As summer begins to wind down and the smell of fall seeps in through the air, there is one thing that every rising senior begins to think about: applying to colleges! Maybe you have a list of one or two schools that you have been dreaming about attending ever since you were a little kid, or perhaps your list is made up of 10 or more schools. Whether your list is short or long, there is one thing you will need to do for any school to consider you for admission.  That, of course, is completing the application. August 1 is the opening date for many college applications, particularly the Common Application. Therefore, I put together 9 sure-fire ways to make your application stand out during the upcoming fall months:


9 Must Do’s When Applying to College:

1.)    Review the school’s application options.  Many schools offer various application options based on a student’s interest in the school.  These options are typically called Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision. Early Decision is a binding agreement between you, the school, your parent, and even your high school counselor.  If you are admitted to a school via Early Decision, you must attend. Early Action, on the other hand, is a non-binding agreement, but it tells the school you are interested in attending if admitted. With both Early Decision and Early Action, you are likely to receive your admission decision earlier in the year.  For example, if you apply EA or ED I to SJU, you would receive your decision on or around December 20. Finally, you can apply to a school via Regular Decision. However, with the Regular Decision application option, you will not find out your admission decision until mid-spring, not giving you as much time to decide before the May 1 decision deadline.  Whichever application option you decide on, knowing that there are options – and what each option means – is super helpful in the application process. For a complete list of Saint Joseph’s application options, click here


2.)    Submit your application through the Common Application or the university’s application.  The Common Application is a great way to submit your application to multiple schools.  However, make sure you check if ALL of the schools you are considering applying to are Common Application partners.   If you submit your application via Common App, you will only submit one essay, so make sure you remove specific school names from your essay! The Common Application opens August 1, so start your application early while you still have some downtime during August. If you want the option to update your essay based on the individual school, I would suggest completing each application on the school’s website.  Both options are fine and will get your application to the school.  


3.)    Ask your guidance counselor and teachers for letters of recommendation early. Many, if not all schools to which you will apply, will require at least one letter of recommendation. Most colleges and universities will request that the letter comes directly from the recommender.  This is typically done through a system many schools use called Naviance, or another similar third-party software. Don’t worry, your counselor or teacher will know what to do, but make sure you ask them for the letter of recommendation early in the process, so they have enough time to complete your letter.


4.)    Understand test-optional vs. test required applications. Test optional means that you do not have to submit your standardized test scores to be considered for admission into the university that you are applying to.  Over the last 10 or so years many schools have adopted the test optional practice as a way to holistically review all applicants and not base an admission decision on test and GPA scores. Submitting or not submitting your test scores is truly a personal choice, but knowing your options and which schools allow what, may help you narrow down your list.  


5.)    Complete your FAFSA application.  Even if you feel that you won’t qualify for financial aid, it tells the school you are interested in going there AND it’s potentially free money. So, take 45 minutes and complete the application.  The FAFSA application opens October 1, and remember to complete it for the prior prior year’s financial profile. SJU’s FAFSA code is 003367. 


6.)    Start your senior year strong. Those first (and second) semester senior year grades count! Make sure you put in the effort as all schools will review your senior year high school transcripts.  


7.)    Proofread your college essay. Commit to the editing process and have someone else read your essay before you send it in. The college essay is an essential part of the college application.  Therefore, make sure it counts. Visit your high school’s writing center, have your mom or dad review it, or even a friend. Getting a second set of eyes on your essay can make a huge difference!


8.)    Take the extra step and set up an interview. Many schools offer interview options throughout the year.  This is a chance for you to meet one-on-one with an admission representative and tell them a little bit more about yourself.  This also gives the admission counselor (who may be reading your application) a chance to put a face with a name. It also shows the admission staff your interest in attending the university.  


9.)    RELAX. If you submitted your application, letter of recommendation(s), and potentially your test scores early, you can sit back and relax.  Enjoy your senior year!


For anyone anxious to get a head start on their application, both the SJU application and Common Application opened today, August 1.  To start your application now, click here.


-Gillian Sclafani, Associate Director