Hope your week is off to a great start!! The 2019/20 Application cycle has been open for a while now and we will be posting weekly tips about the college application process. Today we are going to kick off with some basic overview of the application process.

***The Common Application***
You will most likely complete your college apps online, either through the Common Application or on the school’s website. The Common App makes it easy to apply to multiple schools with just one form, but each college will have different requirements for essays and test scores. Read the application instructions for the colleges of your choice carefully.
You will be asked to list basic information about yourself, your school, and your family, as well as your GPA, standardized test scores, extracurriculars, and any awards you earned in high school. If you start to fill out an application and realize you need more information from your school or parents, you will be able to save an in-progress application and return to it before submitting.

***High School Transcript***

You will need to request official transcripts from your high school for each college where you’re applying. The transcripts are submitted via the commonApp. Remember that the administrators and counselors at your high school are helping all the other seniors in your class at the same time, so be polite–and patient. Senior year grades still count!

***SAT and ACT Score Reports***

You need to take a standardized exam to apply to most colleges in the U.S.. When you take the SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests, you can request that a score report be sent directly to your prospective colleges. You can also decide later whether colleges see one, some, or all of your scores. Schedule your test with enough time first to receive your scores (2–8 weeks for the ACT, about 3 weeks for the SAT) and then to request reports for the colleges on your list. Both ACT and the College Board offer rush or priority report options, for a fee. A school may consider all test scores from all dates, your highest overall score from a single test date, your superscore, in which case you’ll submit all your scores and the admissions committee will consider only the highest score on each section or test scores may be completely optional.

*** Letters of Recommendation and Personal Statement***

Most colleges require two or three letters of recommendation from high school teachers or school counselors. Pick someone who knows you well and can speak to your strengths. Your college essay will probably be the most time-consuming part of your application—start early. Use your essay as an opportunity to tell admissions counselors what makes you unique and what you can bring to a given campus community.

***Financial Aid***

Be aware that applying for admission and applying for financial aid are two separate processes. Check every school’s financial aid policies—They will require forms like the CSS/ISFAA.

We will be back with much more detail on each of these topics in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

The Author is a rising junior at Columbia University studying Computer Science and Psychology.