With the college application process ending for the current seniors and quickly approaching for underclassmen, lots of questions may arise. Here are a few key elements to take into consideration when applying to colleges and universities.
Determine what you want in a college (majors, clubs, sports, size, location, environment, etc.)
A large part of determining what school will be the best place for you to further your education, and possibly your athletic career is finding out what specific criteria you want to be met by the school. Are you a small school or big school person? There isn’t a right or wrong answer, but don’t be afraid to explore a few schools which vary from your desire, sometimes you may think you know what you want/need but could be surprised.
It is important to decide a major or potential career path you would like to take and find schools that have programs catered toward those goals. Colleges are located all over the country and even in other countries, so it is important to decide if you want to stay close to home, go far away, live in the city or a college town.
If you’re an athlete who intends to play collegiate level sports you need to evaluate the sports programs and see if it is what you want.
Finally, check out the demographics and diversity of the school environment, look for how many cases of sexual assault they have, be informed about what happens on campus and in the campus environment.
Take visits to campuses and meet with admissions reps in the CCC
While seeing pictures of campuses and taking virtual tours online is beneficial to the college hunt, nothing is a better predictor for how much you’ll like the school than a trip to the school. A major benefit to traveling to the campus is getting to see daily life at the school. Try and sit in on some classes, visit a dorm, eat in the lunch hall, and talk to current students. Imagine yourself as a student at this school and think about how you would fit in. If you are unable to travel to schools due to the cost or distance go visit the College and Career Center (CCC) in the Guidance Office. In the CCC, admissions representatives from a multitude of colleges come to Manual on an almost daily basis. Along with this, the CCC has file folders stock full of information on both in-state and out-of-state schools. Finally, the CCC provides Manual students with a list of scholarship opportunities. If you notice a school you are interested in does not have any visits set up with the CCC you can talk to your counselor(s) to see if they can help get you in contact with the admissions officer.
Talk to teachers about recommendations
All teachers and counselors at Manual are swamped with college recommendations for the entire senior class. Make sure you fill out your red folder and turn it into your potential recommender with plenty of time. Make sure you have a face-to-face conversation with your recommender and not only explain what you hope they put in your letter, but that you also thank them for taking time out of their busy lives to write you a recommendation. It might also be favorable to find recommenders outside of the school. These outside recommenders could be coaches, church members, family friends, or leaders of extracurriculars you may be involved in.
Look for scholarships you could qualify for
There are lots of different types of scholarships for college. They range from academic to merit to athletic to diversity to need based. It is important to know what type of scholarships schools offer and more importantly what it takes to qualify and to apply. A majority of merit based scholarships are determined on GPA, standardized test scores, and your completed application. For some colleges your application is used to determine acceptance to the Honors College, this usually comes with more scholarship money. Academic and diversity scholarships usually have more specific guidelines. There will be a variety for all colleges ranging from small renewable amounts to full tuition or even full ride. Most of these require supplemental essays and look for a particular skill such as community engagement, leadership or diversity. For athletic scholarships, don’t be afraid to talk to a coach first. Familiarize yourself with the NCAA rules on how and when you can communicate with coaches, send them film and build a relationship to display your interest. If a coach reaches out first feel free to ask questions and investigate the program. Try to get invited on visits and talk money with the coaches.
Prepare for standardized tests
While the ACT and SAT don’t define who you are, they still hold some value for colleges. As mentioned in the previous point, these test scores can help gain scholarship money or even consideration for Honors Colleges. It is important to study for these tests. You can self study with materials found at school in the CCC or buy study books from Barnes and Noble or Half Price Books.
Research what you need to do for the college to apply
Applying for each college is a slightly different process. Some colleges use the Common Application while others use the Coalition and even yet some use their own private applications. Be sure you know which application system you will be using. Make sure to know what GPA, test scores and extracurricular involvement is looked for. Do your best to be the ideal candidate for the school.
Make your Common Application/Coalition Application
Once you have formed a list of schools you need to determine which application you will be using to actually apply. Both the common and coalition application offer a multitude of schools and are very similar processes but different formats. Be sure to file your FAFSA and best of luck.