Admissions: Application Guidelines

College Application Guidelines

Your Application:

  • Read directions
  • Pay Attention to Deadlines
  • Give Yourself Plenty of Time for the Application
  • Neatness and Correct Writing Really Make a Difference
  • Keep All Correspondence
  • Stay Organized
  • Get Your Own E-mail Address
  • Don’t Panic

What Matters to Colleges:

  • The high school transcript
  • Standardized Test Scores
  • Class Rank
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • The Admissions Essay
  • The College Interview
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • A Special Talent or Skill

The Admissions Essay:

Your application essays are the best way to stand out from the other applicants. It’s about who you are and what you think. Revealing such personal information could scare anybody, but look at your essay as an opportunity– your chance to let a college in on what’s behind the numbers. No matter what the essay topic is, it’s really about you. It’s about your preferences, feelings, character likes and dislikes– the real you.

Will your essay make or break your chances for admission at a college? It depends on the college. For some admissions officers, the essay may make little difference, while at other colleges– especially highly selective ones– a well-written essay is essential.

The essay generally supports your qualifications for being admitted to the reviewing college. You should consider your essay just as important as grades or test scores. Your essay proves to a college that you can at least articulate your thoughts well. Short-answer questions sometimes accompany the essay, but they’re no less important because of their length. Here are some essay tips:

  • Stick to the instructions on essay length and format.
  • Make sure it is neat, legible, grammatically correct, and an example of your best effort.
  • Prepare by writing an outline to clarify your thoughts.
  • Write rough drafts and ask your teacher or a friend to proofread.
  • Don’t send a poor or messy writing! Try writing your essay using a computer, unless the application has a write-in spot for your essay.


Schools will generally make their admissions decisions about five months before the start of classes. They will notify you of their decision by mail. You will receive one of three types of letters from each of your chosen schools.

The first type is the acceptance letter. It may be accompanied by a packet of additional information from the school; some schools send the packet out only after their offer is accepted. The letter normally provides a deadline for you to make a decision. If you decide to accept the offer, sometimes a deposit will have to be provided right away to secure your spot. If you decide to decline, you should respond formally as a matter of courtesy.

The second type is a waiting-list letter. Colleges often secure a number of alternate spots, just in case admitted students decide not to attend; if a spot becomes available, you will have a chance at securing it. Another type of waiting list students are known as “spring admits” or “extension students.” If you receive this type of waiting list, you’ll have first priority in the spring. If you are a spring admit, you will likely take extension classes during your first fall semester and will be admitted in the spring depending on how satisfactory your grades were in extension (off-campus) classes.

The third type is a rejection letter. Schools reject students for a variety of reasons. Sometimes highly qualified students have to be rejected simply because there were many more applicants than open spots. Rejection letters do not require a response.

Once you have received decisions from all your desired schools, it is time for you to make your own decision. This requires serious thought, and it should not be rushed. However, you should respond to each acceptance letter– whether you decline or choose to attend– by the deadline provided.