Questions about College
-- Steps for Applying
Investing time to learn about colleges and to prepare a
strong application can pay off in a happier, more successful
college experience. Along the way, never hesitate to ask
questions of school counselors, financial aid officers, and
admissions staff--they are all there to help you!
What are the requirements for college
Colleges, even community
colleges, have different admission requirements. Check out
the college websites, catalogs and applications for each college
of interest. School counselors may have additional
Before the application:
- High school course requirements may vary by college and
sometimes the intended major.
- Most four-year colleges require students to take a
standardized test such as the ACT or SAT.
For the application:
- The application may have more than one part.
- The application may require one or more essays.
(See "Tips for Applying.")
- At least one letter of recommendation is usually
required, often a school counselor letter. Students
might also have to submit a teacher's recommendation.
Recommendations should reflect a good knowledge of the
student. Students can make a list of their
accomplishments, activities in and out of school, and goals
to help school counselors remember them well.
Counselors often write well over a hundred letters.
- A transcript. This is the student's
official record showing all high school courses and grades.
Students should review their transcripts before applying to
college. It may be necessary to request high school
credits earned in middle school be added to the high school
transcript. Colleges require guidance offices to send
a transcript as part of the college application. High
schools have their own procedures for transcript requests;
students need to find out what they are--and allow at least
two weeks to have a transcript mailed.
- The school counselor may need to complete a form that
indicates the applicant's class rank and high school grade
point average. Students need to make sure counselors
receive all forms early so they can be completed before the
Meeting the minimum requirements for admission does not
guarantee admission. Some colleges receive many more
applications than the number of students they can admit.
Here's a list of general steps to follow
when applying to colleges
As your family goes through this process, if you receive
conflicting advice or hear something that doesn't sound
accurate, check the information with more than one source.
1. Think about the reasons for selecting a college.
- What career does your son or daughter want to pursue?
What colleges will pave the way? Do people working in
that field recommend any particular school?
- What is there about a college education that your son or
daughter most values?
2. Start early.
- Students should collect information about colleges and
scholarships as soon as possible. Libraries, the
Internet, and school counselors have information. Many
applications and college catalogs are available free at
college web sites. Students can also call or write
admissions offices to request applications, catalogs, or
- It helps to have applications on hand by early or
mid-September. Some deadlines are in November.
Applying early might also improve chances of admission or
financial aid at some colleges.
- Register early for standardized tests to avoid late
- Students should draft application essays weeks before
they will sent.
3. Get organized.
- Organize college information
- Have your son or daughter make a list of colleges of
- Keep a calendar with ACT, SAT, admission, financial aid,
and scholarship deadlines. Admission, FAFSA, and
scholarship application deadlines vary by school.
Check out a calendar designed to help you organize your
career and educational planning at
4. Students should meet with a school counselor as
soon as possible and:
- Bring a list of extracurricular activities and
accomplishments from in and out of school.
- Discuss career goals, academic interests, and what
colleges might be a good fit.
- Discuss who besides the counselor might also write a
letter of recommendation.
- Review the various standardized tests that are required
for the colleges of interest.
- Give the counselor any forms the colleges require.
5. Compare colleges.
- Which colleges seem like the best "fit"? (See
"Choosing a College.")
- Prepare questions to ask of college representatives if
they visit the area. See
www.ncac.com for a
calendar of college fairs and preparation tips for the
6. Visit colleges.
- Try to visit all the colleges that your son or daughter
may want to apply to.
- Schedule college or alumni interviews, if they're
available. (See "Choosing a College.")
7. Finalize the list of colleges.
- Make sure to have all required application forms,
including financial aid forms. These may have to be
requested from the colleges separately from admissions
8. Request recommendation letter(s) a MONTH
before they are due.
9. Comply with all application deadlines.
- Applications may have two or more parts with different
deadlines. Students should keep copies of all
applications and other forms they submit.
- Admissions and financial aid applications often have
different deadlines and forms.
10. Apply for financial aid by the appropriate
- Obtain any necessary financial aid forms from the
colleges applied to.
- File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
by March 1st. File a College Scholarship Service (CSS)
Profile if necessary. (See "Paying for College.")
- Financial aid application deadlines, including the FAFSA
deadline, vary by college.
11. In the spring, discuss college options with
counselors & family and make a decision!
- Admission decisions and financial aid offers arrive by
- If a student is put on a waiting list for admission, ask
college staff and counselors any questions you have before
making a final decision about the college choice
Tips for Applying