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The College Admissions Process

Learn how to navigate and survive the college admissions process.


March 09, 2009

The College Admissions Process

What You Need

Letter(s) of Recommendation

Ahh, the all-important question: who will vouch for you when it comes to your letter(s) of recommendation? This is something to start thinking about early on, as many schools require a letter of recommendation from one or more letter writers (it could be up to three). This could be a former teacher, coach, counsellor, or other person in a reputable position and who knows you well. 

Letters of recommendation are taken very seriously by college admissions teams and it’s in your best interest to ask those that you think will write a glowing review of you – this could be your ticket to standing out from the crowd.  Also, you might want to ask your letter writers if they are planning to write the kind of raving reviews you expect. You don’t want to have any surprises and you have a right to know because your future is on the line.

 It’s also important not to procrastinate when it comes to this step, because the more time you give your letter writer(s), the better it reflects on you!

Admissions Essay(s)

This is your chance to shine, so go for it! Personal statements can range from an autobiographical essay to an essay centered on a theme. Whichever route you choose to take, imagine the essay as your microphone, where you can announce to the admissions reviewers why YOU should be accepted to the school. If you’re not going to tell ‘em, who will?

It’s important to keep in mind that the quality of your writing is being judged here, as well as how you think. And remember to proofread!

Application Form & Fee

There was a time when you had to request an application form from every school you were applying to. Those days are gone, my friends. Now not only can you fill out your application online and send it off by clicking “send,” but you can also use the Common Application and apply to more than one school with the same online form.

The fee for applying to college can range anywhere from $40 to $200. That’s a steep fee, which is even more reason to be selective when compiling your wish list of colleges.  So check out our college search page to help tailor your college list to suit your needs.

High School Transcript

Normally, the high school transcript form comes with your application package. As soon as you receive it, make sure to give it to a guidance counsellor to fill out. If you don’t receive it with your application package, be sure to inquire with the college in question, because it’s possible that the form will be sent directly to your high school upon receiving your application (you don’t want to miss the boat on this one…). Also, remember that your acceptance is contingent on you keeping your grades up upon graduation, so don’t start celebrating too much during exam time.

Test Scores

The SAT, also known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, is that 3-part multiple choice exam that college-bound students take when applying to college. The SAT includes a math, a verbal and a critical reading section, and is intended to measure your ability of handling college-level work.

While your score is important, some colleges are decreasing the importance of this test and are putting more emphasis on your high school grades, letters of recommendations, personal statement, and extra-curricular activities.
The ACT (American College Testing) Assessment is an alternative to the SAT, which many believe to be closer to the actual high school curriculum. Today, most colleges accept ACT scores as an alternative to the SAT.

Whichever test you decide to take, it is a good idea to take the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) or the PLAN (the precursor to the ACT) somewhere between fall of the 10th grade and fall of the 11th grade.  It is offered twice every year.

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is the most widely accepted English-language test in the world. You will need to take this test if you are a foreign student planning to study in the United States.
Basic Timeline

The following is a rough timeline of the college Admissions & Application process:

Start Thinking About College – Grade 10; after all, your grades count at this point!

Visit Campuses – It’s common to go during March Break or summer of Junior Year

Take PSATS or the PLAN –Starting from fall of the 10th grade to fall of the 11th grade

Talk To People About College & Make Lists – Grade 11 is a good time to talk to people you know who are in college and start gathering information   

Register for SATs or ACTs – Starting from summer of Senior Year (if you are taking the SATs or ACTs in the fall)

Take SATs or ACTs – Starting from October of Senior Year to December of Senior Year (Note: October is the latest you can take the SAT or ACT if you want your scores available in time for Early Decision or Early Action application)

Early Decision or Early Action Applications Due – September to October of Senior Year

Regular Decision Applications Due – approximately December 15 to February 1 (varies per school and per year)

Early Acceptance – mid-December of Senior Year

Regular Acceptance – March of Senior Year to April of Senior Year

Decision Time and Enrollment – April of Senior Year (the enrollment deadline for most schools is May 1).

Find scholarships now!

Article courtesy of Campus Compare. © 2009

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