5 Ways to Get Smart About Filling Out College Applications

University Application Form representing how fill out a college applicationFilling out college applications is just one step of the college search process. But students and families quickly find out that this one step isn’t as simple as you might think. And there is a lot advice out there on how you should complete the step. Before you swamp yourself in page after page of internet search results, use the following websites to orient yourself and figure out what information you really need to complete the college applications.

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 One  Must Read

The term “college application” covers more than just one form that you submit to a college. The application includes fees, transcripts, essays, test scores, and more. BigFuture’s Quick Guide: The Anatomy of the College Application lists the major elements of the college application. This is why applying to college is all about organization. Colleges will have different deadlines, use different forms, and require different essays and you need to keep track of it all. (Sign up for the DIY update get a free spreadsheet to help track your college applications.)

 Two  Detailed Explanations

How to Apply for College: Complete Expert Guide  PrepScholar breaks down all the major pieces and for each tells you “What Will You Send” and “Why Do Colleges Care?”

A Complete Guide to the College Application Process  is organized around questions about the college application process. They provide detailed answers, many including comments from professionals involved in the process.

 Three  Websites to Visit

The number of colleges that require students to use their own application is steadily decreasing. Using a general application means that students can spend less time filling out college applications and more time on essays. Visit these sites sooner rather than later so that you aren’t surprised by any requirements.

The Common Application is used by over 750 colleges, including over 100 public institutions. The application is updated on August 1st.

The Universal College Application has 16 college members.

Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success has over 130 members but not all may be using their application.

Many states have a common application that is used by public institutions in the state. Some include private colleges as well. If you’ll be applying to in-state universities, you need to find out if they use a common application and check on the requirements.

 Four  Sources of Essay Help

There are lots of checklists out there to use when you’re writing your essay and even more lists of mistakes to avoid. Before you start worrying about checking off boxes, visit Essay Hell where Janine Robinson reminds everyone to focus on the basics in How to Write A College Application-In 3 Easy Steps.

Naked Confessions of the College-Bound is a warning about oversharing. Try to stay away from “excessively and awkwardly naked testimonials, which can raise red flags about students’ emotional stability and about their judgment.”

Expert Advice to Get You Started on Your College Application Essays combs the wisdom of six college essay experts for the information you need to get your essay done right.

Top Five Mistakes Students Make on their College Application Essays is a guest post by Randy Levine. Great essay advice delivered with a sense of humor.

Five  Issues to Consider

How to Ask For a Letter of Recommendation: Complete Guide: If this isn’t the most comprehensive guide for asking for a letter of recommendation, it has to be one of the top three. For the parent perspective, checkout 5 Ways Parents Can Help Their Students Get Great Letters of Recommendation for College

Magoosh’s ACT vs SAT Infographic breaks down the differences between the two tests and what factors students should consider when deciding to which test to take.

 FAQ: What is the difference between early action and early decision? Many schools have options other than regular admissions. Not only does this explain the differences but it includes a list of colleges with early decision deadlines.

High School Counselors: Counting on your high school counselor to guide you through the college admission process may be a mistake. Lynn O’Shaughnessy often writes about high school counselors and their limitations.

Private College  Counselors: If after reading about high school counselors, you’re considering going with private counselor, this discussion gives one person’s experience with a private counselor. Should You Use a Private College Counselor provides the results from a survey of parents who used private college counselors.

Plus One Extra: For those who are starting to think about the process early enough, a perspective on extracurricular activities.

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Best resources and tips for filling out college applications. Save time and start here before applying to college. #CollegeAdmissions

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