Admission News Applying to College

College Checklist: What You Need Before You Start Applying

empty note paper with checklist on it, pen and coffee cup on light background with female hand with a pencil

At some point, you need to start thinking about your future career. If you’re in your junior or senior year of high school, then you’re probably already considering your options. For many students, college is the next logical step in reaching their goals, though more and more high school students are choosing different options.

College is still the best path forward for many young adults. There are many jobs that are in high demand that all but require a bachelor’s or master’s degree. For instance, universities can’t train students in working with data analytics tools fast enough to keep up job openings in America. Students who choose to study STEM fields in college are likely to find interesting, high-paying jobs in the next few decades.

If you decide that college is the logical next step for you, then you’ll need to prepare for the application process. Here’s your college checklist to complete before you start applying to different programs.

First Things First

Things happen in life – even to young people. If something happened that prevented you from earning your high school diploma, you’re not out of luck. There are ways to earn a GED or high school diploma online or in-person to prepare you for your college applications.

Just about every college or university will require you to have a high school diploma or GED to even apply. That’s no reason to get discouraged, however. A high school diploma will benefit you in the job market as you go through college and earn your degree. Even if you dropped out of high school, you can still go to college if you’re willing to earn your diploma online and prove yourself.

Show College Admissions Officers What You’re Made Of

Applying to colleges can feel like a full-time job. But it’s well worth the effort to show college admissions officers what you’re made of. They’re interested in hearing your story. They don’t necessarily want to hear about the perfect student who made time for fifteen extracurriculars. They want to know the real you—what drives you, your struggles, and your dreams.

The essay is one of the most important components of any college application. Take your time with it and understand that you’ll probably need to go through several different drafts before you write the essay you will actually submit. You can even mine essays you may have written during high school for the material you can use.

The good news is that most college applications have similar prompts. Once you’ve written one essay, you may be able to alter it a bit for each application, rather than writing one from scratch each time.

Take some time to brainstorm and reflect on your goals, past experiences, and hopes for the future. When writing, think about the kind of impression you want to make. Your essay is your chance to really shine and express yourself within the application. Have different people read it and help you polish your essay before you apply.

If You’re a Woman Who’s Interested in the Sciences…

The gender gap in STEM in the United States is a known issue, with women earning just 18% of bachelor’s degrees in computer science and 19% of engineering degrees. Many universities have acknowledged this gap and are eager to welcome women into their STEM degree programs.

Because of the persistent gender gap, young women who want to pursue a degree in the sciences often have a leg up when it comes to college applications. If you’re a woman who is interested in the sciences or another STEM field, it’s important to talk about why you want to pursue this type of degree in your application. You might also be able to find scholarships just for women who want to get into STEM.

Get Organized and Get Started!

College applications can take a long time to complete. It’s best to get started as soon as you can, giving you plenty of time to give each application your full attention. Some colleges use standardized college applications, like The Common Application and The Universal Application, which allows you to apply to several different schools at once while only filling out one application. It goes without saying that you should take care to make this application the best it can possibly be.

Other schools still use their own custom applications. It’s up to you to decide which schools are worth the time and effort of a custom application. Remember, it’s important to stay organized throughout the process. There are lots of documents you’ll need during the application process, and you don’t want to lose anything!

Applying to colleges can feel like running a marathon. But if you start early and get organized, you’ll cut down on a lot of stress throughout the process. Years later, when you’re working in your dream job, you’ll be happy you spent the time to apply for and attend college. It’s all worth it in the end!

For more great college tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics.