It takes hard work and preparation to ensure your college application stands out. However, you can make it rise to the top of the pile by becoming familiar with the application process and getting organized. Many moving parts go into applying to college, like standardized tests, essays, recommendation letters, and transcripts. Keep reading as we provide an overview of the college application process and where to start.   

How Many Schools to Apply To? 

While there are many schools out there, applying to too many is a common mistake. MyFuture suggests submitting your application to between 5 and 8 colleges. Of that list, you should include a variety of dream schools, safety schools, and possible schools: 

  • Dream schools are colleges you know will be a challenge to get into. 
  • Safety schools are colleges you know are very likely to accept you. 
  • Possible schools are the colleges you have a good chance of getting into. 

Applying to colleges in each of these categories will help increase your college acceptance rate into at least one, or more ideally several, giving you the option to pick which best suits your wants and needs.   

Early Decision and Early Action  

Early decision and early action are both options that allow you to apply to a college early and receive the admissions department in advance of traditional applicants. Most colleges now offer early admission programs because they present many advantages. For example, applicants can receive increased consideration since colleges tend to admit a higher percentage of early applicants than traditional applicants. Also, there’s the benefit of having advanced peace of mind if accepted and more time to plan to move to school.  

While early admissions have its benefits, it also has its restrictions that are important to keep in mind. Early decision is binding; if you submit an application to a college and accept, you must attend that college. You will also not be allowed to apply for additional financial aid after this point. On the other hand, early action is not binding; you can submit early action to a college, get acceptance, and have until the following spring to decide whether you’d like to attend or not.   

Completing Your Application  

The Common Application 

Accepted over more than 900 colleges and universities, the common application is a convenient option that allows you to submit a single application to multiple schools at a time. Whether you’re applying to college for the first time or transferring to complete your degree, this app helps you navigate your entire application journey.  

Application Fees 

For many college applications you submit, you’ll likely be required to pay a nonrefundable application fee which ranges from $43 to $90. It’s important to keep in mind that this may affect how many colleges you want to apply to. Students from low-income families also have the opportunity to request application-fee waivers, which are available through most college admission offices.  

Writing A College Essay  

Not only is the college admissions essay a place to showcase your writing skills, but it’s also one of the only parts of a college application that a student’s voice can shine through. Students want their essays to make a lasting impression and boost their enrollment chances; however, they only have several hundred words to make that happen– which can feel like a lot of pressure. From brainstorming essay topics to editing the final drafts, check out our blog on “How to Write a Great Admissions Essay,” as we’ve provided everything you need to know about crafting the ultimate college essay.    

Making Your Final Decision  

The difficulty of your final decision will likely depend on how many schools you got into and whether you were accepted by your dream school, safety school, and possible school. If you’ve been accepted to a variety, it may make your decision more difficult. While the many options may seem overwhelming, don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for. Check out our blog on “Quick Guide to Starting Your College Search” to begin your college search and start narrowing down a list of your top schools.  

In the end, the first step to getting there is listening to what feels suitable for you. Gathering insight and recommendations from parents, counselors, and other resources is crucial, but make sure you frequently check in with yourself. When it comes down to making the final decision, weigh each school’s factors to examine the schools on your list and better understand your wants and needs. And from here, you’ll be a step closer to choosing the right college for you!