We know how important your involvement is in your child's education - we also know how difficult it can be to stay on top of all of the important steps in planning and preparing for college.  

Below you'll find this month's content - LEARN (info to know), DO (action to take), and TIPS (insights for success)


Understanding College Applications

The college application is, in many cases, the first impression that a college will have of a student. 

Before filling out an application, a student should ask themselves (or you may ask him/her) these important questions:

  • What do I want the admissions people to understand about me?
  • How can I distinguish myself? 
  • What makes me unique? 
  • Who am I as a person?
  • What is important to me?

Let’s start by going over the general application process:

  1. It is helpful to have a list of your student’s activities and the dates of participation and time they spend on them handy.  Every college will want this information. 
  2. Follow your high school’s process for submitting transcripts.  You should not submit a transcript before completing the application in the event that you choose not to apply. 
  3. Send in any applicable standardized test scores.  They may choose to send one score (your best) or they may choose to send all scores from one type of test (ACT or SAT) so that the scores can be super scored (if the college follows that process). 
  4. Make sure that your son or daughter has asked for any additional documents to be filed on their behalf as requested, such as letters of recommendation.
  5. Once the application is complete, it should be submitted.
  6. If a school requires payment, it is best to do so online with a credit card.  If your family qualifies for a fee waiver, please see your high school counselor to have it verified and sent in.  The application cannot be processed without proper payment if required.

There are two types of college applications: the school specific application and the Common Application.

The school specific application is one that is created by a college/university and can be submitted for admission only to that school.  It can be found on the college’s website.  Many state colleges and universities, such as Illinois State, University of Iowa, University of Missouri, and University of Kentucky are great examples of school specific applications.  These applications start by asking basic information: name, address, prospective major, parental information, activities taken part in during high school, etc.  They may or may not have an essay that is part of the application process.  Once completed, you will submit the application along with payment.

The Common Application is a web based application that can be submitted to up to 20 of its over 500 member colleges/universities.  This application, which can be found at www.commonapp.org, is comprised of a very detailed data form and an essay (five prompts are given, students must choose one on which to write an essay of 250-650 words).  After this is complete, together, you’ll select the schools to which the application should be submitted.  Once this done, students will then complete a short question section for each school and find the place to complete any additional writing that is required by this school.  Some schools have no additional writing other than the one essay mentioned earlier while others have up to six additional writing supplements.

(Remember that even though the common app is convenient to send to many schools at once, there is still an application fee for each school – so pick those schools wisely!)

This process should be complete with care and attention to detail.  Any error can detract from an otherwise really great application and consequently negatively impact your student as a great applicant.  Each application and writing supplement should be written for that specific school, completed by your student, and looked over by a trusted adult to double check for errors. 

Approach every question posed on the application with those initial questions listed above in mind, helping them to find ways to incorporate their personality and uniqueness where applicable.  Remember, once done, an application cannot be changed or altered. 

Once completed, give your student a break and let them soak it in – this might be the most intense thing they’ve ever done!  And hopefully, their hard work (and yours) will be rewarded with multiple acceptance letters!  


Check out some college Applications

Many are still available (for current seniors applying right now for next fall).  This is a great time to look at a some of them and get a preview of what to expect.  Later this spring and certainly this summer, your son or daughter will start the recommendation letter process as well as the initial drafts of their college essay.  Taking some time now to know what’s ahead will help reduce the stress and anxiety that many families experience over the next 6 months!

TIP #1

Picking classes for senior year?  Remember, this is the last year that classes will be free (or very cheap).  Encourage them to maybe take a fun or interesting class that expands their horizons.

TIP #2 

Is your student taking an Advanced Placement class this school year?  Talk to their counselor about signing up for the AP test - it's a great opportunity to earn inexpensive college credit.

Know a school that could use some college readiness support?

We also offer Student Curriculum to schools and provide Parent Education on College Planning.  Additionally, we work with schools and districts to increase the college readiness of their students.  Learn more by clicking here.