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Understanding the college application process

First generation students have a difficult time understanding the college application process.

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If you feel intimidated by the college process, don’t worry, you are not alone. Many students find themselves overwhelmed with the college application process, especially a first generation college student, who lacks guidance from parents, siblings, or anyone within their circle of acquaintances. 

What does the college application process include:

  1. Application form
    • The application form may be online or on paper
    • There is a fee for this application, but in some cases it can be waived. Find out with your institutions on how you can get that fee waived. 
  2. High school transcript 
    • Colleges and universities require a high school transcript along with any extra curricular activities you participated in. For example, school clubs, or teams, awards you received, volunteer work, etc.
  3. Entrance exam
  4. Personal Statement or Essay
    • Each college or university requires a personal statement. Check the college’s requirements and personal statement questions to maximize your potential to be  accepted.
  5. Letter of Recommendation 
  6. SAT or ACT scores (which in most institutions are optional)

The amount of steps students need to follow can be extremely daunting, but experts advice students to create a to-do list during their junior and senior year. However, freshman year students should start considering the universities, colleges, or programs of interests and what are those institutions looking for during the application process. 

Application Deadlines

High school seniors have multiple deadlines to choose from when applying to colleges. Early decision deadlines are usually in November, and hear back from other applicants who submit their application later. Students who apply for Early Decision admission would most likely hear back by December, but do check with your institution's particular deadline guidelines.

However, students need to understand that early decision acceptances are binding, meaning applicants who are accepted must enroll in the program. Also, some colleges have a second early admission deadline that is binding as well. 

On the other hand, if students apply to early action, similar to early decision applicants, students will hear back from school sooner, but it is not binding. 

Students have the option to choose from the several application processes including the school’s regular decision deadline. 

If a student is undecided of whether to attend college and misses the deadline, that student might benefit from a rolling admissions application. Under rolling admissions the college the participant applies to evaluates applications as they receive them and release admissions decisions on an ongoing basis. 

Advice

Visit the college prior to applying and see whether the environment is right for you. Check the programs, clubs, and organization on campus. Find your people. Find that place that might interest you outside of your regular schooling. If unable to attend an in-person tour, consider a virtual tour of the campus and make personal connections with other students, admission staff, professors, coaches, etc. 

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