Applying to College

Things to know for picking a college

Top 10 Rules For Students Applying to College

1. Talk To Your Counselor.

Between the books in the counselor’s office, and the knowledge in your counselor’s head, he or she will be a virtual treasure trove of information. Take advantage of the opportunities you have to work with a counselor to make plans for your future. Many counselors know more than any one book or website, and they are generally always willing to share their knowledge.

2. Stay In Touch With Your Counselor.

Selecting a college is not a one-step operation. In order to really help you make a decision, the counselor is going to need to get to know you. The only way for the counselor to do that is for you to take initiative and go meet with him or her. Also, most counselors are not just there for information. They really are truly counselors, and they are also there to help you with your decision, help you solve your crises, or to just calm you down when you’re really stressed out.

3. Do Research.

The way to begin the college process is to get online or crack some books and start discovering what’s out there. Use the resources in your counselor’s office, and visit websites like and for more information on colleges, financial aid, and programs.

4. Get Started Early.

It’s never too early to start researching colleges, even if you don’t have a clue where to start. Just get out there and research something. Start now!

5. Don’t Procrastinate.

This is one of the greatest decisions you’ll ever make, and you could end up missing a great opportunity. You shrug this off like it could never happen, but it does happen all the time. Case in point: Last summer I toured a highly selective college near the nation’s capital and instantly fell in love. As the year progressed, and I applied to other colleges, it became apparent that it was very unlikely that I would ever go there, but I did keep the January 10th deadline in the back of my mind. However, at around 11:00 p.m. on Jan. 9th, when I hadn’t even looked at the application, I realized that I might have just let a great possibility slip through my fingers. I’ll be alright, since I might attend a military academy anyway, but there will always be that “what if?” factor at the back of my mind.

6. Listen To Your Parents.

I know you never do this (trust me, I’m like everybody else – I don’t want to either), but they’re there to help you. Having help makes it easier to handle all of this pressure and responsibility—and means you don’t have to handle it on your own. Also, remember that even though this is your future, your parents, in most cases, are the ones paying and the ones who got you where you are. They’re part of the decision too.

7. Don’t Let Your Parents Do Your Work For You.

They’re there to help you, but not to pick up your slack. The most they should ever do for you is research. Let them look up some information for you and go over it with you. It’s then your job to apply that information, fill out the forms, and write the essays yourself.

8. Open Up Your Mind.

Talk to reps of colleges you’ve never heard of. Don’t be fooled by big names and Ivy Leagues. There are so many more great opportunities out there. IN ORDER TO FIND THE PERFECT PLACE FOR YOU, YOU WILL HAVE TO OPEN UP YOUR MIND.

9. Visit, And Visit Early.

How can you make such a huge decision without ever having seen the college? You could fall in love with Hendrix College in Arkansas, even after thinking “no way” when someone told you what state it was in. Or, you could get up to Boston and realize that Harvard is way too uptight for your taste. You have to experience colleges first hand. If you can’t visit, getting good information is critical to making the right decision for you.

10. Don’t Let The Pressure Get To You.

Yes, this is a big decision, but it’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake. People transfer and switch majors much more often than you think. There’s still plenty of time for all of you to find the right place for you. Just keep your options open and always have a back up plan. With a little effort on your part, things will work themselves out for the best.

Questions to ask Colleges:

· What is the average class size?

· What is the total student population of the college?

· What academic programs do they offer?

· What kind of programs do they have for new students to help make the transition to college life?

· What is the total cost of college? (They tell you about tuition, but you need to think about housing, books, and meals as well. They should be able to give you an estimate on these costs.)

· What type of financial aid is available, and how do I apply?

· Where do freshman live?

· Who teaches the freshman courses? (TA or professor?)

· Job placement rate, how likely am I to get hired after college?

· Entertainment and shopping locations? (you probably won’t want to sit in your dorm room the entire year)

· When is a good time to come visit?

· College representatives at college fairs are typically current or former students of the college they represent. Ask them what they enjoyed about the college and for any advice they can provide to you.

· Get contact information and follow up with any further questions you may have.

Things To Consider:

· Location of the school. How far away from home do you want to be? Do you want to be in a large city?

· Two-year or four-year school? Public or private school?

· Campus size (physical size and size of population)

· Admissions requirements for the school (GPA, ACT, class rank, application deadlines)

· Academics (majors offered, student to faculty ratio, average class size, who teaches freshman classes?)

· Can you afford it? What type of financial assistance is available? What percentage of students receive aid? How much is room and board?

· Where would you live? Size and types of dorm rooms? Would you have roommates, and how many?

· What are the facilities like? Tour classrooms and recreational facilities.

· Technology (Do you have access to computer labs with current software? Are they up-to-date? Wireless access in the dorms and other buildings? Are you provided a computer or are you able to purchase your own?)

· What types of clubs and activities are provided on campus? Do you want to join a sorority or fraternity? Are there sports clubs or intramurals available?

· If possible meet with a professor in your program of interest. Find out if they are someone you want to learn from.

Planning For College: A Checklist

Type of College: _____ One or Two-Year _____ Public _____ Men _____ Coed

_____ Four-Year _____ Private _____ Women

Size: _____ Below 1,000 _____1,000-3,000 _____ 3,000-5,000 _____ 5,000-10,000 _____ Over 10,000

Religious Affiliation: _____ Important _____ Not Important

Cost to Attend: _____ Important _____ Not Important $__________Tuition Maximum

Location: _____ East Coast _____ Midwest _____ South _____ West _____ Other

(Specific States: _________________________________________________________)

_____ Rural/town under 12,000 _____ Small city _____ Large City _____ Urban _____ Suburban

Programs of Importance: _____ Work Study _____ Honors _____ Independent Study

____ Accelerated _____ Study Abroad _____ Minority or low income students

Enrollment by Race: _____ Important _____ Not Important

Intercollegiate Sports: _____ Important _____ Not Important

Intramural Sports: _____ Important _____ Not Important

Housing: _____ On Campus _____ Off Campus _____ At Home

 Types of Degrees

Certificate or Diploma – usually earned after a one-year program. Courses in these areas are generally not transferable to another college.

Associate’s Degree – AA degree received for a two-year course of study.

Bachelor’s Degree – BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BS (Bachelor of Science) Degree awarded by a four-year college or university after satisfactory completion of a program of study to undergraduate students. 

Graduate Degree – An advanced degree, such as a master’s, specialist, or doctorate, earned after a bachelor’s degree and earned by graduate students. 

College Terms

Advisor, advisee – Your advisor or counselor is the instructor assigned by the college to help you. You are the advisee.

Audit – To take a course without credit. Audited courses are not taken later for credit.

Credit – The numerical reward received for completion of a college course. It is described in semester hours. Typical courses are three credits, meaning that the course usually meets three hours per week. Labs are often one credit. To be a full-time college student, twelve credits are needed.

Department – A division of the college that offers instruction in a particular branch of knowledge (i.e. the music department). In a large university, this may also be called a college within the university, such as the College of Design at ISU.

Emphasis – A concentration of work in an area not officially declared as a minor. 

Load – The total hours taken in a semester. An undergraduate load is around 15 hours.

Major – The subject or field of study that is the main focus of a degree.

Minor – The field of secondary importance, often requiring around half the credits of a major.

Pre-professional – Courses preparing undergraduate students to enter graduate colleges for certain professions such as law or medicine.

Pre-requisites – Preliminary requirements met before further courses in an area can be taken. ACT scores or testing out may lessen this number (and its cost).

Probation – A trial period for a student whose work or conduct is unsatisfactory. Students failing to meet minimum GPA or without certain entrance courses in high school may be admitted as probationary or provisional students. Students who have a low semester GPA in college may also be put on probation.

Registration – The act of enrolling in classes, usually at the beginning of a semester. Advisors help in this process.

Required Subjects: Those subjects that are prescribed for completion of a program. 

Electives are extra courses that are not required.

TA – A teaching assistant is a graduate student who may assist a professor and/or conduct lower level classes on his/her own.