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The College Process

The College Process

April 8, 2018

For high school students, the college process is a perfect mixture of unwanted stress and welcomed excitement. Beginning with maintaining a GPA and keeping up with extracurriculars in school, students are then expected to take standardized tests (SAT or ACT), write personalized college essays, and request recommendations to complete their college applications. Though, beyond the process itself, a decent amount of stress originates from actually choosing a university, and differentiating between “dream” colleges and “ideal” colleges.

First and foremost, it is vital that all students create college checklists for themselves, whether it be in their heads or on a piece of paper. In addition to this, they should be aware of the steps of applying to colleges.

To address the college application list, this should consist of all the requirements of getting into a particular university. For example, test scores, grade point average, essays, etc. Though most colleges request the same materials, there are some differences such as essay prompts, the number of recommendations needed, or whether standardized tests are mandatory or optional. It is important to do proper research on your chosen schools to find out what is expected of you before sending in your application.

The following is a sample of a college application organizer. While some of it will change according to the university of your choice, most schools stick to the same requirements.

  • Applications
    • Has obtained all needed application forms
    • Is aware of regular application deadline
    • Is aware of early application deadline (if there is one)
    • Has determined whether the school is a safety (very likely/guaranteed to be accepted), probable (good chance of getting in, but not guaranteed), or reach (not very likely to get in, but could happen).
  • Grades
    • Has requested high school transcript & has sent it to designated college(s)
    • Has requested grade reports & has sent to designated college(s)
  • Test Scores
    • Has determined whether the SAT/ACT is required for designated college(s) admission(s)
    • Has determined whether SAT subject tests are required for designated college(s) admission(s)
    • Sent SAT/ACT scores (if needed)
    • Sent SAT subject scores (if needed)
    • Sent AP scores (for college credits, if accepted)
  • Letter of Recommendations
    • Requested letters of recommendations from teachers, guidance counselor, coaches, etc.
    • Sent letters of recommendations to colleges (if requested)
    • Sent thank you notes to recommenders (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Essays
    • Read over prompts and draft essays (could vary depending on application/ college)
    • Proofread essays for grammar mistakes
    • Request that trusted teachers and/or instructors read over and provide feedback on essays
    • Revise essays
    • Proofread your provisions
    • Submit/send finalized essays

With this format, a student is able to stay organized throughout his/her college process. Shown above, there are many steps to applying to college, all of which must be completed over the course of a year (or more)! Leaving standardized tests, essay, or letters of recommendations to the summer of junior year may not be the best idea. As the process is already stressful and overwhelming, procrastination will only make matters worse. It is a good idea to set deadlines for yourself in addition to those required of you.

For example, choose three dates that you would like to take the SAT, ACT, or subject tests, and sign up for them online. If you achieve your desired score earlier than expected, you can always cancel the later tests. You could also mark certain days on your calendar that you’d like to complete your essays by, just to keep yourself on track. Though applying to college is long-term, you should treat each step as you do schoolwork assigned for a certain date. Meaning, it is helpful to think of it with the same importance you do with a large class project, or perhaps a championship game. Though it may take awhile to experience the result of your hard work, pretending to have “due dates” along the way will keep your mind focussed on your goal and will prevent the consequences of leaving it until the last minute.

Additionally, there should be another checklist on your mind.

You should be able to list all that you want in a college – from academics, to location, to sports and on.

Utilize this list of important factors to help you decide upon both a dream and ideal college for your future.

  • Admission rate
  • Graduation rate
  • Freshman retention rate
  • Student to faculty ratio
  • Size of school/campus setting
  • Graduate/professional school options
  • Available job opportunities right out of college
  • The curriculum
  • Course availability/Available majors
  • The quality of professors
  • The quality of academic studies
  • Study abroad opportunities
  • On-campus living
  • Presence of greek life
  • Location/Distance from home
  • Meal plans/local restaurants to dine
  • Extracurriculars
  • Sports participation/school spirit
  • Safety statistics/reviews
  • Party life
  • Notable Alumni
  • Demographics
  • Financial cost
  • Financial aid
  • Application fees
  • Graduating class indebtedness
  • College overall ranks/reviews



Each item listed above should contribute to your college choice, with some being weighed more than others. As this will likely be one of your most difficult decisions, all details should be considered before reaching a verdict.

And so, I genuinely hope the above will help all those going through the college process. As I am currently experiencing it myself, I know how confusing and frustrating it can be. Still, I keep my mind set on the long-term goal and do all I can to create the best college application possible for myself.

Good luck to all!

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