College Application Process
Establish a relationship with your guidance counselor
Contact your counselor and set up an appointment as soon as possible, and plan to meet with him or her several times.
Career planning and exploration
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a great website called the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Use it to explore careers based on several criteria such as pay, education requirements, job availability, and necessary experience.
Choosing a college major or area of study
Based on your review of potential careers, look at what major or majors you should pursue in college. Use MyMajors to examine what you will study and which classes you will take.
Finding potential colleges
Once you have a general idea regarding future career options and potential college majors, work on finding colleges that offer pathways to your goals. Use CollegeBoard Big Future to filter college choices by several factors such as the location, size of the school, and housing options. Another good search engine is College Raptor, which allows you to link your college search with a Net Price Calculator.
College visits and interviews
Once you have narrowed your list of potential colleges to a manageable number (typically 5-8 schools) you should plan to visit them. When you visit the colleges on your list you should take formal tours, and whenever possible, participate in an interview. US News & World Report has some good suggestions for what to look for when you visit a college, and FastWeb can give you some helpful tips for conducting your college interview.
One of the most important factors in choosing a college is the cost of attendance. Not only must you find a college that offers what you need, but you must also determine if it will be affordable. To do this, you should plan to use the net price calculator available on every college website (see Bowdoin College’s example). You can also visit FAME for more tips and suggestions for financing your college education.
College application methods
The majority of the schools that you may be considering will use the Common Application. Quite frankly, this is the best method for applying to college, because it gives you the power to monitor every aspect of your application. You can see when letters and transcripts are uploaded and you can see when colleges download your application. Some other schools use their own institutional application or another electronic filing system such as SendEdu.
Helpful Hints for Writing Your Essay
Letters of Recommendation
One of the most important parts of your college application is the Letter of Recommendation. Some colleges will require only one, while others may ask for several.
Get recommenders who you know the best and can write a good story about you.
Schedule a time to talk with your recommender to let them know what you would like them to include in the letter.
Prepare a resume that you can share with recommenders and to use when filling out your applications.