5 Things You Should Know Before You Start Applying to Colleges

Applying to colleges can be scary.

Computer on a Desk

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It's a whole new world filled with essays, standardized test scores and stress-filled nights. Because of the effect that college applications can have on your future, it's important to start the process with as much information as you can possibly gather.

Scroll below for five things you should know before you start applying to colleges:

Start Early

Starting the college application process early is probably the best thing you can do to avoid unnecessary stress later. College applications are complex and have many parts, and starting early ensures that you are able to get all the components done on time. Many colleges even have the option for Early Action applications, which are usually due around November rather than the usual March or April due date. Early Action means you will hear back sooner, which can eliminate the stress of the waiting game. Most colleges don't accept late applications, so procrastinating is definitely not the way to go. Get started as soon as you possibly can!



Taking time to research the schools you want to apply to in incredibly important. Some crucial items to look at are whether the school offers the major you want, what the acceptance rate is and how many students are currently enrolled. If you want a more intimate experience, look for colleges with a smaller average class size. If you want the fun and excitement of a big school, check out the supplemental academic resources that are available so that you can ensure you will get the help you need. Effectively researching your potential future colleges is an important part of getting the college experience you desire.


Beware of Fees

Many colleges have an application fee. Fees can be as low as $10 or as high as $100. Depending on the kind of schools you are applying to and how many applications you plan to complete, the fees can add up quickly. Make sure you take a look at the fees before you start the applications so you can financially plan for the cost of applying. If money is an issue, look into the College Application Fee Waiver to make sure the financial burden won't keep you from applying to the schools you want.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Writing college essays can be a long and demanding process. Colleges will have different essay requirements, but make sure you reuse essays wherever you can. Even if the question is technically different, use an essay you've already written as a template and make the necessary adjustments so that it will fit with the requirements of each individual college. Have someone edit the original essay to make sure it is grammatically correct and articulate, and then recycle that essay as much as possible to save yourself time and ensure your writing is always at its best.


Don't Overextend Yourself

When it comes to colleges, you don't need to apply to every school you've ever heard of. Planning for too many applications is overly ambitious and will only result in more stress and work for you. You should ensure that you apply to schools in all three categories: safety, match and reach. Safety schools are colleges that you know you will get into without a doubt. Match schools are colleges where your grades, SAT or ACT scores and extracurriculars are all well within the admission requirements of the college, but you're not completely positive you'll get in. Finally, reach schools are schools that you would love to attend, but you might not meet all the admission requirements. If you apply to a few colleges in all three categories, you'll be in a great place, so don't feel like you need to send out a million applications.


Worried about getting turned away from your favorite school? HERE's why you should start embracing rejection.