5 Things to Put on Your Radar When Applying to College

Applying to college can feel daunting, but if you keep these five things in mind, it will feel much easier:

Requirements Can Vary by College

Each college has its own set of requirements when it comes to your application. You may be expected to complete application forms and related fees, provide a high school transcript and final transcript, submit test scores, include letters of recommendation, complete auditions or submit a portfolio of work, and attend interviews.

Start Thinking about References

When selecting references, choose a person who knows you well (since at least your junior year) and will provide a positive reference. Consider your teachers as well as those who know you outside the classroom (for example, coaches or those who supervise extracurricular activities). Ask them for a reference at least one month in advance of the earliest deadline. Remind them about your performance in class/activity/special project, provide self-addressed, postage-paid envelopes, and make them aware of related deadlines. Follow up with them a week or so before the reference is due. Once you've decided on a college, write thank you notes letting them know where you're going and that you appreciate their help.

Keep Other Deadlines in Mind

Due dates related to the application process will vary from school to school. Once you have a short list of colleges you'd like to apply to, make sure you look up exactly when everything is due. It's also good to note that application deadlines are often different from financial aid deadlines. Once you've got the list of important dates, mark your calendar so you don't forget.

Visit Colleges

Along with completing the necessary paperwork for the college application process, it's important that you get your own perspective of the colleges you're interested in. College visits are one of the best ways to get a feel for college. They provide great opportunities to sit in on a class and see the dorms and common student areas.

College visits also give you the chance to talk to students, faculty, and financial aid and admission officers. These people are usually available during visits to help you get answers to any questions you have.

After the visit, you can determine whether you felt comfortable walking around campus. Did you feel at home? Did you click with the students and faculty? Is this what you imagined college to be like? Spending time on a campus helps you determine whether a college is a good fit.

Be Aware of Application Fees

College application fees typically range from $25 to $90 per application and are nonrefundable. There will usually also be a standardized test score (SAT or ACT) fee and a high school transcript fee that applies when your high school sends your transcript to the colleges you're applying to. Sometimes these fees can be waived or reduced if you decide to apply online.

Research and Planning will Pay Off

Applying to college can be a manageable experience if you do some basic research and plan your steps. Keep these things in mind when starting your process and you'll be well on your way to meeting your educational goals.