Buzzer Beaters

5 tips on applying to college, mid-December


emily moliken

Here is a cartoon for you to look at, you’re probably really stressed.

College has been a long time coming. From the first day of kindergarten to the most stressful hours of the junior year, we’ve all known the glorious day when we’d ship off to a $50,000 9’x9′ room would arrive in the blink of an eye. What you probably didn’t see coming was the major stress that comes with trying to get into college. From transcript request forms to an innumerable amount of essays about yourself, this application has been nothing if it hasn’t been absolutely draining.

At this point in time, early birds are committing to schools, regular decision applicants are breathing sighs of relief all over the country, and the waiting begins… for most people. But what if you haven’t applied? With approximately 15 days until the January 1st deadline set at most schools, your clock is ticking.

If you haven’t applied to any schools yet, still have a few on your list, or are just now deciding that your safety school isn’t safe enough, then here are 5 tips to help you get your colleges apps in ASAP (apps soon as possible).

  1. Send your SAT scores first. This step is the one that takes the most time -not for you to complete, but for College Board to send. When you took the SAT or ACT, unless you went out of your way to make sure your scores were sent to specific colleges, the schools you’re applying to won’t know your numbers. Just typing them into the blank on your application doesn’t count either; they’re not taking your word for it (if they did, then I would have gotten a 2400). Go to and login to your account (the same one you use to check your AP scores or sign up for SATs) and send your score reports to all of the schools you’re applying to. It costs $11.95 if it’s more than 2 weeks after the scores were released and College Board expects you to give them at least a week to get your scores sent to the college.
  2. Ask for letters of recommendation. Since this process takes some time (you’re asking a teacher with a billion students to remember how great only you are) this should be the next thing that you do. On the brink of Winter break, remember that you have very little time to ask and they have even less to write you a letter.  If you’re smart, you’ll get in-school items taken care of before we leave for break.  Ask a teacher that liked you and that you liked. Teacher recommendations should be more anecdotal than a report of how you did in their class, so pick someone that you got along with. If you happened to shine in their class, even better. When asking your teacher, be nice and sincere. Also, provide them with a list of your extracurricular activities, accomplishments, and sports so when they write your letter, they’re sure to gush about how involved you are at the school (even if they don’t really remember you at all). Also, don’t assume that your guidance counselor is going to write a letter for you. If the school you’re applying to requires a letter from your counselor, make sure to stop into guidance to ask him or her if they will write you a letter for whatever school you’re sending an app to. Remember, your letters can be used for multiple schools if the teacher or counselor doesn’t put the name of the school in the letter!
  3. Take everything into guidance at once. To properly apply to college, your transcripts, supplemental school forms, and any hard copies of recommendation letters will need to be sent to the university’s Office of Admissions. To request an official transcript, go to guidance with $2 and fill out a “Transcript Request Form” that the nice guidance ladies leave sitting on the counter with all the other forms you’ve never needed until right now. Then give your filled out request, $2, your supplement forms (printed out by you when you go to fill out your application online), and any hard copies of letters of recommendation that you’ve gotten from teachers or other people to Mrs. Bradley, not your guidance counselor. She knows what to do.
  4. Fill out the application. Though this step seems to be the most obvious, it’s also a big priority. The application takes way longer than you think to complete (most are 5-9 pages) and the information they ask you for may take some careful researching and questioning of your parents. If you’ve already completed other apps, print out a copy and use it for reference when filling out your other ones online. Make sure to leave some time for error, like forgetting your GPA and needing to run to guidance for a temporary and unofficial transcript or needing to look at when your mom registered her car in the state of Virginia (actual question on a college application).
  5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… your essays. Most schools have pretty generic essay prompts. Chances are they want to a) know why and how you’re a leader, b) know what you will contribute to their campus, which is pretty much the same at any college, or c) know about a time that you failed. For some reason, schools think that 250-500 words having to do with these three topics are a surefire way to cherry-pick students, so to make things easier on yourself, reuse your essays at multiple schools. If you need to modify (aka college name here) some of your essays, do it. This saves your precious time and makes life a whole lot easier.

Secret tip number 6. Turn everything in when your parents are around. Not only will you need a credit card handy when submitting your applications online, but it’s nice to have a few extra sets of eyes go over your application before you send it away and you prepare to sit in agony for the next four months. Also, your parent may remember a few things to throw on there that make you look better, and since the people reading your application will be adults, it’s  smart to have the grown ups look it over once or twice. Plus, if your parents weren’t around, who would take a video of you squealing while hitting the ‘submit’ button on your first –and maybe last- college application?