An Overview Guide of the College Application Process

Admit Guru
The College Admit Guru


It’s college application season, and more and more blog posts are surfacing to help you through the grueling process. This article presents a comprehensive, full guide to the college application process to make it a little bit easier for prospective students this application season.

Create a perfect college list

Create your perfect college list to be prepared and organized.

This is, without a doubt, one of the hardest steps on your application journey, but as soon as you have a list of colleges that you are excited to attend, everything will go much more smoothly.

Truly, the only obstacle for you at this stage is the slew of possible universities. The number can be overwhelming at first, but some simple criteria will help you narrow them down:

1) The location

Do you want to stay in your country, or do you want to live on the other side of the globe for a couple of years? Do you want to live close to your family, or go somewhere beyond your region/state? No matter the case, it is extremely important for you to decide as soon as possible. Since different countries have different application processes and deadlines, there might be a few urgent things to take care of before studying abroad.

2) The curriculum

Not all the applicants know exactly what they want to study in college; in fact, some universities even discourage their first-year students from declaring their majors too soon. However, if you are one of the lucky few who knows what to do for the rest of your life, you might want to apply to schools that not only offer your major but also specialize in it as well.

3) The extracurriculars & social life

All of us want to feel like a part of a special community when we arrive at a new place. What better way to connect with those around you by becoming a participant in popular organizations within your college? If you want to know more about social life, there are thousands of platforms and forums where students share their experiences. Additionally, you could always set up an interview with an alumnus or a current student via the official website of the college.

4) The financial aid & scholarships

The financial sum might include not only your cost of attendance, but also living expenses, the cost of books and stationery, and even plane or train tickets. Thus, it is of paramount importance to see what financial aid and scholarships you are eligible for.

Important dates

Keep track of important college application dates to make sure you don’t miss a deadline.

For younger audiences:

● When planning your test dates, keep in mind that you should have an adequate amount of time to receive the results of required standardized tests, such as SAT/ACT (and English proficiency tests for international students), before your application deadline.

● Start to explore the Common App website the summer before your senior year, or even earlier, just to familiarize yourself with it.

● If you are a high school junior, be sure to ask for letters of recommendation near the end of your junior year. This will give your teachers plenty of time to write a strong letter about you and avoid the rush they face in the fall from competitive students.

● Start thinking about your application essays the summer before your senior year; this will make the process much less stressful and even (a tad) enjoyable!

If you want to get even more advice, take a look at “A Survivor’s Guide to Freshman Year”.

For high school seniors:

● As you might already know, November 1st was the deadline for most Early Action (EA) and Early Decision I (ED) applications. Nevertheless, some of the universities have decided to extend their application deadlines as a part of their COVID-19 response (these can range from November 5th to November 16th and later — please refer to your school of choice). This means that even if you did not have a chance to apply before, you can still apply now! The same applies to the Regular Decision (RD) deadlines (Jan 1 — Jan 16 and later)

● The application deadlines for financial aid are typically close to the EA/ED and RD deadlines; don’t miss them! The merit-based financial aid deadlines vary from college to college, so you will have to refer to the official websites to know the exact dates.


You are probably already familiar with the college application academic requirements, so, we will keep it short:

➔ Try to maintain good grades throughout your high school career, even for the entirety of your senior year (we know it’s hard but fight that senioritis like your life depends on it). With the cancellation of standardized tests all over the world, GPAs could potentially be the next key factor looked at by the admissions board; it could tremendously help you stand out in the vast pool of applicants.

➔ However, please note that your grades need not be absolutely perfect; all you need to do is to show the admission officers that you do work hard, either through your extracurriculars, or essays…or both.

➔ Standardized tests do not matter as much as you think, especially now. More and more colleges are going test-optional or test-blind. This means you will have to work diligently on your essays to show your best side.


➔ The one thing that every applicant should know about the extracurricular part of the application form is that quality is always better than quantity. The number of your extracurriculars does not matter; the thing that does is your involvement and passion. Additionally, it will be easier for you to write heartfelt essays about things you actually care deeply about.

Make sure you care about your extracurricular activities.

➔ Remember, that you don’t have to be an athlete or participate in scientific research projects to validate your extracurriculars. The admission officers understand that not everyone has the privilege to spend time on enjoyable activities and that some might be needed at home or at a hospital to look after a family member. Don’t be scared to share your story; this is your only way to be heard.


You must have seen an infinite amount of various essay strategies and attempted to use at least a thousand of them when writing your own essay. It’s no secret that the essays are difficult to write, especially for those of us who have never known what it is like to craft a narrative that is not so academic. However, essays are golden opportunities to stand out, particularly if you are planning to apply by the RD deadline since there will be a larger number of applicants.

Here are some tips for your stellar essays:

1) Read some examples of successful essays

There are numerous books devoted to essay examples and topics they cover. Some of them include “50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays”, “50 Successful Harvard Application Essays”, “100 Successful Application Essays”, etc. Some colleges publish essays of their students on their websites. This will give you a definite idea of how to devise, structure, and elevate your essay.

2) Create an outline for your essay

For the personal statement, it might be useful for you to point out an identifying characteristic (a strong side or, conversely, your vulnerability), and think of the time in your life when this particular trait has shined the brightest. For the essay prompts, think deeply of the questions, link them with personal experiences, and begin writing. If you want to organize your ideas, you can first put your theses in bullet-point format and then add more detail as you go.

Create a compelling personal statement for your college essay.

3) Show, don’t tell

This key detail is often overlooked. You must remember that admission officers are human too, and humans have tended to be engrossed in descriptive stories for centuries. You need to try to convey your ideas in a picturesque way so that your essays come to life before the very eyes of the readers. This will not only make your essay more enjoyable but will also leave a long-lasting trace in the minds and memories of those who read it.

4) Show a different side

It is always great to have tons of medals and prizes from the competitions you won- even more impressive if you are deeply in love with the subject you want to study in the future and have the means to prove it.

However, avoid devoting your personal statement to your academic achievements; it will make you sound repetitive. Besides, the admission officers already know you have a multi-dimensional personality; thus, they would like to understand your academic prowess through your grades or test scores. In any case, you will still have an opportunity to gush about the mechanics of chemical reactions or the genius of photosynthesis in your supplementary essays.

5) Have only a few people review it

This might come off slightly counterintuitive, but it’s true. Don’t let too many people get hold of your essay before you submit it. Your initial ideas and innermost thoughts might be altered involuntarily by the opinions; too much advice might seriously injure the integrity of your essays. That is why we recommend you let only a few of your relatives/friends/mentors have a read and give you feedback on how you sound.

Scholarships & Financial Aid

Scholarships are an indefinite topic; they might differ depending on the colleges you will be applying to. All you need to know is that based on your background, some institutions offer financial aid, some offer scholarships, and some offer both.

Keep an eye out for scholarships.

Financial aid is usually divided into two categories: need-based and merit-based. You can apply to both, such that your institution allows it. However, keep in mind that not every college is need-blind, so your financial status might be taken into account when reviewing your candidacy.

Both scholarships and financial aid could require a separate application, and deadlines are usually later than the regular application deadlines; nevertheless, you should check the websites to be completely sure.

If you want to know more about the scholarships and financial aid, as well as tons of other confusing concepts of the college admission process, visit our blog post “College Myths — Debunked”.

Things to do after you submit your application

Congratulations! You have completed all your essays, attached all the documents and letters of recommendation, and finally submitted your application forms to all the colleges on your list. So, what now? Virtually nothing.

If anything, wait for the confirmation that your application has been received by the admission committee. The confirmation might come as an email, a message on the online portal of the website of your college, or via the Common App website.

Once you have done that, you can finally relax. You have practically done everything in your power to get in, so now it is time to play the waiting game while enjoying the last days of your high school journey. Do not worry about the outcome; that is possibly the least productive (and definitely the least fun) way to spend your time. It doesn’t matter where you get in; your worth cannot be measured by the place you will attend for the next four years. Think positively, and you will attract positivity and happiness.

Good luck this application season and may all your dreams and plans come true!

Put your best foot forward for your college applications!

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Admit Guru
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