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5 Things to Know for College Admissions

Preparing for college begins long before you pack up your room in preparation for move-in day. Getting into a preferred college is a multi-year process that requires information, dedication, and hard work. But with the right plan in place, you can navigate the college admissions process with great success in order to get into your dream school.

Here are five things to know about college admissions . . .

1. Start Planning Early

Far too many students begin planning for college late in the game. This puts them behind other applicants and can greatly decrease their chances of getting into their college or university of choice.

So, when should my parents and I start planning for college?

The answer is simple: the earlier the better. Your high school course load will be looked at carefully by college admissions officers, so you should already be thinking about what classes to take when you begin your freshman year.

Freshman workload alone isn’t going to make or break your admissions chances, but it can certainly start you down the path for success. In each year of high school, take challenging classes that will teach you the most, prepare you for eventual SAT® exams and ACT® exams, and fulfill basic college requirements.

Colleges give great consideration to students who have taken honors courses and AP® classes. High AP exam scores show colleges you are ready to succeed from day one in their programs. And, bonus, you can even earn college credits while in high school through your AP classes!

Note: It is also wise to begin planning financially earlier rather than later.

2. Think Bigger

There was a time when colleges and universities cared almost entirely about grades and test scores when considering applicants, but now that seems like a galaxy far, far away.

Grades and test scores still weigh heavily in the decision-making process, but schools are looking for additional information that shows a well-rounded student who will contribute to their school in a variety of ways.

As you go through your high school years, look to participate in extracurricular activities, community service projects, leadership initiatives, and creative endeavors that demonstrate your outside interests and outstanding character.

Colleges and universities are looking for students, and eventual alumni, who are going to make a difference in the world and represent their institutions well.

3. Know the Application Requirements and Deadlines for the Schools You Are Considering

Generally speaking, most students begin the college admissions process by the beginning of their senior year of high school. Different colleges have different deadlines, but most schools require applications for fall admission be submitted by January.

It is important to take note of the application requirements and deadlines from all the schools to which you are planning to apply.

Don’t wait until your senior year to begin thinking about where and when you will apply. Start much earlier by putting together a list of . . .

  • Safety schools (where your credentials exceed the average accepted student) 
  • Match schools (where your credentials mirror that of the average accepted student)
  • Reach schools (where your credentials are below the average accepted student, but you feel you still have a chance for acceptance)

Once you have put together this list, research all requirements and application deadlines for each school. Note: If you are considering Early Action or Early Decision, take careful note of these early deadlines.

4. Look at the Financial Aid Options Available

In addition to filing your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), it is advantageous for you to look into the other options that will reduce your overall college or university expenses. This can vary greatly from school to school. 

There are a number of financial aid opportunities available to you outside of (or in addition to) FAFSA: grants (need-based or merit-based), scholarships (public, private, regional, national, college-specific, etc.), work-study programs, and campus part-time jobs.

Before beginning the application process, find out which schools can offer you the most assistance through these programs or others. You will be surprised at the number of ways you can reduce your tuition (especially if you are a high-performing student), but this is different for each school.

5. Maximize Your SAT Exam and ACT Exam Scores

Your performance on these high-stakes exams is a significant determining factor when it comes to college admissions. It is still the most dependable metric that colleges and universities use to compare students across the country and determine college readiness.

While some schools have dropped these exam scores as requirements for consideration or have become test-optional (especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic), the SAT exam and ACT exam are still used by most schools and organizations to award merit scholarships. Additionally, they can be used as a tool for students to identify their academic strengths (or weaknesses) as compared to other students around the country.

Are you preparing for an upcoming SAT exam or ACT exam? UWorld can help! Our online learning tool has a wide range of practice questions, at varying difficulty levels, with accompanying explanations that will have you prepared for success on exam day. A dream school requires a dream score — we help make that dream become a reality. Sign up for a FREE seven-day trial today.