College Application Season has officially arrived for the Class of 2021. In order to not fall behind, we have compiled the most important things to keep in mind during these stressful months.
Create a balanced list of safeties, matches, and dream or reach schools. Safeties are schools you have high chances of getting in because either your scores and GPA fall well above their average, or their acceptance rates are very high. This includes community colleges. Matches, or target schools, are those where your “stats” are within their range and they have reasonable acceptance rates. Lastly, reach schools are those where your numbers are not exactly in their range, or their acceptance rates are very low. A good variety of these types of colleges and universities will ultimately give you more options to choose from in terms of both quality and financial aid opportunities.
Find two teachers you trust and in whose classes you have performed well to ask for recommendation letters. Many universities will ask for one to two letters from teachers and other adults who know you well in both academic and non-academic settings, in addition to a recommendation from your high school counselor. (Note: some colleges, like FIU, UF, and FSU only ask for a counselor evaluation.)
Stay on top of deadlines. Write down all important dates on a calendar or planner to make sure you do not leave anything until the last minute or miss something. Keep in mind the different application cycles and due dates for each school. To qualify for scholarships, most public Florida schools and the University of Miami have early deadlines, usually November 1st.
Don’t forget to search for and apply for scholarships. Use search engines created specifically for scholarships and filter the ones you qualify for. Many ask for essays, certain grades or test scores, skills, etc. However, others are based on creative activities, like recording a video or drawing. Find the ones you believe you have a shot at winning, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t win them all. You won’t lose anything for applying.
Draft, proofread, and edit your personal statement and supplements early with the help of a trusted adult. Usually, your English and History teachers, counselors like Ms. Arguelles, or other adults will be eager to assist you in this process. If not, you can also ask a trusted friend with strong writing skills. There are also non-profit organizations that help low-income and first-generation students with the college process.
Make sure you meet all the entry requirements. Some colleges require a certain number of credits in a specific course area, like two years of a foreign language or four years of math. Although it may not be applicable this year, you also need to make sure you meet the testing requirements, like having taken the SAT or ACT and obtained a score within the school’s desired range. Keep in mind that, as of early October, all Florida public universities require an SAT score to be considered for admission.
Be sure to send your transcripts to all schools to which you are applying. Unless they only ask you to self-report, like most public Florida universities, you will need to request your official transcripts in the main office and mail them to every individual college. All schools will also require you to submit final transcripts that include your senior year grades once you enroll in their school.
As soon as possible after October 1st, fill out your FAFSA and CSS profile. The sooner you file, the more money you are likely to get.
Remember you WILL be okay. College is not everything nor is it for everyone. Just trust that you will end up where you should be; wherever you end up is not a defining characteristic of who you are or who you’ll be in the future. So, don’t stress, take a breath, and remember: you’ve got this!