How to Navigate the College Application Process

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  • 0:02 College Application
  • 0:41 Time & Organization
  • 2:31 Asking for Help
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Applying to college can feel overwhelming. In this lesson, we'll look at the application process, including when to start, what to do during the application process and where students should go to get answers to questions they might have.

College Application

Lynn is getting ready to apply for college. She feels overwhelmed and just isn't sure what to do. When should she start applying? How should she manage her time? And where can she go to find answers to her questions?

The college application process is the way that students get accepted to college. It can be a stressful time in a student's life, and many students, like Lynn, don't know how to even begin. Let's look at how to use your time wisely, organize yourself for the college application process and where to go for help and answers to your questions.

Time and Organization

Lynn is still in high school, and she knows that she wants to go to college, but she doesn't know much beyond that. When should she start applying to colleges? How should she organize herself during the application process?

The first thing that Lynn needs to realize is that time is a factor when applying to colleges. Like most students, Lynn wants to apply to several different schools, and they may all have different deadlines. Starting in the summer before her senior year, Lynn should first gather information about the colleges to which she's applying. She should figure out when their deadlines are and what is required for the application.

Next, she should identify the message that she wants colleges to get from her application. Perhaps she wants to focus on how her volunteer work has opened her eyes to how important it is to give back or perhaps she wants to demonstrate how, even with a busy schedule of extracurricular activities, she was able to make good grades in high school. Whatever the message is that she wants to convey, she should make sure that she identifies it early in the application process because it will influence what she says in her college essay and what she highlights as far as her most important extracurricular activities.

Finally, Lynn should work on the application and make it unique to her. Whether it's her essay, her resume or her extracurricular activities, Lynn will want to make sure that she shows the college the real Lynn. Colleges get applications from many, many different students - sometimes thousands of applications every year! Instead of writing what she thinks the college wants to hear, Lynn should show why she is unique. Otherwise, she'll end up with an application that sounds like everybody else's.

Asking for Help

No one can apply to college without some type of help. Whether it's needing answers to questions or needing letters of recommendation, at some point, Lynn will have to reach out for help. But how does she do that? And where does she go?

For answers to questions about the college admissions process, Lynn can turn to her guidance counselor, or a teacher or administrator or she can go to a college admissions website. For example, if Lynn isn't sure what things she'll need for her college applications, she can ask her guidance counselor or look online at websites, like the College Board's Big Future website.

But even if Lynn doesn't have questions, she'll still need help with some parts of her college application. Almost all college applications will require that she send a high school transcript, or list of classes she's taken and the grades she received. Lynn will need to talk to her guidance counselor or principal to find out how to arrange to have her transcripts sent to the colleges she's applying to.

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