Application Tips & Tricks
Are you applying to college? Congratulations! You’ve already cleared the first hurdle: deciding that a college education is for you. Keep your goal in sight with these tips and tricks:
Keep track of deadlines for all the colleges in which you’re interested. You can view application deadlines for Indiana colleges from College GO! Week, but make sure to double-check with the colleges, too, since there may be additional deadlines for early admissions or past scholarship consideration deadlines.
Take the tests
If you haven't already taken the SAT or ACT, or if you didn't like your previous scores, sign up as soon as possible. For most colleges, your SAT or ACT scores are an important part of the application package. Make sure you have a list of the colleges to which you're applying when you take the test, since the testing organization will send your scores directly to the colleges. Learn more about college admission exams and how to sign up here.
Some colleges require recommendation letters. If that’s the case, you’ll want to ask people to write a letter as soon as you can. Provide a list of your accomplishments and awards so they can include that information. Good candidates for recommenders include teachers, guidance counselors, coaches or your principal. If you’ve been active in a nonprofit organization (such as a humane society), an employee or volunteer coordinator may be able to write a glowing recommendation letter.
Stash your info
Although requirements will vary from college to college, most will require the same basic information. You’ll be a step ahead if you keep all this information in one handy place (perhaps a document saved on your computer, or in a three-ring binder):
- Your basic information. Colleges will need information such as your address, high school, high school code and Social Security Number. If you use a nickname (such as “Bill” instead of “William”), use the same name on every piece of the application so nothing gets misfiled.
- Your high school transcript. Send it electronically (and for free, if you apply to an Indiana college) with Indiana’s eTranscript. Look for the logo on your high school’s home page, or ask your guidance counselor. Don’t forget to have a final transcript sent after graduation.
- Your high school GPA. Again, colleges will want to see your final GPA after you graduate as well.
- Your SAT scores and/or ACT scores. Colleges receive test scores directly from the testing organizations, so when you arrive at the testing center make sure you have a list of the colleges to which you’re applying. However, you may also need to provide scores on the actual application.
- List of academic honors. Don’t leave off any of your accolades. Keep track of scholarships, awards and other recognition you’ve received.
- List of extracurricular activities. Limit the list to activities completed during your high school years, but don’t leave out those that weren’t connected to your high school. Colleges will love to know that you volunteered in your neighborhood or won a 4-H competition.
Brainstorm essay ideas
Your best essay is not usually the first one you write. Before crafting an essay, keep a journal of ideas for a few days or a week. Let your personality shine through, but don’t forget to answer the question posed in the application. Have as many people as possible read your essay and provide constructive criticism—your teachers, guidance counselor, parents and coaches or extracurricular leaders.
Wondering if you can use the same essay twice? Yes, but make sure it answers the questions asked. Change any references to the college. Nothing’s worse than an essay that ends, “And that’s why I’d be a perfect fit for XYZ University” –when the applicant sent the essay to ABC College!
Apply to several colleges—including one you don’t think will admit you or that you don’t think you can afford. A stellar essay can overcome other weaknesses such as a low GPA, and some colleges also give preferences to minority students. Also, you might be surprised by the financial aid package you’re offered. You can get a sneak peak at your expected net price of attending an Indiana college at IndianaCollegeCosts.org.
Get more help
We know the college application process can be grueling. Many college graduates—such as your parents, relatives or teachers—would be more than happy to help you navigate the maze of college applications.
By the time you’re ready to submit your application, you may be tired of looking at it. A mistake can be costly, however. Review all your materials for spelling and accuracy before clicking “send” or dropping the application in a mailbox.
Back up your application
If you’re submitting a paper application, make copies of each piece of the application in case something gets lost. Online applications usually ask you to create a login profile and then allow you to review the material you’ve submitted. Don’t submit online and in paper; sending two applications (or the same one twice) can cause problems in college admissions systems.