“Please Sir, Can I Have a Degree?” Everything You Need to Know About How and When to Apply for College


The college application process can seem daunting if you’re just getting started. It’s important to get your bearings so you know everything involved.

The two most important questions students have about the application process is when to apply for college and how to apply. The college application process actually starts before you start sending in your information.

When to Apply for College

Before you ever start sending in your applications, you need to create a plan to track your progress. This plan usually starts somewhere in your junior year of high school.

To start, you need to decide which schools you’re interested in. Your early list can have many colleges, but you want to pare this down to no more than eight schools by the time you start applying.

You should also start collecting all the information you need for the college application process. Keep a list of:

  • Academic accomplishments
  • Extracurricular accomplishments
  • Programs you’ve been involved in
  • Jobs through your high school career
  • Interests and useful information about yourself to help with the essay process
  • Test scores

Creating a portfolio will help you keep everything together so you have easy access to it for the application process.

Application Deadlines

The deadlines for your official applications will depend on how you want to apply. There are options for early applications or regular deadlines.

Early Deadlines

One early deadline is the early decision deadline. The early decision deadline is for those who have a specific school in mind they want to attend.

These applications are usually sent in early November with an answer in early December. If you’re accepted with an early decision application, you must enroll in that school. This is not a good option if you need to apply for financial aid since you can’t compare financial options between schools.

Another early deadline is the early action application. These are also sent in early November, but acceptance is not binding with this type of application.

Early action deadlines allow you to show your interest in the school while still leaving your options open. This is a good option for someone who already has a stellar resume from their high school career.

Regular Deadlines

Most regular decision deadlines start January 1. This allows you an answer somewhere between March and April so you have time to make a final decision.

Some schools also offer a rolling deadline. They still have application deadlines, but they will continue to accept students until they have all spaces filled. While this gives you a chance, it’s still best to get your applications in as soon as possible.

Considerations for Choosing a Deadline Option

If you require financial aid to attend, it’s best to choose an option other than the early decision deadline. You want the opportunity to compare your financial aid options between schools.

You may also want to consider regular deadlines in these situations. This gives you time to fill in your FAFSA so you have an idea of how much money you can receive.

You can also apply for scholarships to help with the financial burden. Each scholarship has different deadlines, so keep this in mind when considering your options for applications.

Once you apply, you generally have until May 1 to choose the school and pay your enrollment deposit. This is only for non-binding options though.

How to Apply for College

Once you decide when to apply for college, it’s time to determine how you’ll apply. This includes determining how to send the application and what information you need to send.

How to Submit Your Application

The easiest way to submit your college application is through an online submission. Sometimes you can do this directly from the school’s website.

An easier way to submit is through a general application program such as the Common App. Common App is a good choice because more than 800 schools accept this application form. There are other options to choose from though, so research each option to see which is preferred by the schools you choose.

Choosing a platform like this allows you to complete an application once for every school on your list. You may have to submit some supplemental essays, but the bulk of the information is there already.

Writing Your Personal Essay

The personal essay is often the scariest portion of the application process. This essay requires somewhere around 700 words on an open-ended topic. The point is for you to tell the school more about who you are.

Make sure you provide a glimpse of who you are as a person. They’re looking for something that tells them how you will fit in with their school atmosphere. This means making it about more than your academic accomplishments.

Sharing Your Accomplishments

There is a place on the application form to share your accomplishments. These include academic and non-academic accomplishments. This is a place to show your abilities.

You want to include any awards you’ve received and any programs you’ve participated in. Honor Societies are good options to include in this section. You should also include:

  • Sports or clubs
  • Specific achievement awards
  • Recognition outside of school

Everything that shows how you’ve excelled works in this section.

Transcript and Test Scores

Colleges usually want your transcript sent directly from your high school. You can request this from a school counselor. This will show the college your grades to help them make a decision.

For schools that require standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT, the results are sent directly from the testing companies. You’ll provide the information for the schools when you take the test.

Letters of Recommendation

Most colleges will also ask for two to three letters of recommendation from people who know you. They look for letters from teachers or counselors that are close to you.

You should pick people who have a good grasp of who you are as a student. They should also have a good idea of your accomplishments and abilities. This includes academic and non-academic accomplishments.

Help With the College Application Process

If you’re a member of an honor society, they can provide you with plenty of guidance to help with when to apply for college, and how to do so. Most societies have tools and resources available to their members.

Do you think you qualify for an honor society? If you’d like more information, contact us to see if you can join.

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