We’re at the beginning of college application season, and students may be struggling to apply for college, especially if in-person resources are scarce. In this blog post, we’ve compiled some resources to help high school students get started on their applications.
Planning to apply: Deciding on which colleges to apply to is challenging. Large university or small college? Engineering school or liberal arts college? Do I declare a major or apply undecided? How do I know what to write about in my personal essay? Luckily, there are a lot of high quality free resources available to help you get started.
- NIH Virtual Summer Program: Each summer, the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) runs a Summer Internship Program for Students. For 2020, the program was held online, and the videos archived on YouTube. The whole playlist would be useful to review as you prepare your applications, but these four videos in particular are tailored specifically to high school and post-graduate students.
- Applying to College: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmmWygIJY3Q&t=2969s
- Self-awareness and leadership: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeXjz8IVb2A
- Communication: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHY45Uo9Xw4
- Career Exploration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-LNtZ7GV40
- Resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRF0rsuYD_I
- Khan Academy: This free comprehensive resource contains advice for students at all stages of college application, from career exploration to test prep and more: https://www.khanacademy.org/college-careers-more/college-admissions
Fee waivers: Applying for college can get very expensive, which can be a barrier to low-income and first generation college students. Between standardized tests ($45-$65 per test) and application fees ($40-$90 per application), the money adds up quickly. Luckily, most institutions have programs called fee waivers which allow you to apply for entrance for free. It takes some extra time and planning, but these programs will make college accessible to students who may not have the financial resources.
- SAT Fee Waiver information: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/fees/fee-waivers
- ACT Fee Waiver information: https://mysuccess.act.org/resource/fee-waiver-program/
- Undergraduate Application Fee Waiver: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/applying-101/college-application-fee-waivers/participating-colleges
College Deadlines: Each college/university has specific application deadlines. Most applications have been open since early August, so students are already be applying.
- Early Decision/Early Action: For students who have a preferred college or university. Most applications are due in early November, with admissions decisions headed out to students by mid-December. One difference between early decision and early action is that an early decision application commits a student to attend the program upon acceptance, whereas early action allows a student to gain admission to a program without committing beforehand. Another difference is that student can only submit one early decision application, whereas a student applying early action can apply to multiple schools both early and through regular admissions.
- Regular Admissions: Most regular admission applications are due in January or February. Students will receive application decisions in March or April.
- Rolling Admissions: Programs with rolling admissions open on a specific date and accept students as they apply. This is good for students because they can get a decision back quickly, but spots in popular programs can fill up quickly.
Standardized Testing: The SAT and the ACT are standardized tests that traditionally allow a college/university to gauge the performance of applicants. While experts debate the merits of standardized tests, many programs still require the exams for admittance or financial aid. To ensure the best scores, students should study and take practice tests before sitting to take the real exam. If you don’t get the scores you want, don’t fret! Many students will take the exam multiple times. There are free resources available online to help students prepare. If you are an international student applying for admissions in the US, you may be required to take the TOEFL. Be sure to check your program’s requirements before applying.
Below are some resources to help you prepare:
- SAT: https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/sat
- ACT: https://academy.act.org/
- TOEFL: https://www.ets.org/toefl/test-takers/ibt/prepare/tests
- If you do not want to take a standardized test, many colleges and universities have made testing optional. This list for schools where applications are optional: https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-test-optional-colleges/