Do you have a high school student planning to apply to college this fall? Check out these time-saving tips to simplify the process!
Narrow down your choices. Students should have a few different colleges they want to apply for as admissions can be extremely competitive at some universities. When selecting a school that’s right for you, here’s are some critical categories you should keep in mind to help make your decision:
- Location. Do you want to move to another state or country, or do you want a school closer to home? This decision will also be based on your living preferences – do you want to live in campus housing, or do you want to commute to school?
- Programs offered. Does this school offer degrees in the subject(s) you want to major in? Do they have any particular programs, resources, or career pathways that interest you?
- Requirements. Do you meet the requirements (classes taken, GPA, test scores) for admission at this school? For example, some universities recommend the equivalent of three years of foreign language classes to have a decent chance at admission.
- Budget. How much is this all going to cost? Since this may play a large role in your decision, we’re going to talk more about this topic below.
Break down the costs. You should be able to get a fairly decent idea of your overall costs by doing some research online. Once you have a few schools you want to apply for, search the web to find the cost of tuition, room and board, and other expenses. Most schools should have costs listed clearly on their official site. Many students are surprised to find out just how expensive colleges can be. At time of writing, one prestigious west-coast university estimates just under $82,000 for each year of attendance while living in university housing. With four years expected to obtain a degree, it’s not hard to see how some students graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. We can’t stress this enough – it’s really, really important to consider your financial limitations when applying to a school. Try to factor in how much financial aid you anticipate from scholarships, grants, etc. In a general sense, here are a few guidelines:
- Private schools typically cost more than public schools
- In-state tuition is generally lower than out-of-state tuition
- Living on campus can cost as much (or more) than tuition itself
- Community college is the most affordable option
On that last bullet point, it’s something a lot of students will end up considering – and truthfully, heading to community college first can be a smart choice. The first two years at any university require general education classes that are consistent across schools, and many students are able to reap huge savings just by taking these lower-division classes at a community college first and then transferring to a university. And in some cases, transfer programs are even more streamlined than freshman admissions. Keep in mind – when you receive a four-year degree, it will only say the name of the school you graduated from!
Application requirements. Save yourself time by checking the app requirements ahead of time. Do you have to write an essay? Do you have to show proof of community service? When are transcripts and test scores due? Make note of important dates ahead of time. Lastly, look to see if any of the schools you are applying for support the Common App. More than 900 colleges accept the Common App, so this can be an excellent way to avoid tackling multiple applications for different schools.