Believe it or not, your journey through college applications doesn’t just start when you’re a senior; rather, you work on developing your applications throughout your entire high school career. From grades to extracurricular activities, everything you do will lead you to college admission acceptance letters down the line. Additionally, high school is a great time to figure out your interests, a process that will help strengthen your applications and will make the process more enjoyable for you as well. Trying a few different things early on may lead you to a specific school, program, or major and will help to make the impact you need within the competitive landscape of applying to college. The earlier you start making intentional choices about your own academic career and profile, the better. If you are asking when you should start applying for colleges, the answer is now. Consider each part of your high school experience as a section of your college application and while you should participate in activities you enjoy throughout your time as a student, you should also be preparing for your college applications. Read on to learn more about the importance of considering your applications holistically as you move through high school.
Looking Into Colleges
There is no time too early to start looking into colleges. Many students will make unofficial college visits as early as middle school, helping set the tone for their time in high school as they work towards their college applications. Getting a feeling for the campus, area, and overall vibe of a college you are interested in is important; you will need to figure out if you are interested in big schools, small schools, college towns, metropolitan areas, or something else entirely. You will also want to consider the financial aspect, especially when considering public vs. private colleges, as this will make a world of a difference when it comes down to what schools you will want to apply to realistically come your senior year. Having these guidelines will help you know what extracurriculars you should partake in, your ideal GPA, and standardized test scores, and will help set the guidelines for you to follow as you move throughout your high school career.
If all of those decisions seem overwhelming, there are a number of resources available to assist you in your process, including Empowerly’s College Admissions Counseling services. With the “Best Match College Counseling” program, students are matched with a qualified college admissions counselor who will help to narrow down schools, plan academic schedules, and help to identify important extracurricular opportunities. Additionally, Empowerly counselors also can help with drafting personal essays when applying to colleges, guiding students as they move through the difficult process. As part of College Admissions Counseling, families can also receive support in financial planning.
When To Apply to College
Of course, there is a time when you should start working on your actual college applications as most schools will follow similar college application deadlines. For example, when applying to a University of California school for Fall 2023, applications open on October 1 and end on November 30th. While there are definitive guidelines for general applications, there may be other deadlines to be aware of, depending on your situation—for instance, if you are applying for Early Decision, or even for a school’s Honors program. Be sure to check each school’s deadlines available on their website and continue to make stay current so you don’t let important dates pass you by.
Early Decision vs. Regular Decision Deadlines
Most schools offer early decision (or ED), a type of college application that provides an early admission decision that is binding (meaning the student must attend the college) for students who are applying for an undergraduate program. If you know exactly where you want to attend, applying early can get you a leg up with admissions as some experience higher acceptance rates when applying for early decision. Starting the application process early allows you to make a plan for the best results and will also allow you to avoid the lengthy waiting period, as early decision applications often receive admissions notifications in December or January.
On the flip side, you can also apply for a regular decision (or RD) for a particular school. For example, if you like options or haven’t quite made up your mind, it’s better to take some time. If you know that you’ll need to compare financial aid packages before committing, this may be the best choice for you. Regardless of what option you choose, you still need to apply on the early side for all of your college applications. Some schools have a capped enrollment and can no longer offer acceptance after they have reached their number of admitted students. So, even if you are a better candidate for enrollment, students who applied early may get the spot you were aiming for.
Luckily, there are experts available to help you make these decisions. Utilizing the College Admissions Counseling and Partnership programs through Empowerly will help you to get needed expert advice. Through our programs, Empowerly offers connections with schools and previous admissions counselors to help you through the admissions process and will help you put your best foot forward throughout your time in high school up until you submit your applications for college.
Knowing when to apply to college can make a significant difference in your college admissions results. Applying early in the application window or applying for an early decision may help your chances, but remembering to make your application a holistic effort throughout your entire time in high school is the key to your success. If you are still feeling anxious, there are additional resources to help. You can take the Empowerly Quiz to better understand your level of college preparedness or even get a personalized Empowerly Score through the Empowerly portal, a tool that analyzes your competitiveness in gaining admissions to top schools in the United States.
Utilizing the tools, resources, and services available to you is beneficial during your college application process. Applying to colleges doesn’t have to be a dreadful and stressful experience. Starting early and making a plan will help you know exactly when to apply to college and will help you have the best foot forward when you get there. We at Empowerly are here to help you take the first step toward your future.