College Application Process
Powerpoint to assist students and parents in the application process for the 2023-2024 school year.
- The Common Application
- The Transcript Request Process
- Tips for Applying to College
- Writing the College Essay
The Common Application was established in 1975 by 15 private colleges that wished to provide a common, standardized first-year application form for use at any member institution. Now the Common Application includes over 1,000 institutions and represents the full range of higher education institutions in the US: public and private, large and small, highly selective and modestly selective and east coast, west coast and every region in between.
The Common Application has many different parts that may be or may not be required by the school you are applying to. In addition to the main application, many colleges require you to answer additional questions and some require an additional essay/writing supplement.
Here is a cheat sheet for how to enter your grades and courses for those colleges that require you to complete that section.
Watch Out for Deadlines
Be Aware of Deadlines! This is probably the most important tip we can give you. Do not wait until the last minute to submit your application. Submitting application early is always better.
Follow Directions When Applying
It may seem like a given, but you need to make sure you follow specific instructions when completing an application. Make sure you read all of the directions in the application and what is required.
Don’t Procrastinate on Letters of Recommendation & Essays
Check online to see if the colleges you are applying to require letters of recommendation and essays.
It is important to visit as many colleges as you can, as a visit can make or break your decision to go to a college. Visiting will give you a feel for the campus, which is a very important aspect for many applicants. If you can’t visit in person, an online virtual tour is the next best thing. Also, make sure to attend CCC college visits for all the schools that interest you.
Meet With Your Counselor
Your counselor is here for a reason, to help you! Your counselor is not going to seek you out to help you with your college search and application. If you have any questions regarding your post-high school plans, go set up a meeting with your counselor in your floor office. Your counselor is the best resource to help you on your college journey.
Compare and Contrast Choices
Write down in a journal what you liked and disliked about the colleges you have visited so when it comes time to make the big decision, you remember certain aspects of the college. Record things like what you liked about the campus, how many students go there, how much financial aid is available and what the overall tuition cost is to attend the college. It’s a lot easier to have all of this information in one place, rather than having to search and try to find it later.
Familiarize Yourself With Resources
WHS has many different resources to help you find what college is right for you. Scoir is a resource that has information on every college such as the average GPA, ACT scores, tuition cost, number of students and information about financial aid. The Minnesota Career Information System (MCIS) is a tool that will help you find information on careers that are an interest to you and they also have some ACT practice tests as well. There are many resources to help you choose a college, you just have to go out and use them.
Form Your Own Opinions
Deciding on which college to attend is a decision that you need to make for yourself. The best college for your friend is not necessarily the best college for you, so don’t base your decision on where they are going. Don’t let others affect your college decision too much, as you need to figure out the right place for you. You’re the one who needs to be happy with your college choice, not your friends!
Give Yourself Options
When applying to colleges, you probably want to apply to at least 3 colleges. If you only apply to 1 college you aren’t giving yourself enough options, which could come back to hurt you. On the other hand, you don’t want to apply to too many colleges, as the application fees can really add up. Most importantly, apply to as many colleges as you feel you need to. When it comes time to decide which to attend, having more options will benefit you a lot.
Discuss Financial Aid
One of the biggest factors in deciding which college to attend is the cost. Discuss the options for financial aid with your parents and with your counselor. Look up scholarships and loans, don’t miss the FAFSA deadline and look for some on-campus work options they would have for you when you get down to the university. Don’t let the cost of the college push you away from where you want to go. There are many financial aid options for everyone out there to help you get where you want to go!
What Colleges Want to See
Can you write? Colleges look to see if your writing ability meets the academic standards of the college. Are you able to take a thought and develop it into a well-organized and clear essay?
Who are you? The essay is your chance to express yourself and who you are to the admissions officers. They are looking to get a sense of your values, passions and beliefs and want to hear about those through your own voice. Above all, they are trying to learn how you are going to impact their community. Will you make their school a better place by attending?
Selecting a Topic
Some colleges may give you freedom in what you choose to write about while others may provide a specific question or prompt for you to answer. If you are required to address one of the college's assigned questions:
- Know there is no single "right" topic.
- Do your research—go to the library, use the internet, ask others what they know about the topic.
- Organize your thoughts and opinions before you start.
- Draft an outline of points you want to cover and list some supporting ideas.
- Have an idea of what your conclusion will be.
- Be sure you answer the question.
- Now that you have selected a topic, start writing! The first draft is not meant to be perfect, so just write everything that comes to mind down on the page. It might be helpful to set a timer for twenty minutes and not stop writing until it goes off.
- Finished writing? Now don't look at it again until tomorrow.
- Next, re-read through your essay. Do you still feel good about the topic? Is the essay about you? Is it truly your voice? The essay should address the "who, what, why and how" of you.
- Review your essay. How is the structure? Does the first sentence or paragraph grab the reader?
- Get some constructive input from teachers, parents or peers. However, be sure the essay still sounds like you after any revisions.
Essay Writing Tips
- View the essay as an opportunity to tell the admissions committee about who you are as a person.
- Don't repeat information that you included in previous sections of your application.
- Ask yourself: What should the school know about me?
- Be yourself. If you are funny, write a funny essay; if you are serious, write a serious essay.
- Be original, don't write about what everyone else is writing about.
- Grab your reader in the first paragraph.
- Use vivid examples, descriptions and quotations; they bring your essay to life.
- Don't try to take on too much. Focus on one "most influential person," one event, or one activity. Tackling too much tends to make your essay too watered down or disjointed.
- Don't be afraid to reveal yourself in your writing. Colleges want to know who you are and how you think.
- If the essay assignment requires, take a stand on an issue; don't waffle.
- Write thoughtfully and from your heart. It is clear which students believe in what they are saying versus those who are simply saying what they think a college wants to hear.
- Essays should have a thesis that is clear to you and to the reader.
- Limit the number of people from whom you request feedback on your essay. Too much input creates an essay that sounds as though it has been written by a committee or results in writing that is absent your own voice.
- Ask yourself: Did I answer the question asked of me? Is this essay enjoyable to read? Did I conform to length guidelines?
- If the essay requires you to take a stand on an issue, don't waffle. Admissions officers are looking for a thoughtful argument and organization.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread. Nothing says "last-minute essay" like an "are" instead of "our" or a "their" instead of "they're."