• Mr. Jeff Neill

How Do I Apply to College?



Q: I think my materials are all ready, but how do I submit my applications? Who submits what? How do we get things submitted?


A: This is not a strange question, and it can feel shameful for a student facing this one. The answers can be decidedly tricky based on a number of factors, but the bottom line is that if you (student) have any questions about how to submit applications, be sure to get in to see your counselor. Some of the complications shed some additional clout on why we recommend submitting two weeks ahead of the deadline!


For our purposes here, though, let’s consider a few more practical comments…

Each college and university sets its own application requirements, so it is essential that students include these requirements as a critical component of their research process. Most university websites will have a section on admissions requirements, so be sure to read them carefully!


Ultimately, there are two basic parts of the application: the part the student submits and the part the school (counselor) submits.


The part that the student submits usually contains the essentials of an application, including biographical information, educational background, etc. Depending on the school/country, this may also include some expression of motivation, a perspective on why the student would be a good fit for this particular programme/major or university, often in the form of short answer questions or essays. The student-submitted part of the application will also include the application fee (or fee waiver) for those schools that charge. (This is important as it is typically the final stage of applying and provides a receipt as evidence of successful application.)


One additional and essential reminder here is that the student is responsible for submitting standardized test scores directly from the test agency. At ISD most students sit for the SAT, and so this means that for those colleges that require the SAT as part of the application, the student must login to his or her College Board application and submit his/her test scores (and pay the requisite fee). This is not something that can be circumnavigated or handled by someone else. [Keep in mind that despite our technological age, it can take up to two weeks for test scores to reach a college, so also be aware of deadlines!]


On the other side of things, the counselor is responsible for submitting a handful of components of the application as well, which we will call supporting materials. However, with very few exceptions, keep in mind that universities consider a student’s application to be complete when the student submits his or her part; there is far greater flexibility and latitude with the supporting documents. The supporting materials can include ISD transcripts, previous high school transcripts, school profile, counselor letter of recommendation, and teacher letters of recommendation. There are sometimes additional requirements or requirements framed in differing language. For example, sometimes a college may require a high school transcript, senior year courses, and predicted IB grades, seemingly as three different components of the application; however, at ISD, we include IB predictions and senior courses on our transcript. Again, though, colleges and universities set their own requirements, and so it is the student’s responsibility to research and know the application requirements for the schools on their list and then to communicate those to his or her counselor. We recommend that students communicate their needs with their counselor in person during a meeting but then to send an email to their counselor immediately after submitting, including information on what this application may require.


Coming back to the question asked -- which is one we have encountered quite a bit -- there are, broadly speaking, a couple different ways to apply to colleges: directly to the university, through a common application system, or through a national application system. Complications arise, when they do, when navigating multiple such methods, not all of which are entirely straightforward or intuitive… again lending credence to our advice to submit two weeks in advance.


As a final word, a beloved colleague, who works for an admissions office that sees a large volume of applications, has long been sharing this perspective: consider the application process the first indicator of college readiness. How a student navigates and manages the different demands of the application process reveals much about how a student is able to navigate the rigors of college, in his perspective. Are they organized? Are they thorough in their research? Are they prepared? Do they pay attention to details? Are they punctual? Do they communicate effectively? To be clear, this is not meant to be dismissive of difficulties experienced! Nor is this a way of shutting down a student. Instead, consider this: if the application process somehow parallels college itself and one of the top ways of finding success in college is to reach out for help when needed, then students need to be aware that there is help for them in the application process as well! Come see your counselor! We can help! But please keep our two week requirement in mind!


(And also please be sure to read this post on what to do if a college tells you something is missing!)

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