When to Apply For College: Key Considerations to Keep in Mind As You Seek a Spot at Your Top School - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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College Admissions
December 30, 2019

When to Apply For College: Key Considerations to Keep in Mind As You Seek a Spot at Your Top School

College applications are exciting, complicated and, above all else, nerve-wracking. A single application and some supplementary information can determine the course of each student's academic journey, thereby influencing career prospects and a variety of other life goals. Unfortunately, a great deal of confusion surrounds this process.

Today's aspiring college students are especially thrown off by timelines which vary dramatically from one school to the next. Differing deadlines may impact how and when students visit schools, seek recommendations and, ultimately, send in their applications. Below, we offer valuable clarification to make the process a little less confusing:

Steps to Take Before Applying

There's more to applying for college than simply filling out an application. In reality, this is the culmination of a long process that may include a lot of research, paperwork, and meetings. By the time you apply, you should feel fully confident that the college in question is right for you.

Research And Visit Your Favorite Colleges

The research process should occur well in advance, so you have plenty of time to make personal and financial arrangements—and so that you can apply on time.

Don't apply haphazardly to colleges you know little about. Browse each college website to determine the core philosophy and culture already in place at that institution. Do these essentials abide by your personal convictions? How can you show this in your application? If you approve of what you see, follow up with an in-person visit.

High school students planning on attending college often complete visits during their junior year or in the summer prior to their senior year. Many attend special admissions events such as college fairs or discovery days. This is the perfect opportunity to get in touch with specific faculty members or admissions counselors.

Determine Application Requirements in Advance

Application requirements typically include high school or college transcripts as well as SAT or ACT scores. Some also request recommendations or other proof of the student's academic ability. Unfortunately, all this can prove surprisingly difficult to access.

Students still in high school should learn about official transcripts in advance to ensure that, when actually needed, the process is as streamlined as possible. Letters of recommendation should be sought several months in advance, especially as teachers and coaches are often asked to write such letters for dozens of students.

Another key factor worth examining: when, exactly, application deadlines are imposed for preferred colleges. While many demand applications by January at the very latest, some extend this into spring—and others strongly recommend applying by December.

Examine Deadlines For Specific Programs

Are you interested in a specific school primarily because it has an excellent program in an area of interest? If so, consider the application process for that given program.

Some schools allow students to apply for specific programs after they've acquired a few general education credits. With others, however, program application occurs almost immediately. Consider adjusting your overarching college application timeline accordingly. This applies not only to major and minor programs, but also to honors and even athletics.

Early Is Better

When in doubt, apply early. While college admissions are always competitive, securing a spot will prove far more difficult after December. At that point, most spots for the upcoming academic year have likely been filled. This will leave you competing with a growing body of applicants for a rapidly decreasing number of openings.

Of course, exceptions exist. While early applications are generally ideal, it's never wise to rush through the process. If you've yet to secure letters of recommendation or other supplementary information that could make a difference, consider waiting a few weeks.

Applying For Multiple Colleges

Don't limit early applications to your favorite colleges. Safety schools exist for a reason; in today's competitive environment, virtually any student can be wait-listed or rejected outright for reasons that may prove elusive. Aim to submit multiple applications early on, even if you don't actually anticipate committing to most of the schools for which you apply.

Research backup schools to ensure that they also provide the quality programs you desire and are capable of moving you towards your academic and career goals. You just might thank yourself later for your foresight and extra effort.

What About Transfer Students?

Timeline considerations go beyond high school students to include those transferring from other colleges. Transfer status can heavily influence application timing, especially as students commonly arrive for the spring semester. If you intend to transfer, take a close look at deadlines, as well as additional steps (such as securing college transcripts) required for admission.

No matter the trajectory of your college journey, it's important to get a head start on every aspect of applying. A little extra time and research can keep the stress of this essential process to a minimum.

For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your career goals, contact us at 855-979-5563 or web@geneva.edu.