The Dos of Applying to College

Getting into your top-pick colleges depends on the strength of your college application which showcases your top grades, extracurricular activities and personal essay. Every college has different criteria; so remember to stay focused and pay attention to details.

Do choose wisely

Clifford T. Thornton, Associate Dean of Admission at Wesleyan University says, “Students shouldn’t apply to more than 10 schools or else they’re casting a wide net, hoping for the best and not doing their homework.” He goes on to advise you to have only:

  • Two to three “reach” schools (those you want to apply to even though you are unlikely to be accepted)
  • Three safety schools to which you know with confidence that you will be accepted

Three to four schools to which you believe you have a reasonable chance of being accepted

Do apply for scholarships

Start researching and applying for any and every scholarship for which you qualify and plan on continuing this process while attending college. Don’t be discouraged by small award amounts—a little money here and there could end up paying for your tuition.

Do get organized

Erica Jones, a graduate of Spelman College, suggests keeping a binder with dividers to organize your files. Jones says, “Keep all the information you receive from your colleges in this binder in alphabetical order along with your application, acceptance letters, awards and multiple copies of your references. Have a general statement and biography put together and if the school uses a general application online, keep copies of the confirmation pages. Keep scholarship information in the back of the notebook

Do be decisive and apply early

If you have your heart set on a certain school, apply early through one of the following options:

  • Early decision (with binding early admission) is for students who are certain about their top choice and comfortable foregoing acceptances at other schools.
  • Early action (non-binding early admission) is best for those who don’t want to be obligated to enroll in and attend a school they are uncertain about but would like to know their application status early.

Do pay attention to deadlines

Ashley-Marie Blakely, a second-year law student at Villanova University, says, “If you do miss a deadline, keep searching! There are many colleges and universities that have a rolling admission process. They assess each application as they receive it, and their deadlines are much more flexible.”

Do research requirements

Find out what your school of interest is looking for and where they put most of their emphasis. For example, do they value the GPA more than the SAT or ACT score, or do they put more value in letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities?

Do manage your social media profiles

College admissions officers don’t actively search the internet for the thousands of students who apply, but they will respond to anonymous tips they receive. Make sure whatever public information you have is “flattering/beneficial” and supports your credentials. For example, if you’re a writer or a designer, then showcase your best pieces on your blog or in your profile.

Do know yourself

If you know you need a structured environment to get your studying done, don’t apply to a school that is notorious for partying. If you thrive in big crowds or cities, don’t apply to a small liberal arts college in Nebraska. Find the university that fits you best; this will bring out your full potential.

Thanks are due to Lauren Bush, Program Associate at the American Dental Education Association’s Center for Educational Policy and Research, for serving as a source for this article.

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