Applying to College

It doesn’t matter where you come from—you make your own success - Anonymous

Applying to college can be a scary process. There are so many different types of documents involved—not to mention the pressure of deciding what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. Wow, that’s a lot of stuff. However, like anything, with a little preparation and by carefully following some simple steps you’ll be able to find and apply to the college of your dreams. 

  1. A good work ethic: the first thing you will need to do is study and make sure your grades reflect an individual who values learning and is willing to work hard to succeed. If you are always prepared for the challenges in a classroom, you will be able to thrive in college.

  2. Research colleges: what are you interested in doing? There are over 4,000 types of degree-granting institutions in the US—and 61 of them in South Carolina alone. Ask yourself questions like: are you interested in pursuing a trade like culinary skills or carpentry? Or maybe you want the academic experience of a four year institution? Make a list of the schools you want to go to and make a note of all the things each school requires for admission. This list may include items like SAT/ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and an admissions essay. You may need to have access to your Social Security number, your high school code, and a copy of your high school transcript.

  3. Take the SAT/ACT: nearly all colleges request this test. IL funds can help you pay for the registration for these tests. Both tests assess you for different skills. You can register for the SAT here or the ACT here. If you don’t do as well as you hoped to on your first try—don’t worry—you can take either test as many times as you’d like until your grade is where you want it to be.

  4. Ask for recommendations: a letter of recommendation is essentially a letter of good faith from someone who is not related to you. You can ask anyone who knows your character for a recommendation, including your teacher, a leader at your place of worship, or your boss. Make sure you give your recommenders plenty of notice to finish their letters for you (at least a month.) If the college wants your recommenders to mail in paper copies, it is a good idea to give your recommenders pre-stamped envelopes with the college’s address on them.

  5. Admissions essay: not all colleges require the admissions essay like they used to. But if the college you’re applying to does, do not worry! Most college essays only require you to talk about yourself and something important that happened to you. And the essays are assessed for how interesting you seem, how enthusiastic you are, and your ability to express your ideas in a well-written manner—not how “smart” you sound. When you are done with your essay, you may want to ask one of your recommenders if they would be willing to look it over.

  6. Submit your application: you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. And there’s never any shame in trying—so go out and do it. Don’t forget to thank your recommenders or anyone who helped you along the way.