The College Process

While not a comprehensive list, the following general guidelines outline the overall process each student must complete for successful admission to institutes of higher learning. The process will start in the freshman year, and culminates in the senior year.

Our counseling department hosts meetings for each class each year to outline their goals for that academic year. However, ultimate responsibility lies with the student for his or her attention to this important process.

Basic timeline for college selection process:

  • Create Naviance account and complete personal profile. Take interest, personality and strengths assessments in Naviance. Utilize matched careers to research what universities throughout the United States have the majors for those specific careers.
  • Discern list of colleges and universities for consideration. Explore admissions data and SAT and/or ACT requirements.
  • Achieve target score on SAT and/or ACT.
  • Create Common App account and complete personal profile.
  • Finalize target list of colleges and universities. Explore the admissions process and requirements of each, including deadlines and acceptance policy of the Common App.
  • Complete applications, including Common App, according to deadline dates.
  • Complete Financial Aid application (FAFSA), if applicable. Check deadline.
  • Apply for identified scholarships. Check deadlines.

THE COMMON APPLICATION, or “Common App”, is a service that collects the vast amount and variety of information about applicants that is required by colleges and universities. This information is then distributed to those institutions of the applicant’s choosing.

This service streamlines the process of applying to multiple colleges and universities, all requiring the same information, greatly simplifying the overarching application process for both students and institutions. It also enables student applicants to keep track of their information, stay ahead of deadlines, and manage school-specific tasks all within one place.

The vast majority of colleges and universities accept the Common App, including public, private, large, small, secular, and religious institutions. While not universal, the Common App is an important tool for students seeking to apply for higher education.

An increasingly important element of the college application process is the writing of the essay. It personalizes the applicant, making the student more than numbers on high school transcript and SAT or ACT score. A writing sample, the essay allows for creativity and expression, for demonstrating ability to design and uphold a thesis statement relative to broadly-based questions. With more qualified students than there are places at top colleges, the essay can be a major acceptance factor.

Starting early is essential to constructing creative, effective, original essays. Since most students apply to several colleges and have several essays to write-on different topics, leaving the writing until a week before the application deadlines is a mistake. Even if using the Common Application most colleges will require supplemental essays.

The more selective a college is, the more emphasis it places on good writing. All colleges expect the fundamentals to be present. A well-stated thesis, well-explained or upheld is, then, clearly required, and the mechanics of writing –grammar, punctuation, spelling, clear transitions- are “givens”.

In addition to demonstrating writing prowess, the student wants to bring a personality to the essay. Writing about something well-known or deeply felt is usually preferable to tackling questions such as solutions for global societal problems. The essay is not a research paper.

The most important aspect of the essay are editing and proofreading. A good essay takes time; an exceptional essay takes an exceptional amount of time.

Editing- changing, and improving, words, phrases, entire paragraphs (pages!)- should be done during a student’s “prime time” for study. An essay that sounds brilliant at midnight may lose luster when read in the harsh light of noon.

Proofreading should be done at least three times-once aloud, once backward, starting at the period, to catch spelling errors (easier when a word is seen out of context), and once, carefully from the beginning of each sentence. Spell-check and grammar-check on computers do not catch all errors; a student’s personal touch is still necessary. Several drafts are a minimum requirement.