College Applications: How to Begin

by James A. Osborne

Applying to college is a big job, but you can make it easier by breaking it down into a series of small steps.

Play VideoThe initiative that I took on my own for college applications was I learned the college application process, I went online. I also talked to my advisors. But I also realized that colleges are looking for more than just grades so I stayed on track all four years, I was in cross country team, the indoor track team and the outdoor track team. I realized that showed the dedication that I have. So that was a bright spot in my application. [End of video]

1. Get Informed

Colleges want to know the real you. When you apply to colleges, you don’t have to try to make yourself look better by listing the kinds of accomplishments or writing the kind of essay you think they want to see. If you’re honest about who you are and what you’ve done, you’re more likely to end up at a college that’s a good fit for you.

What else can you learn before you get going?

2. Talk to People

Tell your family, your school counselor, your teachers and anyone else you’re close to that you’re applying to colleges. Talking about what you want for the future — and the ways college will help you get there — is a great warm-up for college applications.

Colleges want to know the real you.

3. Brainstorm

Most applications ask you to describe what you’ve done in and out of the classroom. Start thinking about your activities, honors and awards, and make a list of those that mean the most to you. You can also write down some notes on your favorite classes and the reasons you like them.

4. Get Organized

If you can keep track of everything you need, you’ll be ahead of the game. For each college you’re applying to:

  • Create a real and a virtual folder for storing documents.
  • Print a checklist to track your progress on each part of the application.

Gather these numbers and resources:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your high school code
  • A copy of your high school transcript
  • Your score report from a college admission test

Now you’re informed, inspired, organized and ready to begin. For more details on the college admission process, visit Applying to College: FAQs.

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