How to Apply to College: BEST Guide for US Undergraduates

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Before May 1 most students make the final college choice and pay an enrollment deposit. However, there is a number of steps to complete before the final decision is made. Creating a to-do list is highly recommended not to miss important application stages. The Typical Student team has put together a detailed guide to help students ace the college application process. Tune in!

College Application Deadlines: Being on Schedule

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There’s a series of deadlines that high school seniors can choose from when applying to colleges.

  • November is for the early decision (ED) deadlines. Students submitting their applications via ED are likely to get feedback from college faster than other students who chose to apply later. The admissions decisions typically arrive in December.

Please mind: the ED acceptance is binding, which means an accepted student will have to enroll in the institution.

  • January is for the second early decision deadline, ED II, which is also binding. The ED II admissions decisions typically arrive in February.
  • November/December is also an early action deadline, being another type of application deadline. Unlike early decisions, early applications are NOT binding.
  • Starting January 1, students can apply by a school's regular decision deadline. In this case, the feedback typically arrives in mid-to-late March/early April.
  • Rolling admissions is a type of admissions policy when schools evaluate applications as they receive them, then release admissions decisions on a regular basis. Basically, educational institutions continue accepting the applications until all spots in the class are filled.

College Application: The Key Components

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Now, let’s break down the key components of a college application.

  1. College essay is a part of the application process, typically required by most colleges. An essay is a written statement, sometimes referred to as a personal statement. The word count for a college essay can be up to 600-700 words. When writing an essay, students are recommended to tell a story about themselves, rather than writing a massive text to impress admission authority. If you have no clue on how to write a college essay, try using application apps like Common App, Coalition Application, Universal College Application, etc.
  2. Personal information: college applications contain basic information about the student, their family and prior education.
  3. High school transcript: an official record of the courses taken and the grades earned by the student. Typically, the admissions office demands the transcript to be sent directly from the school.  For this, students have to submit a transcript request to their school's counseling office.
  4. SAT scores: some schools may require submitting SAT subject test/ACT scores. As a rule, students are allowed 4 score reports free of charge at the moment of exam registration. Each consecutive report will cost $12. Similarly, students taking the ACT can get 4 score reports for free within 5 days after the test. Each consecutive report will cost $13.
  5. Letters of recommendation: Colleges may require submitting 2-3 letters of recommendation from teachers or counselors. Experts say, providing recommenders with a copy of the resume is highly recommended.

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