College prep planning: everything you wanted to know about admissions part one

College admissions can be confusing. How do you apply? What should you do at an interview or school visit? And what about all of those essays?

You have questions and we have answers! Once again Sno-Isle Libraries is partnering with Andrea Main of Main Education Consulting to provide a series of free college preparation planning programs at the Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Monroe, Mukilteo, and Snohomish libraries this spring. In advance of the college preparation programs, Sno-Isle teens brainstormed their best questions about college admissions and Andrea answered them. Each week we will feature new questions to help you better understand the college admission process.

What sort of things will make me stand out as exceptional?

The very heart of a college application is your academic record: your GPA and the level of rigor of your high school courses. Colleges look for students who show evidence of their ability to succeed and thrive in college. Strong performance in academically challenging courses at school shows colleges that you do college-level work.

Beyond grades and course work, different colleges will value different qualities. A technical institute may view the student with the highest grades in the most challenging courses as exceptional. A college with a strong social-justice ethos may see a student who has invested time and effort in providing assistance in an undeserved community as exceptional, whereas a fine arts college may look to an applicant’s portfolio for exceptional work.

To stand out as exceptional in college admissions requires you challenge yourself academically and be true to who you are: commit to activities you love to, then develop leadership, and provide a positive impact within those activities. Apply to “good fit” colleges: colleges that match your academic, social, philosophical and financial profile, and you will stand be noticed.

When can I start applying?

Each college will post their own application dates on their website—check each website. Students can begin creating their Common Application (Common App) or Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success (Coalition App) account anytime during high school. They can have the accounts “roll-over” until the summer of their senior year. During the summer of senior year, students can complete many of their application essays and then invite counselors and teachers to upload letters of recommendation in September of senior year.

What is the common application?

The two most common college application platforms are the Common Application (Common App)—used by almost 700 colleges in the US and abroad, and the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success (the Coalition)—used by 130 colleges with the US.

These platforms are on-line applications that allow students to streamline their college application submissions by allowing users to complete a personal profile, upload a personal statement, and request recommendation letters from one account. Each member college can request supplemental information from the applicant through the same platform.  Both the Common App and the Coalition provide the structure for colleges to get a holistic view of each applicant.

While creating an account on either application is free, member colleges may require an application fee when the student submits the application (fee waivers are available to students who have financial need).

Next week Andrea will answer questions about college essays, AP classes, and Running Start. Want to learn more? Andrea will be offering a class called “Building a College List,” on Saturday, March 17th at the Mukilteo Library.

You can find more college resources on our Life After High School page, including booklists, test prep, and more!

Andrea also answered questions about financial aid last fall:

College preparation planning: all about the FASFA part one

College prep planning: all about the FAFSA part two

College prep planning: all about scholarships

College preparation planning: how do I know if I qualify for financial aid?


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