College Applications and Deadlines

Kimberly M.

As the first semester of senior year draws to an end, we, as seniors, are faced with one of the biggest decisions we will ever have to make: deciding which colleges to apply to. For the past three years, we have been prepped for this day. Parents, teachers, and counselors have pressured us to excel in academics, to do well in sports, to take part in extracurricular activities, and to be active members of our churches and communities not senior column 2only for our personal enjoyment but also for the possibility of shining on our college applications. We are now at the age where we need to take personal responsibility. It is senior year, and our college days are just around the corner. Hopefully, most have already begun the college application process, but for those who have not yet started, there is no need to panic. There is still time for those who can move quickly.

A part of the application process often includes obtaining a recommendation from a teacher, a counselor, or maybe even both. In order to get the best out of a recommendation, maintain good relationships with everyone. Likewise, recommendations are important because they can cost a student college acceptance or a scholarship if they are negative. Colleges want to get a sense of who their applicants are, and the best way to do that is to hear from the teachers who have gotten to know the students personally throughout the years. To ace this part of the application process, keep up positive relationships with teachers, coaches, counselors, and volunteer directors, especially the ones who have been present throughout upperclassmen years. Also, students should pick out those who know them best, and ask them for a letter of recommendation. Be sure to give the recommendation writer sufficient time and to thank them when they have finished.

While good teacher/student relationships are important, grades and test scores play a significant part in the application process as well. Obviously, testing is a major aspect in deciding college eligibility, as almost all colleges will require either the ACT or the SAT. Some colleges require that students take a specific test; however, if they do not, a student should take the exam that he/she is best suited for. The ACT has science, and the SAT does not, so take that into consideration. For those who choose the ACT, be prepared to take it between the months ofsenior column 4 September and June. It is offered six times a year, and each registration deadline is about a month before the test. The dates are similar for the SAT, which is offered once a month between October and June, and registration is also required at least a month in advance. Scores can be submitted to several schools for free when tests are taken.

While test scores are important, often times they are not as important as the essays required on many applications. Colleges will not know students are interested if the students do not take the first step. The submission of application materials is the most important part of the college application process. Students should pay close attention to grammar and spelling as they complete the required forms because the consequences could cost them their admission. When writing the application essay, be personable, and allow it to be edited many times to ensure that it is the best work possible. Being a brownnoser is not a negative action here; the essay should include reasons for picking the school, and some personal achievements will only benefit the applicant. Deadlines for early action usually range from mid-October to November. Regular deadlines for college applications are typically between January and February. Applying early is crucial because it shows pure interest in the school. Applying near the deadline dates is risky because admissions offices become very hectic during that time, and there is a possibility of materials being lost or misplaced. GACollege411 has a free college search, where tons of schools and scholarship opportunities will be available. application formSometimes colleges may reward an applicant with a scholarship just because they realize the potential. Senior Brittani Long can attest, “Stetson offered me a chance to get a full ride scholarship; hopefully, I do well.” To start off, choose ten to twenty schools to begin with, and then narrow down throughout the months.

Scholarships are exceptional accomplishments, but for those who do not meet many of the scholarship requirements for specific institutions, take advantage of governmental options. The deadline for completing the FASFA varies depending on the state of the college; each specific college, however, sets its own deadline. No matter what, try to submit the FASFA form as close to January 1st as possible. Applicants will need to have a copy of their parents’ tax returns and, if applicable, their own tax returns. It is easiest to submit the FAFSA form online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov, but there are paper options available as well. Sites that ask applicants to submit a fee should be avoided at all costs.
Colleges usually release decisions by May. Once applicants have received the results, they should consider their options. Also think about financial need, the location, the reputation of each college; students should let the colleges know their decision as soon as possible. Then, they can release a big sigh of relief. Admittedly, the application process can get a little tedious, but finishing feels tremendous. Just sit back and relax. This is in the bag.

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