The application process
Preparation pays off in college acceptance
October 15, 2018
A student’s senior year is marked by many things: their last watermelon supper, new classes, the start of a final football season, and for most incoming seniors, the commencement of the college application process. While this may seem complicated and blatantly daunting, understanding the basis of this pursuit can ease the tension of an otherwise stressful time.
The college planning experience realistically begins during a student’s junior year of high school. During this period, a student is supposed to start thinking on their collegiate path.
“We have lots of tools available for our students here at Texas High School. We actually start the process the junior year, and students can get [a preparation book],” Associate Principal for College and Career Readiness Bettie Lynn Stark said. “We call it preparing for your senior year, and we just gave it to our juniors.”
Before applying to schools, there are several factors students should consider. These range from financial capability to distance from home and so forth.
“Students are looking at a lot of different things when they’re deciding where to go to college. You’re looking for location, financial costs, academic majors,” Stark said. “You’re looking for, you know, what programs and studies they offer, size, and affiliation, and you’re looking at, you know, sports, activities and extracurricular activities.”
Once a student has an idea of schools they are interested in, they can begin the actual application process. The number of schools applied to will differ with every student.
“I always recommend students to apply to four or more [colleges],” Stark said. “I think if you do the four or more and you select one safety school, a reach school, a dream school and then some kind of in the middle.”
A safety school may also be seen as a back up plan in case a student is not able to attend a college of higher preference. The even ratio between the different categories gives students a higher chance of acceptance to a school they want to go to.
“A safety school is a school where a student has there ACT and SAT scores and know they are within the range of acceptance. It is based on academics, but it can also be a safety school based on the financial [side of things],” Stark said. “A reach school is something where maybe you have a 28 on the ACT but their acceptance range is somewhere between 28 and 32. A reach school could be a dream school like if you always wanted to go to Harvard or Stanford, and your scores pretty close, go ahead and apply to see if it lines up.”
Most universities’ applications are free to submit. However, many require a fee to be paid in order to apply.
“It really depends on your school, so the more highly competitive the school is, chances are, you’re going to have an application fee that you’re going to have to pay,” Stark said. “Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch and then take the ACT using a freeway for can also get four fee waivers for college applications, four for ACT, four for SAT. Students should not let that be a burden for them in applying.”
There are different applications that are widely accepted by schools across the state and the country. The Common Application is nationwide because the same application can be submitted to several schools. The Coalition Application and Apply Texas applications are generally accepted by public schools in Texas.
“My advice to students is when you’re trying to figure out which application to complete go to the website of the college you’re wanting to attend,” Stark said. “Go where they direct you to go and to which application [they accept].”
The deadlines for applying to different colleges vary based on the school and any special circumstances regarding your application. For instance, a school’s general application deadline may not coincide with the deadlines for specific programs or scholarships that it may endorse.
“For a lot of the highly competitive schools, I would say get applied by October 1-15, get your applications in,” Stark said. “You can [normally] take another ACT or a SAT, submit that in, and add to your folder if you don’t have the score you are looking for now.”
The college application process is one that requires attention and consideration. However, if time is devoted to work towards its completion, students can return to enjoying the beginning of their year and the end of their high school career.
“Take it one day at a time, come by, and use your resources. Come to the College and Career Readiness Center, and we’ll help you,” Stark said. “We’ll get started on them one at a time. The application process is not as difficult as they think, and there are people here to support them along the way.”