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Critical Components of the College Application

September 27, 2017



The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) reported that in 2016, 20.5 million students enrolled at America’s 4,000 colleges and universities. For rising seniors who aspire to become college students, the journey--the process of applying to colleges-- is about to begin. So, whether you’re a first or fourth generation college bound student, the process is pretty daunting. Moreover, the degree of difficulty and complexity increases as you aim for top colleges and universities. So what are the basics you really need to know?


You need to know that there are multiple ways to apply to colleges/universities.

1. Common Application - where you can apply to 700 colleges and universities


2. Coalition Application - with 90 colleges committed to ‘Access, Affordability and Success’. http://www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org/why.html

3. Various state institutions will have their own application. Below are a few popular ones.

California - http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/freshman/index.html

Wisconsin - https://apply.wisconsin.edu

Texas - https://www.applytexas.org/adappc/gen/c_start.WBX


When applying to top 4-year colleges and universities, the components of the application include the following:

  • High School Transcript

  • SAT/ACT, SAT2, AP/IB scores

  • Extracurricular Involvement/Activities

  • Teacher Recommendations

  • Counselor Recommendations

  • College Essay


Your achievement in high school as reflected on your transcript will be the most revealing of your academic potential, as most colleges and universities are looking to admit academically capable students. In the transcript, admission officers are looking for demonstrated achievement in all subject matters from 9th grade through 12th grade. Seeing consistent performance of A’s is as insightful as seeing grade improvement that trends upward. Additionally, they’re looking to see the level of rigor you’re able to handle within the context of your school. Meaning if your school offers 15+ APs and you’ve only taken 3, the conclusion is that you’re not taking the most rigorous course load available. On the flipside, if you’ve exhausted the offerings of your school and you’ve challenged yourself by taking classes at nearby college/university, it will say a lot about your academic and intellectual motivation. It is also important to receive a high SAT/ACT score, as a high score can often compensate for lower grades. For more information about SAT/ACT prep, click here.


Take Away: With senior year left to complete, stay on task and finish strong in all subjects. A weak performance in the Fall of your senior year may ruin ED/EA/REA options while Spring semester senioritis can lead to college/university rescinding their admissions offer. 

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