College Applications: Essential Steps for Success

By Inland Empire Success | June 19, 2024

College might seem far away, but it will be here before your favorite superstar’s next concert! But don’t panic, there are simple ways to prepare for this, and it can be fun! 

Here’s the steps to take to get into the college of your choice.

Start Early, Explore Often

To find the college that’s perfect for you, start looking during your freshman or sophomore year. It’s like browsing for clothes – the more you explore, the better you’ll know what styles you love.

Maybe you’ll love a big, bustling campus with tons of people, or a small school where everyone knows your name. Find a college that matches your academic interests, learning style, and the kind of environment you like.

Visit college fairs, chat with college reps, and grab brochures to get a feel for different schools. Many colleges offer tours online or you might make an actual visit. Chat with your school counselor to figure out what kind of college fits you best. 

Apply to a mix of colleges: safety schools (likely to accept you), target schools (good fit academically and financially), and reach schools (your dream schools). 

Master Transcripts and Tests

Good grades in high school show colleges you’re a dedicated student who takes learning seriously. Taking challenging courses proves you’re ready for college-level work.

Some colleges might ask for ACT or SAT scores, a test of your academic skills. But don’t worry, there are tons of practice tests and resources to help you ace them.

Get Personal and Make a Statement

The personal statement is your profile picture, a way to show colleges who you really are. Talk about your goals, experiences, and challenges you conquered. Brainstorm ideas by thinking about your hobbies, volunteer work, or anything that makes you unique. 

When you write, show, don’t tell! Instead of saying you’re a hard worker, describe a time you tackled a difficult project. Don’t worry about making it perfect – just write with passion and show your personality. 

See if your high school has a writing center or find online guides to help you craft a stellar message.

Get Your Supporters on Board

Letters of recommendation are your favorite teachers cheering you on to college. Strong recommendations come from teachers who know you well – your grades, work ethic, personality, and potential. 

Think about teachers you connect with, who see your strengths and encourage you. When you ask for a letter, be polite and give them plenty of time.

Tell them about your college goals and anything specific they could highlight. The more information you provide, the stronger the recommendation you’ll get.

Make College Affordable with Financial Aid

College might seem expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Financial aid unlocks college for many students from families who might not have a lot of money. Grants, scholarships, and work-study programs are financial aids that can slash college costs. 

To get financial help, you must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA makes you eligible for most financial aid. The process is online, but don’t stress about filling out the forms. School counselors and college financial aid offices are there to guide you through the process. 

California residents who are undocumented or have other special immigration status situations may be eligible for financial aid from the state. Complete a California Dream Act Application (CADAA) to get started.

Most of All, Meet the Deadline!

Don’t miss the deadlines for college applications, they won’t let it slide! Stay organized with a calendar to prevent last-minute stress and mistakes. 

Still overwhelmed? Create a Checklist

Creating a checklist of essential application materials will ensure you don’t miss anything important. Here are the key items you’ll need:

  • Official Transcripts: Request your academic report card from your high school counselor.
  • Standardized Test Scores (ACT/SAT): If these are required, you can submit official scores through the testing agency.
  • Personal Statement: Craft a compelling essay showcasing your unique voice and goals.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Ask teachers who know you well to write letters highlighting your strengths and potential.
  • Application Fees: Don’t forget to pay the application fee (waivers may be available for those with financial need).

And More….

The college application journey doesn’t stop there!  You can search for scholarships from local businesses, community organizations, and online resources.

Finally, show colleges you’re really interested in their school. Attend online information sessions or send an email to the admissions office expressing your interest. 

IESuccess Can Help You Make It Happen

Applying for college can seem difficult, but it’s not if you plan, organize, and take the necessary steps. IESuccess is here to help you with all our resources. Check them out!