The college application process can be overwhelming. With so many things to do and deadlines to meet, it can feel like a full time job just to get applications in to a university on time. Naviance understands how difficult this can be and is here to help provide organization to the college application process.

When should you start applying to college?

The first task of applying to college is understanding when you should start the process. This can depend on a myriad of things, so it can be a bit confusing. You may have already started thinking about college and have been planning for some time.

If you haven’t, then now is the time to make a list of colleges based on your interests. Think about what you like, what gets you excited, what makes you curious, and what gives you energy. Then search for colleges that align with those interests. From there, you can begin winnowing down your preferences knowing that you’re working from a list of schools that already captures much of what matters to you.

Once you’ve identified your favorite schools, it’s time to take the next step. Here we break down when you should start applying to colleges.

  • Early Decision: Apply in November and receive an admissions notifications usually by December. Early decision is a good fit for students who know without a doubt that they will attend their first-choice school if accepted. Early decision is binding, meaning, if a student applies and is accepted, they must attend that school and withdraw all of their applications to other schools.
  • Early Action: As with early decision, early action applications are due in the fall and admissions will send their notifications early. The distinction here is that early action is nonbinding. Students who are accepted via early action do not have to commit or make a decision until spring.
  • Regular Decision: Just like it sounds, this is the typical way to apply to college. Regular decision applications are generally due by late December or early January. When you apply via regular decision, you can expect to hear from college admissions by late spring.
  • If you need help getting your applications organized, match your Naviance account to your Common App and let the streamlining begin!

What do you need for a college application?

There are many moving parts in the college application process. Now that you know the deadlines that need to be met, you can plan accordingly for the list of things you will need in order to apply for college.

  • College essay: Arguably the centerpiece of the application, the college essay gives admissions counselors a window into your world. It’s your chance to showcase your writing and grammar skills, of course, but also your ideas and unique perspective on the world. (link to the new “how to write a college essay” piece)
  • Letter of recommendation: Critical for shedding further light on your character and qualifications, letters of recommendation help give admissions counselors a more well-rounded view of who you are as a person and as a student. It’s important to think about who you want to ask to write your letters, and give them plenty of lead time. NOTE: If you are a coach, teacher, or other school staff member, take a look at our list of tips for how to write a great college recommendation. (link to new piece)
  • High school transcript: A record of your academic history, your high school transcript contains your grades, courses, and other data needed for the application process. To get an official copy of your transcript, contact your school’s registrar.
  • Resume building: Whether you’re applying to college or heading into the workforce, a sparkling resume is key. Your resume should be a brief overview of your skills and experience, highlighting your talents and areas of expertise. It should also include any relevant work-based learning activities you have completed. (link to new resume building piece)
  • Test scores: You’ll need to round up your standardized test scores, too. This includes SAT and ACT scores, and any others that may be relevant to your schools and majors of choice.

Finally, it’s important to consider whether or not you may need financial assistance in order to pay for college. At Naviance, we have several resources available to help search for scholarships and grants. And if you need help applying for a college scholarship? We’ve got you covered. (link to college scholarships piece).

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