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October 26, 2005

DIY: How to Apply to University

Today's "How to" article courtesy of English-blog contributor Angela H.:

How to Properly Send in College Applications

As if graduating high school is not stressful enough, students have to send in applications to different colleges, which is easier said than done. There are a variety of things that must be taken into consideration such as; choosing where to apply, visiting colleges, selecting a major, beating the deadlines, and filling out applications.

When filling out college applications, students must first decide what college is right for them. Students must consider all aspects such as; staying near their hometown, moving away, going to the city, or residing in a rural area. This decision is very complicated for many reasons. If the student plans on staying near home, how close is too close? Yet, if the student plans on moving far away, what if there was a family emergency? Once the student has decided that, they have to choose whether they would rather go to a larger or smaller college. This is another difficult choice since the only reference the applicants have is hear-say . . .

. . . Some students go to college to please their parents and party for four years. There are many schools labeled as "party schools" and many as "prep schools." A decision must be made here also, whether or not the student plans on partying all the time, or working all the time, or a little bit of both. If the applicant is not a partier, they might be better off going to college in a large city so that there are more activities for them. On the other hand, if they enjoy going to parties, a big college or a rural area college will also be suitable for them.

If the student decides they would rather go away to school, they should still apply to a school that they are positive they will be accepted to, in other words a safety school. Next they must find out their SAT scores and compare them with the college's recommended acceptance score. In this case, students with lower SAT scores may have better luck being accepted to a state college rather than a private college. Most importantly, students have to research whether or not their chosen colleges offer the major of their choice. Certain colleges are "known" for specific majors and some may not even offer the major of choice.

It is also imperative for the applicants to understand that every college has a different tuition. If it is something inexpensive that the applicant is looking for, they would be better off choosing a "state school" rather than a "private school." It's also more expensive if students choose to leave their state. In order to receive the state school's price, they must be a resident of the state for a set amount of time (which varies.) It is very important to find a school that fits the students' ideals and can help their career blossom.

Unfortunately, sending out college applications can become costly, not to mention the tuition itself. It may be a good idea to visit the schools the student plans on applying to. Taking a tour may help students narrow down their decisions, which will in turn save money. Scheduling appointments with the college is simple when done through the internet or telephone. By touring, they will also get a chance to check out the size of the campus, the quality of the dorms, and the students already attending. While the student is touring the campus, they can pick up an application. Hand written applications are not for some people, so many schools enable students to fill out online applications. This can be a major benefit since it is possible to save the document if it is not completed and there is no risk of it getting lost in the mail.

After the student has narrowed down where they would like to apply to, they should also try to decide on a major. It will really help if the student starts off by going to the school guidance counselor. There, the guidance counselor will look at their transcripts, find out the students' interest, and try to find the career that is right for them. If the guidance counselor is not much help, it is always helpful to search the internet. Making this huge decision will be much easier if the student feels passionate about a career or has had a dream of going into a certain profession. There are so many different careers to choose from. With that said, students should put a great deal of thought into their final decision. If these suggestions are just not helping, most colleges will accept your major as "undecided." Majoring undecided enables students to take their liberal studies courses and not be short on credits when they select their major. Choosing to be undecided will give the student more time to feel out college life and be sure about the way they want to spend the rest of their life. This is not a time to procrastinate about making a decision.

There are many tough decisions that students must make in a short period of time and college deadlines do not help matters. Most colleges require future students to take the SATs or the ACTs. If the applicant did not take them early enough, they will not have their results back, therefore they cannot send in their applications. By taking these standardized exams, it allows the college to see how the applicants' grades throughout high school were. All colleges are different, yet all have a required application deadline. This only gives students at short timeframe to send in their applications. This added pressure is not always a bad thing. The sooner students complete their application and have it sent to the school, the sooner the school will mail a response. Keep in mind it is usually best to have all college applications mailed out before the Christmas break of the student's senior year.

Now that the student has been fully prepared with all of the background information, it is time to start filling out applications. Students should realize that applying is a long process and it would be a great idea to dedicate an entire day to completing them. Students should have a parent or guardians' credit card, if they do not have their own, since the applications cost money. They must make sure to read each question carefully and answer them intellectually and honestly. Some colleges will ask the applicant to write a short essay about themselves. This will enable the school to get a better idea of the students' background and interests. It is also a good idea for students to add any extracurricular activities that they might be interested in. Once the application is ready for mail, the student should return to their guidance counselor to have their high school transcripts sent out to all of the colleges. These two things should be done around the same time so that the college can make its decision immediately.

After mailing out all of the paper work, students have one more important thing to do. College can get very expensive and for most people it may be a good idea to fill out the FAFSA form. This application will tell the students' family whether or not they will be eligible for financial aid. The amount of money the family receives varies throughout every household, but some extra money over the next four years can save you a year of school loan payments. These applications can be obtained through the school's guidance counselor or printed out on FAFSA's website. Once the student has filled this out, the only thing left to do is sit back and wait for their responses.

Applying to colleges can be a difficult task, but if the student follows the directions they will get the hang of it. After choosing a major, deciding where to apply, and visiting schools, filling out the applications will be simple. It is very important that the applicant knows what they are looking for and refuses to settle for anything less.

~Angela H.

*NOTE: For more English-Blog DIY or "How to . . ." articles, please click HERE!

Comments for Angela's article "How to Properly Send in College Applications?" Please leave them below:

Posted by lhobbs at October 26, 2005 06:58 PM

Readers' Comments:

Professor Hobbs,

In Angela’s process essay about how to apply to a university, she provides great details about different aspects of college and how to apply to them. Her thesis clearly states her intent to tell the readers about how to choose a college and a major and how to fill out applications. She explained the process in very clear steps, although some of her ideas seemed a little awkward to understand. I felt she did an excellent job explaining the common generalizations and theories about college and how to apply to them, yet they were generalizations and may not apply to all colleges. Most students really do not know what college is right for them. Most do not figure that out until several semesters after they have started and the same idea goes for majors as well. She explained this quite clearly.

This essay was well written with the intent to inform high school students about the basic generalities of college. It was good in the fact that it provides insight into the college life a little bit. Generalizing too much about colleges is something to look out for, because each college is different and each idea that she applied to this essay does not necessarily apply to every college. Although it was quite clear she kept this idea in mind, it is also important that the idea stays clear all throughout the essay. There seemed to be several points about application fees and knowing what college was right for a student, which seemed to be too general or could have been explained more.

“Most colleges require future students to take the SATs or the ACTs…..By taking these standardized exams, it allows the college to see how the applicants' grades throughout high school were.” The previous statement, which was made in her process essay in not correct. I am sure she did not intend on this being correct, but it is and she should have checked over this or looked more into the facts. The truth is the SATs and ACTs are simply tests that challenge student in the logical areas of math and verbal skills. It is imperative that when writing something that has a factual subject matter in it, that is true and correct.

Overall, this process was a well developed essay for writing about generalizations of college. She provided good details to inform future college students about what to expect when applying. She explained what to look for in a college and how to apply in the best way possible. Although some of her statements were a little hard to understand, she made some excellent points what to look for in choosing a college. When writing a process on such a board topic, it is best to watch not to generalize a certain subject too much. Angela provided readers with a great subject and provided outstanding examples. I would hope that some day, someone will read her essay and follow it to the fullest extent. It provides helpful information.

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