Admission Application Tips
The process of applying to schools is relatively
complex--multiply it by 6 or 7 different schools, and
the amount of paperwork and complexity gets overwhelming!
Get the details on how the process works, and some tips on
completing your application to help you in organizing your application effort.
APPLICATION DUE DATES -- do you know your deadlines?
COLLEGE ADMISSIONS OFFICERS -- who are those guys?
ADMISSIONS CRITERIA -- all the pieces matter!
GETTING YOUR APPLICATIONS -- just ask!
TIPS ON FILLING OUT YOUR APPLICATIONS -- sweat the details!
APPLICATION DUE DATES
You will typically encounter three kinds of due dates for admissions
Priority dates. This term refers to the PREFERRED
DATE the school would like to get your application. In essence, meeting this
deadline means you are getting the application AHEAD of schedule,
instead of waiting for the final due date. Colleges will evaluate
the applications submitted by the priority date first and therefore,
you are likely to hear more quickly about your admissions status.
Check the availability of early
Final due dates. If you see this term used in application
materials you should know it refers to the DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTING
YOUR APPLICATION. When confronting a final due date you need
to have your materials in the mail and postmarked before midnight.
Colleges will not feel any obligation to consider your application
if you do not meet this deadline!. However, some schools may
consider your application in some cases. If you really want
to attend that particular college, you should write a letter (or place a phone call) explaining
why you were late in filing your application and send everything
Rolling admissions dates. When colleges use this term
in their application materials it indicates there is no "final
due date" or "deadline". Colleges using this method will
consider applications as they come in until the freshmen class is full. This
kind of admissions procedure gives you more leeway in terms of completing and
sending your applications. BE AWARE OF THE FACT that the longer you wait to send
in your application, the more likely it is that the college may have filled the
freshmen class. It IS NOT advisable for you to procrastinate for too long.
COLLEGE ADMISSIONS OFFICERS
Who are the mysterious admissions officials at each
college? What are they expecting from you? Here are a just few clues
concerning these questions.
Who are the folks who read my essays and thumb through my application?
Admissions Officers are usually divided into two groups. The first
is made up of temporary officers who do most of the grunt work.
They are trained to evaluate application materials based on ranking
systems that vary from college to college. They are the ones who
deal with the job of reading and ranking the admissions folders
under quite a bit of pressure as they approach deadlines for completing
this evaluation process. Many colleges also hire outside evaluators,
from graduate students to professors. The other group is comprised
of the full time Admissions Officers who
decide on actual admissions policies and rules.
Almost all folders are read by the temporary officers and the
more junior full time officers. Each evaluator is expected to read
a quota of folders and evaluate a variety of criteria.
They will write comments and observations directly in
the folders to remind them of strengths and weaknesses. They will
generally sort their folders into stacks divided into the following
Who ultimately decides my fate?
An Admissions Committee will meet to listen to the recommendations
of the Admissions Officers. These committees are usually made
up of ; the Director of Admissions, the presenters (the officers
who read the files) and frequently, professors, and other college
administrators.. The ultimate decision as to whether or not you
get in is usually already made before the Committee meets. The
recommendations of the officers are rarely overturned and the
Director of Admissions will rarely read any applications at all.
He/she simply wants to hear what the officers have to say, and if
there are any questions, the Admissions Director may quickly skim an application. One
thing the Director might do in borderline cases? Quickly skim and
evaluate the essay.
What ARE they looking for in my application?
What specific criteria do they use to decide who gets in and who
The key criteria are pretty standard, but some elements of your application carry more weight than others.
Each school's admission program has its own ranking of criteria.
Your test scores
Your extracurricular activities
Your transcript-- Most schools still rank the transcripts as the
most important element of your application. Officers will evaluate
the strength of the courses you took. Advanced Placement and Honors
courses are obviously given more weight while classes like "The
History of Disco" will automatically set off the "Micky Mouse" course
warning. The other obvious factor under consideration involves the grades you
received in these courses. If you have a high GPA in honors or AP courses, this
will be more impressive than a high GPA taking general or basic courses.
However, admissions officers do not just look to see if you have high grades.
They are sympathetic to the fact that a rigorous course load of honors classes
in difficult courses can result in (gasp!) a grade of "B" or even the dreaded
"C" from time to time. Just because you have trouble with a difficult course
does not mean you have blown your chances.
Your SAT I, II and ACT scores- Most Admissions
Officers DO NOT assign as much importance to SAT I and II and
ACT scores as the students and parents do. Questions have been
raised over the last few years about how reliable the SAT I and
II scores are in reflecting student aptitude and chances of success
in college, especially given the
huge increase in SAT I and II preparation courses that may have
diluted the relevance of the scores. Many admissions officers
treat these scores as just a way to evaluate your achievement
on this kind of test while taking your background into consideration.
A student who comes from an upper middle class home with two college
educated parents could reasonably be expected to achieve above average
in the verbal section of the SAT I. However, a student from a
small rural town with a single parent and a poor school
system could get a 580 in the verbal section, which could be
considered a favorable score based on his/her background. The SAT I and II are
still important factors, but many schools are looking past raw test scores and
focusing more on the essays and other portions of the application to really see
what a student may be capable of.
Your interview-- Many schools are simply using the interview as
a recruiting tool these days. Most interviewers are expected to make
you feel comfortable and to provide a good impression about their school.
Meaningful interviews take too much time and it is hard for schools
to get a really solid read about you in only half an hour. Many
schools are toying with the idea of getting rid of the interview
Your extracurricular activities-- Outside activities are very
important indicators of your interests and levels of commitment.
Admissions Officers generally are most impressed by students who
pick only a few extracurricular activities and then participate
fully in them. Your best chance of standing out is
to be fully and actively involved in a select few campus clubs,
teams, music groups, etc. It is also to your advantage to show
evidence of a leadership role in these organizations. Remember
that Admission Officers have seen it all and if you
try to impress them by participating in 20 different organizations
on a superficial level, they will see through your smokescreen!
If you have waited until the fall of your senior year to
participate in activities, you may encounter some problems
when your file comes up for consideration.
Teacher recommendations--Recommendations from your teachers and
administrators still carry a great deal of weight with Admissions
Officers. This is another way for schools to find out about the
"real you". If teachers write good letters of recommendation
they will, hopefully, communicate to the college examples of your
character, dedication, humor, wit and other positive attributes.
A well written letter is another opportunity
for a college to get a sense of your uniqueness. SO, be careful
about who you have write your letters. Pick instructors you trust and respect
and who feel the same way about you.
Your essay--By the time Admissions Officers get to your essay,
they already have a general idea of who you are. They know
about your activities, your grades, your family and a variety
of other things. They have clues about your character and values
based on letters of recommendation, and the "real you"
is beginning to come into focus. NOW, you get to sharpen that
image. A well written essay, with a unique, genuine quality, will
help solidify and expand on the image the admissions officer
is developing. Apply4Admissions.com can guide you in writing a compelling
GETTING YOUR APPLICATIONS
Many colleges have now agreed to accept a Common
Application, and will mention it in their college admissions materials.
If more than one college you are applying to accepts the Common Application
form, you can save time and effort-but there is a catch. Some colleges will
also request that you fill out a "supplementary"
application, which can be much more detailed and may
actually contain their most important requirements--short
answer responses and essays. You are responsible to be
sure all REQUIRED application forms are completed and sent back
in. Do not assume that because a Common Application is accepted that it is the
only one the college expects you to submit.
How do I get the applications I need? Just ask!
- Ask your counselor
Some state applications can be obtained at your counseling or
career services office. In California, for example, most counselors
can provide you with application materials for the University
of California, California State University or Community Colleges.
- Ask the college Admissions Offices
For many schools you will need to write a letter requesting application materials.
Your counseling office may have form letters you can
send to Admissions Offices. You can also simply call the schools
in question and request an application be sent to you.
- Ask for electronic applications!
Some schools can send you computer diskettes with the application
forms on them! Make sure to ask about this option when requesting
TIPS ON FILLING OUT THE APPLICATIONS
Neatness and accuracy count.
Admissions officers WILL notice basic errors such as misspellings, poor grammar
and illegibility. If your application is messy and looks rushed with many
errors, many admissions officers might simply stop reading it.
Don't use abbreviations for terms or programs that only you understand.
Write out these terms so you are sure whoever reads the
application fully understands what you are referring to.
Don't leave blanks in the
application form. Use the commonly accepted
N/A to indicate that the information requested is either "not applicable"
or is "not available". By doing this, you are indicating that you read the
material and are aware of it, but that it does not apply to you. This way,
evaluators will know that you did not just skip it due to carelessness.
Do not be afraid to attach another page
if you don't have enough room to complete some portions of the
application. Be sure to indicate on the main
form that the evaluator should "see attached page".
(Double check the application, because, at times, the college
will expect you to ONLY use the space allotted for some information)
Have someone (parents?) proofread and double check your application
Use a typewriter or print very neatly to fill in applications.