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Steps in the College Process

Take Entrance Exams
Take both the SAT and ACT in the spring of your junior year. There is not a definitive way to predict which test will be best for a particular student. You may retake one or both again in your senior year. Schools typically use only your highest score. Send all scores from your entrance exams. Some schools will “superscore” meaning they use your best score for each section from multiple tests to compile a new total. Others will superscore for scholarships only, and some will use the highest score on an individual section for a scholarship even if they don’t use that test administration for admission purposes. Check with the college admissions page to see if they require the essay portion or subject tests.

Gather Information
By the middle of summer prior to the senior year, students should have gathered information about several colleges. Factors to consider include: private vs. public, housing, scholarships, financial aid, extracurricular activities, general atmosphere of the school, degree programs, and entrance requirements. Factors that a college admissions office may consider in evaluating an applicant include: high school curriculum, grades, admission test scores, rank, essay, recommendations, interview, community service, work, summer activities, school involvement and leadership.

Narrow Your Choices
By the beginning of the senior year, students should know what schools to which they are applying; this usually includes a Dream School (a reach), a Good Bet School (good school/good match), and a Safety Net School (sure thing). It is important to consider the degree of difficulty in getting in to a particular school. Do not apply to only “Dream Schools”; it is important to have other options in case a dream school does not work out. A basic checklist for college selection is:

  • Does the college offer the program I want to study?
  • Do I have a good chance to be admitted?
  • Can my family manage the costs?
  • Is the location an acceptable distance from home?

Apply for Admission
The process of applying for admission varies from one college to another. It is your responsibility to know the steps and deadlines. At a minimum, applying means sending an application form, high school transcript and entrance exam scores to the college. You may apply even if you do not have an entrance exam score; it may be sent later. Schools may also request recommendations, a resume, an essay, college transcript, high school transcript, an interview, etc. Know what is required and be prepared well before any deadlines.

Apply for Money
Over 90% of financial aid comes from either the federal government or from the school you will be attending. Fill out the FAFSA in October to access money from the government. Get on a school’s website to see what they have available; some will have financial aid deadlines in the fall.

Accept Offer of Admission
Most colleges will have a deadline of May 1st for the student to let them know that he/she is coming. Typically, the student submits an electronic commitment and pays an admissions deposit. You may wait until this date to notify the colleges, but as soon as you do decide, let them know so that you can make your housing deposit. You must also inform the other schools to which you were accepted that you are not coming.

Apply for Housing
Many colleges require on-campus living for freshman students, it is important to know the procedure for housing arrangements at the school of your choice. An application form and a deposit are usually necessary. The earlier you make the housing deposit, the more housing options you may have.

Register for Courses
Some colleges will have a registration process on-line with a deadline in the summer. Other schools will have a summer orientation program during which you will select your fall schedule. Pay close attention to material you will receive from the college you will be attending. Sign up for an early orientation session.