What is the College Application Process?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 June 2019
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The college application process may vary depending upon the college to which a person applies. Some colleges require extensive application paperwork, including at least one personal essay. Virtually all institutes of higher learning will need some information from students including things like high school transcripts and SAT scores, though the latter is not necessarily required for admittance to community colleges and junior colleges. The college application process may also combine the process for applying for financial aid, though students should check to see if they need to complete different or separate forms to request aid; for these requests, students may need to have either personal financial information about earnings in the past, or the financial information of their parents if they live with parents.


Most four year colleges will ask students to fill out several forms during the college application process that give all information about previous grades, place of residence, intended major, and in the US, social security number. One or two personal essays may be required and they have different focuses depending on the college. These essays should take time, especially for competitive schools, since a well-written essay may make an impression that can either confirm the good grades and SAT scores of students or slightly make up for grades that aren’t stellar or an SAT performance that wasn’t fantastic. Work with an English teacher or a family member or friend with excellent writing skills can help refine these essays, and be certain to look at sample college admission essays online for guidance too.

One of the most important aspects of the college application process is submitting applications on time. This is vital, and a late application at a competitive school may put a student out of the running for admission. It can be complicated when students apply to several schools at the same time and it’s advisable to keep records of what each school requires in separate folder. Using a checklist of all needed items can help make sure students send in complete applications. Often, the college application process begins in early to late fall, the year before someone plans to attend college, with applications due as many as nine to ten months prior to attendance, while others may have different deadlines if enrollment first occurs in spring.

Parents or students should also be prepared to write some checks during the college application process. Many schools charge an application fee, though people in difficult financial circumstances may be able to apply for a waiver of this fee. Without waivers, which only a few people will get, it can start to get expensive applying to multiple colleges, in addition to being a time-consuming process. To minimize time and money spent on the college application process, many students refine their choices to three or four colleges that will likely result in at least one acceptance.



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