Calling all underclassmen!

Tips and tricks for filling out college applications

by Ainsley Shaw, Reporter

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When I was an underclassman, I didn’t even want to begin to think about applying to college. Just the mere thought of college tended to make my eyes glassy or my hair fall out. However, I’m here to say that with these helpful tips, everything will work out in the end. Although, I won’t sugarcoat it, it can be a long, tedious and difficult journey.

Request all transcripts as early as possible

Transcripts can take a very long time to process and send to universities. Don’t wait until the last minute to send them or else there’s a chance that they won’t get processed in time and you could miss the application deadline.

Complete FAFSA right as it opens

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a free application that gives access to the total amount of financial aid that is available to a student for college. It’s very important to fill this out as soon as possible to guarantee quick processing.

Keep track of every club/organization you’ve been a part of and the hours you put into them

When filling out college applications, I had to report every club/sports team/organization that I had ever been a part of throughout high school. In addition, I had to fill in the number of weeks per year and the number of hours per week that I spent in the activity. I found this extremely tedious and I wish someone had told me to keep track of the time I put into things throughout high school. I ended up having to pretty much “guesstimate” by using a calendar and calculating the number of hours I put into my activities… It was not very fun. 

Keep track of the dates and hours of every community service project/organization you’ve completed

When filling out a college application, I had to fill in the name of the service project, my role, otal hours completed and dates. It was difficult to configure these if I had accidentally lost my hours sheet or never even had my own copy to begin with. I found that attempting to fill these slots in without any hours sheets was horribly tedious and difficult. I had to continuously rack my brain for the names of projects I had participated in even though I knew I had done a lot of service. Trust me. Start creating a google spreadsheet with all of this information now before it’s too late. 

Fill out the letters of recommendation form before asking teachers for them

There’s a required online google form that students must fill out in order to request a letter of recommendation from teachers/professors/counselors. A lot of students don’t even know that it exists. Then they wait until the last minute to ask their teachers and ultimately don’t get their letters in on time. It’s kind of a lengthy google form so I would recommend that students fill it out as early as possible and get it sent to their teachers. In addition, I suggest that students choose their recommenders wisely. I wouldn’t ask teachers that I barely know. Instead, I asked my favorite teachers or ones that I had a good relationship with. Doing this will ensure glowing letters of recommendation. 

Know your deadlines

There’s no leniency when it comes to college applications. If the final deadline is missed, then the final deadline is missed. Period. Work toward getting applications in by the early application deadline so that the documents have extra time to process, that way the application makes a better impression and it often gets an admissions decision quicker. The sooner they’re finished, the sooner one can relax and enjoy senior year.

Proofread everything

I made sure to read and reread my essay, any short answer questions and the entire application. When I was about to submit one of mine, I caught multiple tiny mistakes I had made when filling in my community service forms, if I hadn’t proofread everything, I never would have caught the mistakes.

Essay tips

To ensure a well constructed and easily read college essay, I would suggest sending it to as many qualified people as possible. Such as English teachers, professors, college students or counselors. However, it was also important to make sure that my essay didn’t lose my own personal touch and voice with so many people reading it. College admissions officers read hundreds of essays a day. Therefore, a unique voice has to be loud and present throughout the entire essay. Also, college essays are typically between 500-700 words. So, if the essay falls more on the short side, don’t stress about it. Length means nothing if the essay is concise and focused. Also, research the type/prompt of essay that your college of choice requires before writing it.