At the moment, there are more than 17 million undergraduates enrolled in colleges and universities throughout the country. You should strongly consider joining them next year if you’re nearing the end of your high school days.
In order to do it, you’re going to need to start sending out college applications now. It’ll help you decide which college or university you want to attend so that you can begin working towards getting your degree.
To increase your chances of getting accepted into colleges and universities, you’ll need to figure out how to create the best college application possible. Putting together the perfect college application will put you in the perfect position to begin getting accepted to schools.
Just because you’re a smart student doesn’t mean colleges and universities are automatically going to accept you. You’ll need to provide them with the best college application to show them that you’re worthy of attending their schools.
Here is a guide that will make it simple for you to create the best college application.
Start by Deciding Which Colleges and Universities You Want to Apply To
There are between 4,000 and 5,000 colleges and universities scattered throughout the U.S. at this time. You’ll be eligible to apply to as many as you want.
But it’s obviously not going to make sense to sit and apply for all of them. So your first order of business is going to be narrowing down your options and deciding which colleges and universities you would like to apply to.
When weighing your options, you should look around at different colleges and universities and consider:
- Their locations
- Their reputations
- Their majors
- Their athletics
- Their costs
Ideally, you should create a list of about a dozen colleges and universities that you would be interested in applying to. This list should include everything from the sensible schools located in your general area to the dream schools that you probably won’t get accepted to but want to apply to anyway.
See When the College Application Deadlines Are for Different Colleges and Universities
Once you have a running list of the different colleges and universities that you want to apply to, the next thing you’ll want to do is see when the college application deadlines are for each of them. Most schools will start accepting applications sometime in the fall and continue to accept them through the top of the year before eventually cutting off the application process.
The last thing that you want to do is wait too long to apply for a particular college or university and miss out on your chance to go there because you missed the application deadline for it. You should create a list of the application deadlines for different colleges and universities and set out to get your college applications in on the early side if possible.
Find Out What the College Application Process Is Like for Individual Colleges and Universities
One thing that you should keep in mind throughout the college application process is that the best college application at one school isn’t always going to be the best college application at another. Each individual college and university is going to have its own application process in place, and you’ll have to stick to this process when applying to a school.
There is a chance that a college or university might reject your application simply because you didn’t follow the rules that they established for applicants. Even though you created the perfect college application for them in your eyes, it might not have everything that they were looking for.
It’s why it’s so important for you to make sure that you understand a school’s college application process before doing anything else. You don’t want to disqualify yourself from attending a school as a result of you not following their directions.
Make Sure Your High School Transcript Is as Strong as It Can Be
One of the first things that a college or university is going to look at when you apply to their school is your high school transcript. Your high school transcript is going to show a school which classes you took in high school and what grades you got in each of them.
When a school takes a glance at your high school transcript, you want it to make a great first impression on them. So it’s imperative that you make your high school transcript as strong as it can be before sending it out to colleges and universities.
If you struggled in high school during your freshman and sophomore years, you might want to work to improve your grades during your junior and senior years prior to sending your high school transcript out to colleges. You can do this by:
- Studying harder for the classes you’re taking now
- Asking your teachers to provide you with extra help in between classes
- Taking on extra credit projects to boost your grades
It’ll show schools that you started to take your schoolwork more seriously in an effort to bring your grades up.
Get Your Standardized Test Scores Up as High as You Can
In past years, many colleges and universities saw standardized test scores as the end all be all in a lot of cases. SAT and ACT scores were very important in the grand scheme of things when it came to accepting students to schools.
The good news for you is that many colleges and universities have started to move away from placing such a big emphasis on SAT and ACT scores. Some have even stopped requiring applicants from having to take the SAT or ACT altogether.
If you’re planning on applying to schools that don’t require you to submit your SAT and ACT scores, you won’t have to worry about bringing these scores up. It’ll be one less thing you have to stress out about as a prospective new college student.
But if you’re going to be applying to schools that do require you to submit standardized test scores to them, you should make it a point to get these scores up as high as you can get them. You can do this by:
- Taking standardized tests more than once
- Signing up for a class that will help you study for standardized tests
- Practicing standardized tests in advance
Doing these things should help to improve your standardized test scores at least a little.
Create a List of the Academic Awards You’ve Received Throughout High School
Were you the recipient of any academic awards throughout the course of your high school career? If you were, this is definitely something that you’ll want to shine a spotlight on when you’re trying to create the best college application.
Colleges and universities will want to know about these awards right from the start. It’ll make their decision so much easier when they’re trying to figure out if you would be a good fit for their school.
Some examples of academic awards that colleges and universities will appreciate seeing will include:
- Advanced Placement Awards
- President’s Award for Educational Achievement
- National Merit Commended Student
- Governor’s Volunteer Award
- Perfect Attendance Award
You might want to go as far as to submit a resume to a college or university containing all of the different academic awards that you’ve received in high school. It’ll give you a much stronger chance of getting an acceptance letter in response to your application.
Come Up With a List of the Extracurricular Activities You’ve Taken Part In During High School
In addition to pointing out any academic awards that you’ve received in high school on your college application, you should also be sure that you let a school know about the extracurricular activities that you took part in at your high school. A college or university is going to want to know if you:
- Played basketball on your high school team for all four years
- Participated in your high school’s debate club
- Served on your high school’s student government
- Helped plan your high school’s prom
- Took part in your high school’s band
Chances are, your high school teachers and advisors talked to you early on about the importance of signing up for extracurricular activities. You should take full advantage of the fact that you listened to them by including these activities on your college applications. Colleges and universities like to see applications from those who participated in many activities in high school. Also, don’t forget to include any additional qualifications and certificates you might have obtained—for instance, when applying for medical school, be sure to highlight whether you’ve got the necessary BLS certification.
Ask Your High School Teachers, Coaches, Advisors, Etc. for Letters of Recommendation
Are there teachers, coaches, advisors, etc. at your high school who you think would vouch for you by writing letters of recommendation for colleges and universities? If so, you shouldn’t be shy about asking them to write these letters for you.
Colleges and universities love to see letters of recommendation for applicants. It shows that these students come highly recommended by those who have spent a lot of time with them during their formative years.
In fact, you could make the argument that letters of recommendation are more important to get than almost anything else on this list. Even if you didn’t have the best grades in high school and didn’t play varsity basketball from the time you were a freshman, your letters of recommendation could still put you over the top in the eyes of those in the admissions offices at colleges and universities.
If you think a teacher, coach, advisor, etc. would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you, pull them aside and ask them:
- “Would you be open to writing a letter of recommendation for me?”
- “Can you write a letter of recommendation for me by [a specific date]?”
- “Is there anything I can do to make it easier for you to write me a letter of recommendation?”
They might be more than happy to provide you with the letters of recommendation that you need. If they are, make sure you thank them for doing it. It’ll really help you out in a big way.
Write a Unique Essay for Each College Application You Plan to Submit
Almost every single college and university throughout the country is going to ask you to write at least one essay as part of their college application process. This essay is going to give you an opportunity to shine and to show a college or university why they should give some serious thought to accepting you.
Far too often, high school students will try to make the essay portion of the college application process easier on themselves by writing one generic essay and sending it to all the schools they apply to. You should not do this if you can avoid it (and you can!).
Instead, you should create a unique essay for each and every college and university that you apply to. You should sit down and write each essay as if it’s the only essay that you’re sending in.
If you fail to do this, you might find that your individual essays won’t be as strong as they could be. This could prevent you from getting into some of the schools that take the essay portion of their application process very seriously.
On top of making your college essay unique, you might also want to kick around the idea of having a teacher, a parent, or someone else look over an essay before you officially submit it to a school. They’ll be able to help you make the essay stronger so that it portrays you in the best light to a school.
Put Everything for a College Application Together and Make It Easy to Read
As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, there are lots of different components to a college application. From your high school transcript and your standardized test scores to your academic awards and your letters of recommendation, there are so many things to include in an application.
After you’ve brought all of these various things together, you should organize them so that they’re as neat as possible. You want to make it very easy for whoever will be reviewing your application to find things quickly.
No matter how good your grades are or how many letters of recommendation you might have, it’ll all be for naught if your college application is a complete mess. You should make every effort to get things in order before sending your application in so that it is truly the best college application.
You Should Create the Best College Application Possible for Each College and University You Apply To
Now that you know how to create the best college application, you should start trying to do it. And you should do it for every single college and university that you plan on applying to.
Remember that you’re going to be trying to put your best foot forward with every college application that you send in. It’s going to be the only way for you to get accepted to as many colleges and universities as you can.
Would you like to get your hands on some more tips that will help you navigate your way through the college application process? Find them by reading through the rest of the articles found on our blog.