College Application FAQ
- Do I have a better chance of getting in if I apply early?
- Do colleges really care about your senior year grades?
- How much time should I give my teachers to write letters of recommendation for me?
- What is the Common Application? Should I use it?
- My SAT scores are very low and my grades are very high. Will this affect my chances of admission?
- My parents don't make a lot of money—will colleges hold this against me?
- I want to send additional material that I think will support my application? Is this okay?
- How can I improve my chances of getting in off of the waiting list?
Do I have a better chance of getting in if I apply early?
Many students apply early decision because they believe that
there is an advantage to applying early and that their chances of
being admitted are greater. Actually, this can vary from school
to school and year to year, and may depend upon the applicant
pool at the school where you are applying. Do your homework first
and check to see what percentage of the students in the previous
graduating classes at your high school were admitted early
decision to a specific college or university. Are you qualified
to apply as early decision? If you are, and this is a school you
really wish to attend, then apply early decision.
Do colleges really care about your senior year grades?
Absolutely! Many colleges will not make a decision until
receiving first semester grades. They expect to see a performance
that indicates you are ready for college-level work. The college
at which you make your enrollment deposit will ask for a final
transcript at the end of the senior year. (Admission letters
often contain something like, "Your admission is contingent upon
your continued successful performance.") It is not at all rare
for a college to withdraw an offer of admission when grades drop
significantly over the course of the senior year. (I have a
folder full of copies of these letters.)
How much time should I give my teachers to write letters of recommendation for me?
Teachers should always receive a minimum of two weeks notice,
prior to the postmark date. Be sure to ask in a way that allows a
teacher to decline comfortably if he/she does not have time to do
an adequate job. For example: "Do you feel you know me well
enough, and do you have enough time to write a supportive letter
of recommendation for me to . . . " Give the teacher a stamped
envelope addressed to the college, along with any recommendation
form provided by the college.
What is the Common Application? Should I use it?
The Common Application has been developed by a group of colleges
and universities that belong to the Common Application group.
They accept this application in place of their own without any
penalty. You fill it out once (on the computer is the easiest
way) and then mail copies of the same application to any school
that participates. Some of the participating colleges accept the
application online and some have a supplement that must be
submitted in addition. The Common Application and all information
pertaining to it is available at www.commonapp.org. This is a
great time saver—but remember to do a good job and proofread no
matter what application format you use.
My SAT scores are very low and my grades are very high. Will this affect my chances of admission?
While SAT scores are an indicator of success in college,
admissions staff members look at many different factors when
making a decision about whether to admit a student or not. One of
the main things they are looking for is to see if your high
school academic profile indicates that you have the potential for
academic success on their campus. What kind of courses have you
taken? Have you taken rigorous courses such as AP® courses? Have
you taken AP Exams so that there are scores to indicate how you
may perform in a college-level course?
My parents don't make a lot of money—will colleges hold this against me?
Colleges should tell you whether or not they have a "need-blind"
admissions policy. Those that do never consider ability to pay as
an admissions criterion. Other schools, which are "need-
conscious," may consider ability to pay, but only for a very
small proportion of the admitted group. My advice always is:
don't worry about this.
I want to send additional material that I think will support my application? Is this okay?
It depends on what you want to send. Most colleges and
universities read hundreds or maybe thousands of applications,
and they expect to find the information that they need to make an
admission decision about you in their specific application form.
It is okay to send an additional letter of information to explain
something that cannot be explained on the application forms, but
other items that students sometimes send are not helpful and may
be viewed as trying to distract the admissions staff members from
the actual application. Talk to your school counselor about any
additional items that you are thinking about sending. Their
knowledge and experience will be helpful to you in making this
How can I improve my chances of getting in off of the waiting list?
If a college is your first choice, let the college know that—
although the college ethically may not ask for this information.
Write a letter to the director of admission expressing your
continuing strong interest and updating the admissions office
with any new information that reflects well on your ability to
contribute to the quality of the freshman class. In addition, you
may wish to ask your counselor to make a call on your behalf.
Many colleges keep track of these kinds of contacts and students
who are enthusiastic and persistent will get looked at first.
Colleges want to admit students off the waiting list who they
believe will accept the offer of admission.