Everywhere I go these days, I see acute signs of “application-itis.” You may have noticed the symptoms in many high school seniors and their families … that fatigued, overwhelmed look of heightened stress that students — and parents — suffer while in the midst of the college application process. There’s a common panic in their voices. Their main concern? How to survive this college application season and make sure they get into a college they want to attend.
I admit it can be a worrisome condition, but as is the case with many unpleasant situations, a healthy dose of useful information and some perseverance is key.
To stave off application-itis, students need to know the requirements and deadlines for the colleges to which they are applying; then, just get those applications done!
I say “students” because it is crucial that high school seniors take ownership of their application process, and not rely on Mom and Dad. Not only is this the best way to ensure an outcome that is a good fit, but it’s good practice for how to be a successful college freshman.
So, high school seniors, here’s the rally cry … Muscle through this application season and achieve your college goals! Parents of high school seniors, here’s your rally cry … Let your children lead the way through this process.
Now that we’re all ready, here are some timelines and tips to guide you.
Meet the four main types of college applications
First, it’s important to be familiar with the four main types of applications you might face this season.
* California community colleges: Grades and test scores do not determine eligibility; no essay is required. Apply online to most campuses at www.cccapply.org. There is no application fee.
* California State University: There is essentially one application to fill out online at www.csumentor.edu; once there, check off all campuses to which you want to apply. Input classes taken and test scores; there is no essay or letters of recommendation. Application fee is $55 per campus.
* The University of California: This is a comprehensive application. Fill it out online at www.universityofcalifornia.edu and indicate each campus to which you want to apply. List classes taken, test scores, activities and awards. Two SAT subject tests are “recommended,” which means take them if possible. The two short essays have a combined 1,000-word maximum. Application fee is $70 per campus.
* Private and out-of-state schools: Many of these schools (about 400) use the Common Application at www.commonapp.org. It requires the same details as the UC’s application, along with two letters of recommendation and a different essay. Most schools have “supplemental forms” that must be completed as well. Application fees vary by schools.
Deadlines vary. (See box). Fee waivers for application costs are available to students who qualify.
Tips to survive “Application-itis”
Now that you have a sense of what’s expected for the different types of applications, here are some tips to help you be more effective:
* Set up a college email account. Check often so you don’t miss deadlines. Colleges do not look favorably on students who miss deadlines.
* Create accounts at online application sites. Start early. Have on hand a copy of high school transcripts, test score results, social security numbers (as appropriate) and a figure for family income.
* Make sure to enter everything correctly! Have someone else double-check before submitting it. Mistakes can cause disqualification or admissions offers being rescinded. Once you hit submit, you cannot change a thing.
* Submit early! Do not take the chance that the system could have problems and you are unable to submit on time.
* Check schools’ websites to make sure your choice for a major isn’t impacted. Engineering often is impacted.
* For UC essays, answer the questions and get to the point. Tell them details and facts about yourself that aren’t in the rest of your application. Here’s a good overview of what to do: http://admissions.sa.ucsb.edu/Pdf/PersonalStatement.pdf. Use the “Additional Comments Box” on the UC application if you need to explain an extenuating circumstance such as a not-so-stellar grade.
* For common application essays, make sure your unique voice shows through; it should not come across as a résumé. Use specific examples and descriptive words. Get the attention of the admissions officer who may have read 50 essays that day. A helpful book for essay writing is “Do-It Write,” by G. Gary Ripple.
* For letters of recommendation, ask teachers from core subjects … the more recent the teacher the better.
* Always keep a hard copy of everything you submit.
* Be honest. Do the application yourself; colleges can detect adult involvement.
Stay strong and enjoy applying yourself during this application season. Take heart and remember there is a college out there for everyone! Good luck to all.
— Jennifer Borenstein is an independent college adviser in Davis and owner of The Right College For You. Her column is published on the last Tuesday of the month. She lives in Davis with her husband and two daughters. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.therightcollegeforyou.org.
California community colleges: Check individual schools for exact dates. Usually apply February of senior year
CSUs: Due Oct. 1 through Nov. 30
UCs: Due Oct. 1 through Nov. 30
Private schools and out-of-state colleges: Depends, but most are due by mid-January