College Application Process

Haste makes waste

Some college/university applications open July 1, BUT don’t freak out.  Most colleges/universities open applications on August 1, and admissions counselors are not reviewing applications before this date.  In reality, most deadlines are not until December or January, and even early and priority deadlines aren't set until October or November.  Most importantly, however, you don’t want to rush the process, in order to have time to put your best foot forward.

Research before applying

The best thing to do is to research schools.  Every year, students choose which schools to apply to for a multitude of reasons, and there are many factors to consider.  Make your list while considering factors like majors offered, graduation rate, employment rates after graduation, location, school size, retention rate and other aspects. Sometimes, students overlook important internal factors when choosing a college.  Take time to make sure that your college list fits your personality, as well. Consider unique experiences offered at each campus (campus culture and environment, academic offerings, special scholarships, etc.).

Research application and admission requirements

College admissions requirements, deadlines and guidelines are renewed each year. This is your chance to research the items required to have a complete application, application instructions and deadlines.  Additionally, know the priority deadlines, speak to college admissions counselors and find out what will give you an edge in the admissions process, like essays or letters of recommendation. Pay special attention to information regarding automatic or assured admissions policies, like Top 10 Percent/Top 25 Percent and whether SAT/SAT Subject Tests or ACT tests are required.  Finally, talk to your parents/guardians and counselor, if you are applying Early Decision or Early Action. 

The application

There are several ways to apply to colleges/universities.  Some schools use CommonApp, ApplyTexas, The Coalition App or use their own applications.  The best way to find out which application they accept is to visit the college/university website.  Ways to apply:

  • ApplyTexas is the Texas Common Application and is accepted by most, if not all, colleges and universities in Texas.  If the school accepts the ApplyTexas application, it is best to use it instead of using the school's application on its website, because you can keep track of all of your ApplyTexas applications in one place with your ApplyTexas account.  Once you have completed one application, you can copy the same application for other schools. Preview essay prompts
  • The Common Application is an application used by nearly 700 colleges, mostly private, and with many located outside the state of Texas.  Students can begin to build their Common App profile now, even though many institutions will not have supplemental questions ready before Aug. 1.  The application website has many helpful videos and tutorials for students and parents.  It is important to know that your Naviance account must be matched with your Common Application in order to request letters of recommendation and to submit official documentation to any Common App school. Visit CommonAppMedia for tutorials.
  • College Application Sites - Some schools use their own applications.  You can find the college/university's application on its website. Be sure to check with each college/university to learn more about the applications they accept and prefer. Additional college application sites that you may use:

Financial aid

College Affordability is the next important part of the application process. Remember, don’t make initial application decisions based solely on the “sticker price” of tuition, because you may receive financial aid and scholarships. Research financial aid and how much financial aid you may receive.  Visit FAFSA4caster to get an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid.

IMPORTANT:   FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the TASFA (Texas Application for State Financial Aid) both open this year on Oct. 1, 2018 and require 2016 income tax information.