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A quick guide to college applications

  • Author: Mckenzie Richmond
  • Updated: August 1
  • Published July 31

As the school year starts, so does college application season! Although the task may seem daunting, this step-by-step breakdown will allow you to see the process clear and simply.

Picking the schools you want to apply to is, quite frankly, the hardest part. Each school you apply to will be accompanied by an application fee ranging from $30-$90, which can add up quickly. Narrow down your options as best you can, but always keep a backup school on your list that you’re pretty sure you’ll get into, just to be safe. Ways to narrow your options can be:

  • Go on a campus visit. Sometimes a school can seem great in your head and online, but in reality isn’t the right fit. Go experience the campus for yourself, if possible. 
  • Touring local campuses can be helpful, providing a student’s perspective of a place you may have frequented prior to applying. Each school has different offerings, as well - visiting the University of Alaska campuses and private college campuses can broaden your possibilities. 
  • Make a list of what you’re looking for in a university, things you like and dislike, then take this list and compare your choices to schools you’re interested in. Include items such as: 
  • Weather- do you want hot weather year-round, cold weather or all four seasons? 
  • Location- do you want to stay in Alaska or branch outside? Do you want to be in a suburb, a college town or in the middle of a city? 
  • Campus size- do you want a campus with 1,000 or 30,000 undergraduate students? 
  • Class size- would you be more comfortable with a discussion course with 15 students or 100 student lecture courses? 
  • Are you interested in Greek life organizations? 
  • Do they have majors and minors you may be interested in? 
  • Are you interested in studying abroad? Do they offer those opportunities? 
  • Sports- do you want to attend a big Division 1 school or a small liberal arts Division 3 school? Even if you aren’t an athlete, sports can be a large part of campus life. 
  • Other extracurricular offerings, including arts, leadership and volunteer opportunities 
  • Now it’s time for the nitty gritty application process. There are two types of applications: The Common Application and applications run by individual university services. The Common Application is used by over 500 universities across the nation, according to the Washington Post, but many colleges use their own application system through their online website. Overall the two application methods will ask for the same things:

  • Documentation  
  • High school transcript  
  • A list of any extracurriculars, community service and achievements 
  • Test results: The SAT vs. ACT 
  • Essays 
  • Interviews 
  • Letters of recommendation 
  • Picking the schools you want to apply to is, quite frankly, the hardest part. Each school you apply to will be accompanied by an application fee ranging from $30-$90, which can add up quickly. Narrow down your options as best you can, but always keep a backup school on your list that you’re pretty sure you’ll get into, just to be safe. Ways to narrow your options can be:

  • Go on a campus visit. Sometimes a school can seem great in your head and online, but in reality isn’t the right fit. Go experience the campus for yourself, if possible. 
  • Touring local campuses can be helpful, providing a student’s perspective of a place you may have frequented prior to applying. Each school has different offerings, as well - visiting the University of Alaska campuses and private college campuses can broaden your possibilities. 
  • Make a list of what you’re looking for in a university, things you like and dislike, then take this list and compare your choices to schools you’re interested in. Include items such as: 
  • Weather- do you want hot weather year-round, cold weather or all four seasons? 
  • Location- do you want to stay in Alaska or branch outside? Do you want to be in a suburb, a college town or in the middle of a city? 
  • Campus size- do you want a campus with 1,000 or 30,000 undergraduate students? 
  • Class size- would you be more comfortable with a discussion course with 15 students or 100 student lecture courses? 
  • Are you interested in Greek life organizations? 
  • Do they have majors and minors you may be interested in? 
  • Are you interested in studying abroad? Do they offer those opportunities? 
  • Sports- do you want to attend a big Division 1 school or a small liberal arts Division 3 school? Even if you aren’t an athlete, sports can be a large part of campus life. 
  • Other extracurricular offerings, including arts, leadership and volunteer opportunities 
  • Keep an eye on the deadline and have applications sent well before the final submission date. Time management is everything. Make a calendar and mark the deadline for each school so you stay organized and don’t miss a date.

    There are multiple ways to submit an application, so make sure you know what you’re choosing for each school:

    If you’re still intimidated by the application process, a college counselor may be a great resource to help guide you, or your high school guidance counselor can provide the assistance you need.

    Once you submit, make sure the online application status indicates they have received everything required to complete your application.

    Then the rest is a waiting game. Be patient and keep your eyes on your email inbox and your mailbox for admissions letters in the coming months.

    Keep an eye on the deadline and have applications sent well before the final submission date. Time management is everything. Make a calendar and mark the deadline for each school so you stay organized and don’t miss a date.

    There are multiple ways to submit an application, so make sure you know what you’re choosing for each school:

    If you’re still intimidated by the application process, a college counselor may be a great resource to help guide you, or your high school guidance counselor can provide the assistance you need.

    Once you submit, make sure the online application status indicates they have received everything required to complete your application.

    Then the rest is a waiting game. Be patient and keep your eyes on your email inbox and your mailbox for admissions letters in the coming months.

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