during every college application season.
If you are applying to such schools, here are some tips to help you prepare:
Research the interview format
Colleges may require in-person, virtual, or alumni interviews. Additionally, be sure to practice your answers to common questions such as, “Tell me about yourself,” “Why do you want to attend this college?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”.
When you answer, make sure to do so with clarity, confidence, and genuine enthusiasm about your interests and goals. Lastly, remember to keep your tone casual!
Do your homework
Before your interview, make sure you look into the college you’re interviewing with. Get to know their mission, values, programs, and any recent news or updates. Showing that you’ve done your research will show your enthusiasm and allow you to ask meaningful questions.
Prepare your case
Take time to think about the academic accomplishments, extracurriculars, and personal experiences that have shaped you and your ambitions. Have an idea of how they fit in with the college’s values and how you could bring those experiences to the school.
Being prepared will make a great impression. Refer to your application essay for guidance. Don’t be afraid to seek college counseling. Good counseling will help you throughout the application process.
Getting ready for the interview
Before your college interview, make sure to dress the part. This means wearing something that reflects your enthusiasm and professionalism, whether you’re meeting in person or virtually. Be punctual and try to maintain good eye contact throughout the conversation.
Show off your unique personality and passion, and don’t forget to actively listen to the interviewer. Above all else, confidently approach the interview and be your authentic self!
6. Tips for managing the college application season
Organizing the college application timeline and process is key to a successful and orderly experience. Here are some tips to help you manage this process efficiently:
- Develop a personalized timeline: Start by building a personalized college application timeline that includes essential dates, such as college application deadlines, test dates, and financial aid deadlines. Don’t wonder, “Am I allowed to submit SAT scores after the deadline?”. Some colleges have rolling admissions that may entertain such submissions. But competitive colleges are unlikely to respond.
- Look into application requirements: Thoroughly research the application requirements for each college you’re interested in. Make a list of the documents, essays, recommendation letters, and any other materials needed. This will help you prepare and collect the needed materials ahead of time.
- Plan: When applying to colleges, plan ahead and start gathering the necessary materials. These include transcripts, letters of recommendation, and any other required documents. This will help you get a head start and ensure you have everything you need in time for your applications.
- Seek support: As you apply to colleges, don’t hesitate to seek advice and guidance from your school’s guidance counselor, teachers, and mentors. They can provide valuable insights and help you craft your essays and applications to showcase your best qualities and aspirations.
- Proofread and revise: Before submitting your applications, it’s essential to proofread all your materials. Revise everything – essays, resumes, and forms- to ensure everything is accurate, clear, and consistent. Getting someone else to review your work to catch any errors or offer their thoughts is also a good idea.
- Stay organized: Create a system for storing and managing your application materials. Track confirmation emails, usernames, passwords, and any other important information.
The big picture
Even after all this preparation, anything can happen. If you get rejected from somewhere, does the college tell you why? No, colleges do not commonly explain their reasons for rejection. It can be challenging but try not to take it personally and look to your next options. All you can do is do your best and prepare as much as possible. Plus, you’ll be better prepared to get into your dream college with the proper tutors and guides, like the College Counseling tutors on Lessonpal.
Lastly, don’t forget to take care of yourself and manage stress during this process! Enjoy the end of high school with your friends and start to look forward to a new chapter.