Six Easy Steps to Manage the College Application Process

Applying to college, Christian or secular, you’ll need to get all your “ducks in a row,” as the saying goes. Many schools require applicants to submit a variety of forms, including transcripts, test scores, letters of intent, recommendations, and of course, the application. Some Christian schools may require prospective students to submit additional information related to your Christian background. Each school is different and has its own requirements, but you know it’s worth the work from all of the experiences and career opportunities a college education can provide.

Part of getting into college is finding a school that is the right fit for you. That’s step one, and an important one. Next, following the steps below will enable a smoother, and much more organized, transition from applicant to student!

Step 1: Complete the Application

Each school has its application form, and many ask for the same type of information, including personal data such as your name, phone number, address, college credits, and citizenship information, in additional to test scores, a list of extracurricular activities, and an application fee. These forms are often lengthy and detailed, so make sure to set aside enough time to complete them. Note: If you unable to pay the application fee(s), talk to your guidance counselor. Some schools offer fee waivers. You’ll also have an opportunity to list any awards, honors, and/or recognition you’ve received. In addition to listing your SAT and/or ACT scores on the application, you’ll also be required to submit official score report from the College Board (SAT) or the ACT to the college.

Step 2: Write the Application Essay

There are two parts to most college applications, one comprised of your basic information, test scores, etc., mentioned in the previous point, and the other is the application essay. Depending on the college, students are typically required to write 1-3 essays. The school will provide the writing prompt(s), and either a suggested word count range (i.e. 500-800 words) or a firm word limit (“no more than 1,000 words”). It’s important that you address each part of the prompt and follow the guidelines carefully. When reviewing application essays, college admission counselors typically look at three main points:

  • Content – what you wrote
  • Presentation – your ability to use proper grammar/punctuation and cohesively flow from one idea to the next
  • Prompt – your ability to follow direction and include all points and guidelines mentioned in the prompt

Since you are applying to Christian colleges, they will likely want you to read about your own spirituality as well. The prompt may ask you to talk about a specific experience, how it strengthened/tested your faith, what you learned from it, and how it made you the person you are today. Conversely, an essay may ask you to write about your whole spiritual journey in general, and have you apply it to how you might act in a hypothetical situation.

No matter what it is that you are asked to write, always have your application essays proof-read and edited at least once (preferably more) by someone with strong writing skills whom you trust. Your current teachers are usually happy to help, just be sure to give them some time to edit your paper. Especially since most colleges have firm deadlines, you should start writing at least a few months before it’s due rather than wait until the last minute – and that applies to the entire application process too!

Step 3: Order Official Transcripts

Official transcripts are often sent directly from your high school to colleges by a guidance counselor or the Registrar’s office. Typically, students provide their counselor or Registrar with a list of schools along with deadlines to which they will apply. They can give you an unofficial transcript, meaning it’s not sealed and stamped by your school, for your personal records. However, you will want to make sure that whatever transcripts you send to colleges are official, stamped and sealed, transcripts.

Step 4: Teacher Recommendations

Applicants are often required to submit at least two teacher recommendations as an additional evaluation tool for colleges and universities. These letters serve to endorse a student’s academic and intellectual capabilities, as well highlight other areas of strength and achievement. You can also request letters of recommendation from your pastor or someone who has mentored you spiritually. Christian schools may require applicants to submit letters from teachers AND a leader in your church community.

To be courteous to the person you’re asking and to not stress yourself out, ask them for a letter of recommendation several months before it is due. Teachers typically write letters for multiple students, so it’s important and considerate to give them ample time.

Step 5: Secure Funding

When it comes to paying for college, it helps to think outside the box. In additional to filling out a FAFSA, students should apply for multiple scholarships. There are plenty of scholarships based on academics, talent, athletics, etc., and students applying to Chrisitian colleges should investigate funding opportunities from their church and other local churches. Some churches offer college scholarship programs and other monetary help for students who qualify.

Step 6: Interviews

Your application checks out, letters of recommendation are in, your essay is stellar, and now they want to interview you! Not all colleges have application interviews, so it’s okay if you don’t get one. However, if you are asked to schedule an interview, it’s important to prepare yourself ahead of time. Do plenty of research on the college so that you can answer questions like:

  • Why do you want to attend this college?
  • Why do you want to earn a degree in _______?
  • What do you hope to contribute to this college community?

You will likely also be asked to talk about yourself and your spiritual journey, go into more detail about any extra curricular activities listed in your initial application, and any obstacles you’ve had to overcome. Try to come up with specific answers. For instance when asked, “Why do you want to attend this college?” don’t answer with “because this is a good school” or “I like the mascot.” Instead it’s better to answer with something like, “I value this school’s dedication to _____ and ____ because it aligns with how I try to live my life, and I also am excited about the school’s ____ program.” You don’t have to use that verbatim, just being genuine and specific to show that you’ve done your research will speak volumes to the interviewer.

Similarly, don’t just tell the interviewer what you think they want to hear. Chances are they’ve heard it before and they know it’s not entirely true for you. The goal of the interview is so that they can get to know you better. Be honest and thoughtful, and it couldn’t hurt to do a practice interview with a teacher or someone you trust to give you good feedback beforehand.

Breaking down the application process into these six steps allows you to be more organized, efficient, and present your best self. To learn more about Christian colleges, like what grant opportunities are available, explore the rest of our site.

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