The College Application: 9 Tips for Online School Students
Receiving a college acceptance letter is an exciting moment in a high school student’s life—but getting there takes active preparation and dedication. Some students may think that applying to college is just a matter of achieving a high GPA, however, that’s just the first step. Submitting an application is a process that requires significant amounts of educational and personal information.
It can be a time-consuming task, so starting early—even before senior year—is important to help minimize stress. Use the tips below to help your student tackle the college application process successfully!
- Research the application guidelines.
Each college or university has an application process that students must complete to be eligible for acceptance. Encourage your student to visit the website for each school that he or she is interested in and read through the application requirements carefully. It could be helpful to print out and read a hard copy of the instructions to use as a checklist. If something isn’t clear, contact the school’s admissions representative for guidance.
- Create a professional email address.
Recommend that your student create a “professional” email address for the college application process. The email address should be different from the one that he or she uses to communicate with friends. That way, when an email is sent to this professional email address, your student will know that it’s important and needs to be acted on promptly. A professional email address usually includes a person’s full name or initials—for example, John.Smith@gmail.com or JSmith@gmail.com. In the future, students can use their professional email address for other professional ventures like internships and job applications.
- Apply for financial aid.
Financial aid is a major component of the college application process—and it’s something that both parents and students need to apply for. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be completed during the fall of a student’s senior year, at www.fasfsa.gov, beginning on October 1, 2016. You can also call 1-800-FED-AID to receive a paper application if you prefer. Some states and colleges have their own deadlines for FAFSA applications, so make sure to check your area and school’s FASFA guidelines in order to qualify for the most aid possible. The FAFSA should be completed each year that a student is enrolled in a college or university.
During the Application Process
- Get organized.
Aside from the application deadline, there are many deadlines that students have to meet for things such as scholarships, housing applications, secondary school reports, and letters of recommendation. Your student may want to consider getting a calendar to stay organized and keep track of all the important dates. The calendar can be physical or electronic, depending on what he or she prefers. File folders are also useful for storing all of the application documents and paperwork, and ensuring that each application is completed thoroughly and accurately.
- Gather letters of recommendation.
Some schools require students to submit a letter of recommendation with their application. College admissions officers use the letter to identify qualities that can’t be shown on the application, including personality, academic drive, and strengths. Students should contact the reference at least 30 days before the deadline, as writing an effective letter of recommendation takes some time. Even if it’s not required, a letter of recommendation is a great way to further demonstrate that a student is right for the specific school or university.
- Prepare a personal statement.
A personal statement or essay is another document that is sometimes required with college applications. Personal statements are unique and can help distinguish between two students with similar academic records. The statement should highlight a unique or individual gift that the applicant will bring to the school community, experiences that have contributed to or challenged him or her to take advantage of academic opportunities, and answers to questions that evaluators may have after reviewing the application. Remind your student that the essay isn’t about big words—rather, it’s about finding an individual voice and expressing oneself honestly. If your student is having trouble, it might be helpful to set up a meeting with a guidance counselor or English teacher.
After Completing the Application
- Get confirmation.
Completing a college application is a great feeling, but the applicant shouldn’t walk away without receiving acknowledgement or confirmation from the school. Colleges and universities usually send a confirmation email letting applicants know that their application was submitted successfully. Your student should save a hard copy of the email, as the application number may be needed down the road. Getting confirmation will also be reassuring.
- Request final transcripts.
Keep in mind that even after being accepted into a school, your student will need to submit final transcripts by a designated date to the admissions office. Final transcripts are used to verify graduation, final grades, and overall GPA. A guidance counselor is usually the one who sends the transcript, but this can vary depending on the school.
- Report any changes.
If any of the information that your student includes in his or her application changes, it’s important to notify the school right away. Let the school know about things such as an address or financial change, adding or dropping a course during the year, or enrollment in a different high school for a specific course. Not reporting these changes could cause a late start with housing or college courses.
Applying to colleges may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but students can conquer the challenge by beginning early, following the guidelines carefully, and staying organized.
Has your high school student started applying to colleges? What are some ways that he or she prepared for the process? Share your experiences in the comments!