Applying to College 101

Applying to college? LOOK AT YOU! So proud. The college application process can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if you’ve never been through it before. But have NO fear, as always, we’ve got your back by gathering some common questions that students have about the process. By the end of this article, we’re hoping for solid confidence moving into the application process!

Some Common Questions

1. When should I start applying for college?

The timeline of college applications typically requires planning, due to the nature of how early the portals open for applicants! Most applications open about a year before you attend school.

Here’s a simple example: If you hope to go to college in the fall after your high school graduation, your application will open in the summer before your senior year or in the fall of your senior year. What can you do to best prepare for application season? Decide what schools you want to apply to, take the ACT/SAT, read some stellar examples for college admissions essays, and ask for some letters of recommendation from your favorite teachers and counselors. Oh, and breathe – you’ve got this.

2. Where do I find application(s)?

Straight up, you’ll want to hit up the website of the college you’re applying to. Great place to start your search. From there, you’ll either be directed to a common application software or apply directly on their website. When you discover this info, you’ll also see the other requirements for getting into the program you want. This typically will highlight essay topics, application fees, test score range requirements, and how many letters of recommendation you may need.

3. Which semester should I apply for?

Typically, you’ll find yourself so excited that you’ll jump into fall semester applications without even thinking. PLOT TWIST: You have some other options! Let’s say you want to take some time to yourself to work before going to save up some cash; Spring may be a more viable option for you. Keep in mind that some colleges require a mandatory summer session so you can kick things off sooner! There are SO many perks to starting during the summer semester so you can have a sneak peek of what campus has to offer before the whole squad unpacks for fall.

4. What do I need to apply, though?

A short, but necessary list of things you’ll need:

  • Essays
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Application Fee/Fee Waiver (Ask your school counselor about these!)
  • High School Transcripts
  • Vibes, Just Vibes

5. I’m done with my application, now what?

Now’s the time to tap into other parts of your to-do list:

  • Have you scheduled a chat with your counselor? Now’s the best time to remind them just how cool they are for giving you their lifehacks.
  • Filling out your FAFSA information sooner than later is the move, so be sure to create a login sooner rather than later.
  • Submit those updated ACT/SAT scores, it’ll only take a quick sec.

Types of Applications

Early Decision

Some pros, some cons. This gives you a chance to apply early (typically around November) to your first-choice school. You’ll receive your admission decision in advance of the regular notification date (usually December).

! Heads up: Be mindful that with early decision, you can only apply to one school under early decision. If you’re accepted, you must agree to attend if you’re given an adequate financial aid package. You can submit regular decision applications but must be withdrawn once accepted.

Early Action

Like Early Decision, Early Action allows you to submit your application earlier than the regular deadline and receive an admission decision early in the admissions cycle. Unlike Early Decision, Early Action is not binding. You still have the opportunity to apply elsewhere and weigh all of your options before making a final choice.


When colleges are test-optional, they are waiving the requirement of ACT or SAT test scores. This gives you the choice to submit testing scores or not. If you’re not sure if you should apply test-optional, read these tips.

Deferred Admission

When you receive your admission letter, there’s a possibility you will see the word “deferred.” The word “defer” means to delay. You’ll usually see this if you apply early to a school. If you’re deferred, your application will be deferred into the regular decision pool. As an applicant, you can be deferred for many reasons, so don’t be discouraged.

Rolling Admission

Colleges with rolling admission keep applications open for a large window of time. They also process applications as they are received, rather than after a hard deadline. This usually means the earlier you submit, the earlier you know your admission decision.