8 tips from college admissions experts for Alabama students preparing college applications | Tech US News


With college application deadlines just around the corner, admissions officers say the holidays are a good time for high school seniors to knock a few final tasks off their checklists.

“At this time of year, students need to be especially mindful of their deadlines,” said Kathleen Stallings, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Each school requires different subjects at different times and it is very important that students are clear about what is due when.”

Most colleges accept applications for fall enrollment by January or February, but other financial aid or scholarship requirements may be due earlier.

For students who have been procrastinating on their personal essay or haven’t had a chance to fill out the necessary forms, here are some tips to keep in mind as college application season draws to a close.

Complete the application completely.

Most colleges have online portals to help organize your application, and sites like the Common App and the Common Black College App make it easy to apply to hundreds of colleges with a single application.

Read more Ed Lab: The University of Alabama at Auburn Common Application opens

Be sure to attach documents such as test scores and essays when required, and notify the school counseling office of application deadlines so your transcripts don’t arrive late. Transfer students will likely need to submit more than one transcript if they have enrolled at multiple institutions.

“This may seem trivial, but colleges receive many incomplete applications every year,” said Sherre Padgett, an educational consultant who provides college preparation services across the country.

Create a tracker to stay organized

Stallings said she also recommends creating a shared calendar with parents or guardians to keep track of different deadlines.

Here’s a handy tracker template from Get Schooled, which also includes several short articles, guides and videos that break down the application process in easy-to-understand language.

You can also text #Hello to 33-55–77 for free college application tips from Get Schooled.

Make sure your essay is an honest representation of who you are.

Some colleges require an essay or personal statement as part of the application. The Common App also requires applicants to complete written prompts.

Padgett says it’s important to be authentic when writing personal essays—and to limit “puffiness.”

“Don’t just repeat school information to prove you know about your prospective school,” she said. “They already know who they are; they want to know about you.”

Other experts recommend writing multiple drafts, finding a peer to edit the draft, and avoiding one-liners or too much humor. The best essays are those that directly answer the question, but also have a strong introduction, elaborate on personal experience, and are reflective.

“It’s always, always best for a student to delve into their experience rather than cover the essay with all the things they’ve done,” Stallings said.

Choose your referrals wisely.

Choose people who know you well, both inside and outside the classroom. This could be a counselor, coach, teacher or mentor outside of school. Experts say the best recommenders are people who can attest to your growth, not just your success.

And don’t hold off on the recommendation until the end, Stallings said.

Now—in the fall, before you plan to attend college—is a good time to reach out to recommenders if you haven’t already. The sooner the better.

It is best to contact recommenders in person if possible and provide them with the necessary resources – such as a link to the school’s mailing address or application portal. Put all the information in one place to avoid confusion or mistakes. Also, consider sending a thank you note or small gift after signing up to show your appreciation.

Check whether you are eligible for a fee waiver.

Alabama Possible, a nonprofit organization that works to improve access to college in the state, says the majority of questions they receive about college are related to affordability and how to pay the application fee.

Students can check their financial aid eligibility by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This is the basic document that most institutions use to determine aid.

Many colleges in Alabama are accepting FAFSA applications until December 1st if you haven’t already completed one at your school (remember, the FAFSA is required for graduation from an Alabama high school!). Here is a guide from the Ministry of Education on how to complete the form.

Read more Ed Lab: What do Alabama students need to know about college financial aid, student loans?

Prospective students with limited financial resources may also be eligible for a fee waiver, which allows applicants to send college application materials for free or at minimal cost.

Here’s a sample National Association for College Admissions Counseling admission fee waiver and a guide on how to fill it out. Some colleges also automatically waive fees if a student qualifies for free or reduced lunch.

Alabama students can also apply to several historically black colleges and universities for free through the Common Black College application. Alabama Possible has prepared a guide to help users navigate the site.

Last-minute test takers or juniors preparing in advance may also be able to waive payment for entrance exams like the ACT or SAT, but be aware of deadlines.

For more information about financial aid, see the College Board’s FAQs.

Keep copies of everything

Keep copies of all applications, letters of recommendation, and any other materials you used for work in case anything gets lost during the process.

As the deadline approaches, it also can’t hurt to contact all of your colleges to make sure they have received your materials.

Ask for help!

The Alabama Goes to College Help Desk can assist Alabama students with any college application, FAFSA, or other college admissions questions.

Text or call (334) 316-6155 and a representative will get back to you.

College admissions offices and application programs like the Common App also usually have helplines or people who can direct admissions questions. If you’re a transfer student, check to see if your institution has a transfer counselor or recruiter who can help guide you.

Believe that you belong.

Padgett said it can be common, especially among minority groups or first-generation students, to worry about how they will fit in or succeed in some school environments.

If you’re doubting yourself, experts say it’s best not to fight these feelings. Once you’ve acknowledged them, try making a list of your past successes or skills you can bring to the table. Then you’ll be better prepared to approach your application with a calm and confident attitude.

“Students need to believe they belong wherever they apply,” Padgett said. “Students should apply to college with confidence and a mindset that says they will achieve their goals no matter who says no.”


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