Steps for Applying to College

Applying to college can be stressful. There are so many things you need to remember to do, and so many deadlines. So before you yell at your mom or kick the dog, take a deep breath and follow these steps.

  1. Narrow down your college choices.


  • If you haven’t already done so, start to really think about where you want to be this coming year. What are the ‘must-haves’ of the college you go to? What are the things you are willing to compromise? Is housing mandatory? What major(s) are you considering? How important are sports and clubs?
  • Do an online search at to better narrow your choices.
  • Once you have a few colleges in mind explore their websites in more detail.
  1. Make a list of requirements and deadlines; Prioritize your tasks


  • Look at the requirements needed for the application packet. What pieces does each school need? This most likely includes an essay, transcript, letters of recommendation, and ACT/SAT scores.
  • List out your colleges in order of application deadlines. Make the sooner one’s your priority.
  • Decide if you want to apply early admission or early decision. If a certain college stands out above the rest keep these early deadlines in mind.
  1. Take the ACT (or SAT)


  • Look at the requirements of the colleges of your choice. What test(s) do they require?
  • Go to to register for the SAT and to register for the ACT. Pay particular attention to registration deadlines to avoid paying last-minute fees.
  • Before taking the test practice questions on their websites
  • On the day of the test get plenty of sleep and eat a filling breakfast.
  1. Ask your teachers and counselor for a letter of recommendation


  • Be sure to give your teachers and counselors plenty of time to write your recommendation. Don’t wait until right before the application deadline, they are busy too!
  • Be sure to thank those who took the time to right you a recommendation.
  1. Write your college essay.


  • Take the time to think of a topic that you want to share with the colleges of your choice. This is your chance to tell something about yourself not captured by your transcript and college application.
  • Stand out! Don’t just write a generic college essay. Admission counselors read hundreds of these each day. Tell about what makes YOU unique in your college essay – be sure to stand out.
  • Proof read! Ask for insight from a couple of other people with strong writing skills. Your English teacher may be a good place to start.
  1. Apply for Financial Aid


  • To apply for financial aid, at any college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (better known as the FAFSA). The FAFSA application opens in January and is free to complete. The sooner you apply, the better your chances of getting fully awarded financial aid package (with grants, scholarships, and institution-based assistance).
  • Apply at Applications are free, if you find you are asked to pay, you are on the wrong site.
  • If applying for Financial Aid is a new experience for you or your parents, seek out the Renaissance Staff to help with the process by attending one of the FAFSA Clinics offered in the Spring (check your calendar for specific dates).
  1. Visit Colleges


  • Don’t just decide on a website by the pictures they put in their brochures and on their website. Seeing the college in person will allow you to know if you can really see yourself there.
  1. Keep your grades up!


  • Just because you are almost done with school or have already applied to college does not mean your grades don’t count. Colleges can revoke and acceptance based on poor grades your last semester. They may also be on the line in regards to accepting you. Having strong grades your last semester will make you appear more college ready.



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