Friday, September 11, 2015

Getting Started on College Applications: A Checklist for 2015-2016

By Brittney Bodden
World Education Services

High school seniors: The school year has begun, and while it might seem early, it's time to start planning out your college application process! Don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to do so, and avoid waiting until the last minute.

Between strategic planning, filling out applications, writing personal statements, and studying for standardized tests, you should make sure to plan ahead and create a detailed checklist of everything you need to complete for your applications.
Here's a list of objectives in the college application process to help you keep track of your progress and future deadlines in the next year:

1. Build Your College List: Creating a list of prospective colleges and universities that you're interested in involves a lot of time and research. The list will grow as you gather information on the best online resources, such as Big Future, tips from school counselors, and college handbooks. Give yourself plenty of time to build the perfect college list!

2. Prepare for the Application Process: Various schools have a distinctive application process whereas others use the Common Application (or a combination of the two). Whatever the case may be, there are several requirements for any school to keep in mind.

  • Official Transcript: An official transcript is a sealed copy of a student’s academic record. It breaks down a student’s grades for each semester, calculates your accumulative grade point average (GPA), reveals your class rank, and provides a detailed list of each class you had taken. 
  • Standardized Test Scores: It’s never too early to begin studying for one of the tests (for example, SAT, ACT, TOEFL, and IELTS)  that are required for undergraduate admission, especially as an international student. It’s important to register in advance to give yourself enough time to retake the test in case you aren’t 100 percent satisfied with your scores. 
  • Letters of Recommendation: Most colleges will ask for two to three letters of recommendation. Be sure to read the requirements carefully. Oftentimes, schools require a letter from an academic professional such as a teacher or counselor. It’s your responsibility to find someone who can describe who you are as a student. 
  • Personal Statement: Every school wants to know who you are as a person (not just a student) and writing a personal statement about a specific topic gives them the opportunity to do just that. This is your chance to showcase your personality beyond grades and test scores. So be prepared to write and make revisions until your essay is as close to perfection as possible. 
  • Application Fee: Many colleges and universities charge little to nothing to apply to their institution while others can range anywhere from $10 to $90, according to U.S. News & World Report. Luckily, various colleges offer fee waivers to students who are eligible. The College Board offers search tools to find schools that waive the application fee.
3. Proofread, Revise, and Review: The college application process requires a lot of writing. This makes it imperative to review your work carefully to make sure everything is in tip-top shape before clicking “Submit”. Ask your peers to review your personal statement for grammatical errors. It never hurts to let a fresh pair of eyes take a look at your work. In fact, this will only enhance the quality of your application.

4. Submit Your Application: Once you have successfully completed your application, the next step is to send it in. Make sure to keep track of everything you send, whether
 by email or through standard mail. 

5. Search for Scholarships: While the application is a huge portion of your checklist, don’t forget about identifying ways to help fund your education. Be sure to check out our posts on WES Student Advisor about starting your scholarship search.

6. Credential Evaluation: Another important step for international students is credential evaluations. To learn more about what a credential evaluation is and how to begin the process, visit the World Education Services website.

7. Visit College Campuses: Many colleges and universities offer students the opportunity to take in-person or virtual tours of their campus. Many virtual tours give viewers a full 360-degree view of the school’s campus. You can explore classrooms, dorm rooms, and other parts of campus without leaving your home. Students can also reach out to counselors and students at the college of their choice with any additional questions or concerns.

8. Select a School: After the hard part of researching, planning, writing, and revising comes the exciting (and nerve-wracking) part of the whole process: receiving the decision. Once all of the schools’ decisions have been made, you'll have to choose which of the accepted schools to go to (unless you were admitted through early decision, in which case, the decision is binding). Be sure to compare schools to determine which one best fits your needs and wants.

Here's a detailed example of a college application checklist via The College Board.

Further Reading:
• Writing a Great College Essay: 9 Simple Steps
• So You've Been Accepted - Now What?
• Starting the Scholarship Search: Your Questions Answered

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