With more colleges and universities requiring online college applications rather than paper applications, it’s especially important to learn how to fill them to your best advantage. While online applications are generally regarded as being easier to complete than paper applications, they do come with their own potential pitfalls, either from students not completing them correctly, not giving themselves enough time or not taking advantage of all the opportunities they have to sell themselves as a desirable college student for each school.
Many colleges and universities are receiving record numbers of applications, partly because of the ease of submitting applications online, and partly because more students are seeking higher education to expand their career opportunities in today’s tough economy. So how can you make your college applications stand out? The goal is to complete them correctly and present yourself in the best light.
Here are five important tips for successfully completing your online applications:
1. Give yourself enough time.
Start working on your applications as early as possible. If the schools you’re applying to allow you to save your applications before you submit them, take advantage of that to start filling them out and getting the easy sections out of the way. It can take time to write application essays, receive letters of recommendation and compile all the other parts of your applications. Don’t let running out of time or missing a deadline be the reason you don’t get in to your top schools.
2. Review your applications so you can gather the necessary information.
Read through all of your online applications, or print them out and use them as worksheets. You’ll be required to gather a large number of information, including your high school transcript, GPA and standardized test scores, and will probably have to write at least one essay, so it’s best to have all that information compiled before you sit down to fill out the application. If you’re using the Common Application, you should still go to each college’s official website to find out if you are required to also complete a supplemental application. Many schools that use the common application will also request additional items, such as essays or personal information not covered by the common application.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You’re likely to have questions when you fill out your college applications; many students do. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and use all of the resources you have to get the assistance you need. Older siblings and college friends can help you with specific questions about how to fill out your applications, and your guidance counselor can offer advice on the best ways to present your academic skills and achievements. Parents can also be a great source of help; ask them for guidance with crafting your essays and reading them over to make sure they’re clear and grammatically correct.
4. Answer all of the optional questions, and submit the right additional information.
Many college applications include space where you can leave comments, answer optional questions or attach additional information you’d like them to review. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to show the schools what you’d offer to them as a college student at their school. Colleges aren’t just looking for students with good grades; they also want diversity in your education and extracurricular activities, and your college application is a good place to make yourself stand out. That means answering all of the optional questions, and attaching examples of your best work, whether that’s writing samples, artwork or sports achievements.
5. Give your application a final review before you hit send.
Taking the time to read through your application one final time before you submit it can help you catch small errors, like incorrectly entered information, that can cause problems or delays with processing your application. Also, rushing through your application might mean you miss a question or misinterpret what it’s asking, which means you miss an opportunity to tell the college admissions committee why you’re the right candidate for their school.
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