Tips & advice for applying to college

Making the application process easier

CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) – Having a to-do list when applying to college is more than a helpful suggestion. It’s a must! College admission expert, Paul Hemphill, shared some of the tips all high school seniors can use right now as they get ready to apply to college.

Make absolutely certain you and your child are alert to the following:
1. Watch for this trick question. Colleges will ask what I consider a most unnecessary but tricky question, but it’s right there on the application so you can blow it. This question is likely to appear: “What county do you live in?” Many students, instead of looking it up, will write in “USA.” Wrong! The difference between the words “county” and “country” is the letter “R.” So it’s easy to miss. In other words, filling out the college application is not a speed-reading exercise; look at it as a test you absolutely must pass before being considered for admission.

2. Allow 2 to 4 hours to fill out each application. Read carefully each question as if getting into that college depends on answering every single question. If you leave out an answer, a red flag goes up that signals who didn’t care enough to totally focus on applying to that school. Many students make this mistake all the time. Both parents should go over the application with care to be sure every question is answered. Three pairs of eyes are better than one.

3. Know what each school requires.
A college application is not a single document that you complete online and it’s all done. In addition to an application, you may be required to submit a supplemental essay that answers a question like, “Why do you want to attend our college?” Colleges will require – besides your application – a high school transcript, your SATs and a couple letters of recommendation from a teacher or guidance counselor. The application process might also require an interview. In a word, check the application requirements on the website of each school.

4. Look at the Common Application to simplify the process.
The Common Application allows students to share some information just once while applying to many schools. The reason it’s called the Common Application is that over 500 schools have the same questions in common with other colleges. In filling out the application, one answer will be sufficient as opposed to filling out, say, 10 applications and spending time to fill in the black 10 times. (Several years ago, I had a student insist that he only apply to colleges that used the Common Application. Yup, he dreaded the prospect of filling out so many applications.)

5. Submit your applications at least 2 weeks in advance. College application submission deadlines are non-negotiable. Had a death in the family? Too bad. Want to beg? Forget it. Fail to submit your application on time at many colleges and your admission chances are zip, zero, donut. From another angle, one of my students had a guidance counselor tell her – ready for this? – “It won’t be any reflection on the student if guidance doesn’t get the application in on time.” You have to stay on your guidance department like white-on-rice (read: Be the parent from hell) to make sure your application is submitted on your deadline, not the guidance department’s deadline.~ Paul

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