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Applying for College

October 22, 2018

The college application process can be terrifying. Between the common application, filling out your FAFSA, writing your college admission essay, and scholarship applications, it can be daunting at best. Here to help simplify the process a bit is a step-by-step guide on how to tackle the beast that is the college application.

The first, and possibly most vital, step in applying for college is filling out The Common Application online. First, you must set up a profile on The Common Application site, then you simply follow the prompts. After you finish the general information, the idea is that the college application process will be much smoother because you will be able to submit this application to several colleges. It started forty years ago with only fifteen colleges, but it now has over eight hundred colleges connected with the site.

Some college applications will also require that you write a personal essay. According to The Princeton Review, personal essays are used to set you apart from the other applicants who have similar scores as you. They suggest that you write about what is important to you. If you write about an event, reflect on how it impacted you as a person. Also, be careful with humor because the admissions officers may not find the same things funny as you do. They also suggests that you write multiple drafts of your essay, waiting a few days in between reading each one to distance yourself from your writing. They also warn against unnecessary repetition and advice that you make sure you answer the question asked. Finally, have someone else look at your essay.

A letter of recommendation from a teacher or other major adult figure in your life (aside from family) is sometimes required as well. It’s best to ask for this early, seeing as teachers can quickly become overwhelmed with requests from students for this very thing.

Your FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is strongly suggested for most students. On the Sallie Mae site, they suggest you fill it out, even if you think you will not be eligible for anything. You start by creating an FSA ID. This will help you to fill out your application once it’s available. The FAFSA will be available for application on October 1st, 2018 and they advise that you fill it out as soon as possible because financial aid is given at a “first-come, first-serve basis”. You also need to fill out the FAFSA every year after receiving some financial aid in order to keep it the following year.

In order to fill out the FAFSA, you will need your driver’s license and social security number as well as your parents’ social security numbers and birthdates. You will also need your family’s latest federal income tax returns, W-2 forms, bank statements, and information on investments. This information is used to find your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) which will factor into your COA (Cost of Attendance). This usually encompanses tuition, books, supplies, transportation, room and board. Afterwards, you will receive a SAR (Student Aid Report) which is just a copy of your responses. The financial aid in itself will be awarded on a school basis after application to said school.

The last step in the college application process is scholarship applications. One of the simplest ways to find said scholarships is by using a scholarship search engine. According to USA Today, the best four search engines for this are Chegg, College Board, Niche, and CollegeNET. Once you have made your account, it will suggest scholarships that you are applicable for. Follow the steps that are required for the scholarship, and if there is an essay, follow the same steps you did for your college essay.

There are many resources available in the SSC (Senior Success Center) for scholarship application, college applications, and much more, according to Carl Wagner. “In many ways, the SSC is an extension of the typical guidance office.  Mrs. Lund and the other counselors keep us provided with all the latest information about financial aid, admissions tests, college events, etc… It’s no more, really, than what a ‘regular’ school counselor would want to do, but because I don’t have scheduling responsibilities, for example, or many of the other numerous responsibilities that they have, I’m able to hold presentations, host the college admissions reps, take kids on college field trips, and so forth,” said Wagner about the SSC.

Wagner also mentions how the resources available in the SSC have possibly contributed to the overall success of last year’s graduates. In Wagner’s words, “Dr. Sears has made it a point to compliment last year’s seniors for largely doing a better job than previous classes in being able to answer the question he asks each individual that crosses the stage at commencement:  ‘What are your plans for after graduation?’ He said he had far fewer students than in the past respond with the dreaded ‘I don’t know’.”

Finally, to underclassmen looking to prepare for college, Wagner said, “it’s never too soon to start taking college visits or to look at colleges online, so I strongly recommend both those things be done early and often. Far more important, however, is the getting ready for the college search process, figuring out what college you want to go to by first figuring out who you are and what you’re about. The most important part of that is doing the absolute best you can do with the courses you’re taking — all of them — and make sure you’re challenged by them. If you don’t do things to get out of your comfort zone in high school, you’re going to have a tough time making the adjustment to any kind of college.”

While the application process can be horrific to think about, in actuality, the application is far easier than it may seem at first glance. This can especially be true when it is broken down into step-by-step instructions. From the common application, filing your FAFSA, writing your college admission essay, and scholarship applications, it is far more simple than it may seem to apply for college.

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2 Responses to “Applying for College”

  1. Makayla Capilla on October 24th, 2018 11:35 am

    I know that we are in the same class together, but this is so helpful!! I really don’t know what to do when it comes to college and my life in general, but this made me feel a little bit better. Thank you so much! It was very insightful and helpful

  2. Sasha Brown on November 15th, 2018 10:28 am

    This article was very helpful, and well written!

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