The Ultimate Admissions Guide for U.S. Colleges and Universities

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student-in-front-of-college-smYou want to attend your dream university – one that feels right, is priced right, and will help you become a better person. Oh and you probably want to have fun too. We have created this guide to help you through the sometimes daunting and confusing college admission system.

  • How does this stage of the game really work?
  • Exactly, how do you create an excellent personal statement?
  • Who is accountable for your assessing your standardized test scores?

The higher education admissions process has a starting point, halfway point and conclusion. Applying to colleges and universities using this mind-set will result in hassle-free transitions and good decision-making.

Fortunately, Degree Jungle examined multitudes of online references to break everything down for you. Continue reading for reliable insight on the best ways to learn about the college and university admissions process and exactly how to make your application become the pick of the litter.

Starting Point 

Getting To Know How Admission Choices Are Made

Every institution possesses its own requirements for generating admission criteria. However, all colleges and universities do search for sound learners whom they feel are going to come back each year, do well in adapting to the university’s campus and lifestyle, and eventually graduate.

Several schools examine people beyond their grades and SAT scores. Admission officers evaluate the entire individual, which doesn’t imply that grades and assessment results are trivial; they are definitely still among the most significant elements in the decision-making task. Alternative factors that admission officials consider include essays and individual interviews. 

Selecting the Most Suitable Institution

campus-entrance-smPrior to applying to all the higher education institutions on the map, think about the sort of university atmosphere that best fits you. Consider location; overall size; your professional objectives; the university’s programs; the price tag; college life and culture; sports; after-school activities; and any other additional passions and considerations you may have. After that, make a checklist of the things that are crucial to you.

Your checklist should answer questions like:

  • Will a university with four-thousand students work for you?
  • Are you interested in attending larger university that offers more niche majors?
  • What about geographic location–urban, suburban, or country universities?
  • Do you want to study near Mom and Dad, far away or online?
  • Are you uncertain about the course or have you actually decided on a career?
  • Are you looking for an internship that offers networking and career assistance?
  • Exactly, what benefits are vital to you, both in and out of the classroom?

After, think about the bottom line expense.

  • Is there personal financing out there available to pay for your schooling?
  • Do you want to go to a state or non-public university?
  • Do you qualify for scholarships?
  • Will you request government aid?

Don’t forget to think about whether you want to pay back student loans after commencement.

As soon as you have decided on what works, you will certainly have a fair notion of the kind of college to seek registration! After you locate the schools that fit your criteria, you are prepared to arrange your college tours. 

The University Tour

This is a fundamental part of the admissions process. Thoroughly examine your “ideal matches.” Browse through each school’s internet site and read all school pamphlets and catalogues in order to choose the institutions you wish to tour. Also look at each university’s appointment guidelines.

  • Do you require a scheduled appointment for a tour, and assuming so, just how much ahead of time must you book it?
  • Do tours include a campus tour, or a does it also include an information session and/or a personal interview?

If an admission officer will be interviewing you, do some research first. Dress nicely, and learn a little something about the institution, beforehand, so you can have a smart discussion with the staff member. Additionally, be prepared to ask questions!

When visiting the college, try to get a feel for university living. Have a look at the college’s bulletin boards, information center, dormitories, food options, and bookstores. Tip: Will your dorm room be the same size as the model room they show you?

Mull over the “ambience” as you look around different universities. Take note of each institution’s student population, amenities, and surrounding neighborhoods, which is extremely important in your decision-making process. One more thing, don’t forget to talk to students on campus while touring.

  • Ask them why they choose this particular school?
  • What exactly do they enjoy most about campus?
  • What is the campus lacking?
  • Can you see yourself here for the next several years?

In the event that the institution that you are checking out is your front runner, make certain to tell the staff! Plus, remember to visit the athletics department, in case you mean to enroll in sports; coaching personnel often possess a wide range of knowledge and understanding that can be passed on to you. Lastly, don’t forget to write a few notes to help remind you of the tour, and always keep the observations within reach during the admissions process. 

Halfway Point

Getting Ready

One of the most fundamental parts of the admission process could be getting together your registration material. As soon as you obtain and toured the academic institutions to where you are going to apply, get all your information in sync. Make certain that you understand each university’s criteria, and don’t hesitate to contact their admission offices in the event that you need questions answered about their registration requirements.

A few organizing suggestions:

Work with web-based organizing applications, such as Google Calendar, to monitor critical meetings and due dates

Develop a portfolio for every institution you’re applying to and try to keep any pertinent paperwork/applications, articles, pamphlets, or other mail in separate folders.

Set up spreadsheets that monitor your involvement and communication with each university (i.e. whenever you paid a visit to the college; encountered an adviser during a tour; obtained an admission consultation; sent for your secondary school records; or sent off a thank-you note.. etc.).

Doing this might feel like a bunch of work now, but you’ll be pleased, later; primarily, if the institution notifies you that your application is missing sections, and you realize that you possess a complete track record. 

Standardized Tests and Reporting Methods

Every college and university that require SAT, ACT, and other standard tests scores use them in different ways. Several schools require scores to complete their registration processes, and others use exam results to place students in advanced or remedial programs.

It’s important to note that while personal statements on admission applications demonstrate an individual’s writing aptitude, the SAT and ACT writing segments establish other proficiencies.

Writing scores on standardized tests reveal an individual’s competency to compose logical and educated initial drafts. Given that writing is essential for exceeding in college, writing exam grades are useful to determine if students will work well in certain college environments.

In the event that you take the SAT on more than one occasion, you may pick the score you wish to send to your schools. Nonetheless, if you forget to choose, the College Board is going to disclose all your results to each of your designated academic institutions.

It takes the College Board about a month to deliver your exam scores, but you can ask for “urgency filing” whenever required, which usually gets your scores to the schools in a couple of business days and will set you back a few bucks for the rush

Remember not all institutions accept urgent fillings.

harvard-building-smSeveral academic institutions, primarily the choosy schools, call for SAT Subject Tests that emphasize certain academic facets, including global history, social studies, advanced math, and international languages. Universities will generally request a couple of SAT Subject Tests, and you should certainly take the exam that matches your strongest area of interest. 

No Standardized Test Score Needed

Likewise, you might come across a few test-optional academic institutions, schools that don’t ask for standard exam results when admitting students.

(To get a complete directory of these institutions, check out the National Center for Fair and Open Testing at )

Having said that, these “test-optional” universities could still “suggest” that you send your scores when registering, or they might demand some additional items instead of standardized exam results. 

Referral Letters

Reviewing endorsements is just one more aspect of the admission process that makes it possible for officers to observe the man or woman submitting grade-point-average, transcripts and exam scores. You won’t be completing the work when creating recommendation documents; nevertheless, you will have to contribute a lot of thought and time when collaborating with the folks who are going to be endorsing you.

You might need to submit one referral, usually from your secondary-school advisor, or perhaps you may need several letters of recommendation. Consult teachers, supervisors, or community leaders who really know you well and can speak about your reputation.

Even if you know “recognized individuals” (your cousin works for a state lawmaker), you would be a lot better off with the recommendation from the minister who took your senior class on a field trip to help the poor in South America–an individual who recognizes exactly how terrific you really are. (Avoid urging parents or relatives to prepare endorsements, as most admission officials discard this kind of biased recommendation)

See to it that you provide your authors sufficient time to write their recommendations; three weeks is normally adequate, but it really is beneficial to remind them many months beforehand. Also, remember to send them a thank-you note after they do you the favor. 

Admissions Time Limits and Due Dates

Good organization will also guarantee that you hand in your admission material on time. Application packages encompass exam results and records that must be received well in advance of the university’s deadline. Courses and specific classes could also fill up quickly; so, don’t be overlooked due to laziness.

Different kinds of admission due dates exist:

  • First Choice
  • Early Selection
  • Individual Selection-Early Selection
  • Normal Response
  • Rolling Admissions

Many university students pick the “Normal Response” due date, that typically falls between January to March of the academic-calendar year they intend to register. In the event that you choose “Normal Response,” you should get an answer from the school by April. You at that point, you will have until May to accept or refuse their proposal.

You can even apply early, but these alternatives can become challenging, so make certain you understand the variations among all admission due dates.

university-building-smMost “First Choice” timelines typically fall between October and November, and you could get an admission proposal in December. “First Choice” proposals are non-binding, so you may send applications to as many institutions as you want and select among the colleges that accept you.

“Early Selection” admissions are more serious; these admission due dates resemble “First Choice,” but “Early Selections” are binding, meaning you have to enroll, if the school accepts you (as well as remove all applications submitted to other schools). You should only apply for “Early Selection” if the school is at the top of your list of preferred universities. One more caution: you could be committing to the college prior to acquiring a financial assistance offer.

“Individual Selection-Early Selection” is non-binding; however, assuming that you choose this direction, you are excluded from applying early to other universities. You may submit applications to different colleges under “Normal Response” timelines, but not during “First Choice” or “Early Selection” periods. This deadline requires that you will give an immediate thumbs-up-or-down admission decision in which you will have until May to either accept or refuse their offer.

Schools that employ “Rolling Admissions” do not publish established deadlines, because of this; individuals may send their registration information throughout the academic year. Within a couple of weeks, most students will receive “Rolling Admissions” determinations. Having said that, schools approve “Rolling Admissions” on a first-come, first-serve basis, and spots fill up very fast. 



Everyday, moms and dads across the nation ask their children with enthusiasm and just a smidgen of worry in their voices, “Have filled out those college applications?” The usual response they receive is, “No problem, I’ll get to them … later.”

Applying to higher education institutions might appear complicated at the beginning, but as you start this fantastic quest, you will certainly discover that the college and university application process hasn’t changed for ages; there are still registration apps to fill out, charges to pay, personal statements to write and records to be transferred.

Meanwhile, the system for sending documents has changed considerably. Nowadays, you can effortlessly fill out applications online and electronically request and transmit the majority of your required materials over the Internet. You can also pay fees online, safely and securely, with a credit card, and you can transfer essays over the Internet as well. You can even order certified transcripts and deliver them in an electronic format. Finally, you are oftentimes allowed to review your application’s status over the web to see if the institution has indeed received all your documents.

Likewise, communication approaches have improved. You might get digital invites to college functions and e-mails from admission officers rather than printed notices. You can easily check out college and university web pages to take multimedia campus tours prior paying them a visit. Administration portfolios in several admission offices are oftentimes “paperless,” and officers evaluate most documents on their computers.

You might even locate some potential college students living all around the globe through social media where you can communicate with them online or by text message to discuss admissions. And afterwards, once the process is finished, you will normally receive you decisions through the US Mail, using the “old school” method–a package loaded with printed info!

Applying to institutions is just one of life’s awesome adventures. Listed in this section of our guide are a few recommendations to help you make it through the process. 

Personal Statements

“Purchased compositions stick out a like a thorn,” according to a 2011 article published in the Huffington Post, and “they go directly in the waste bucket.” The US News and World Reports also documented that essays which adopt trivial jargon in their conclusions similar to “In the end …” or “it actually was what I learned from them”… likewise, hit the waste bucket. Finally, admission officers confessed to The Post that personal statements which begin with “I’ve wanted to be a [profession] ever since I was a kid…,” immediately find their way to the circular file.

Personal statements that originate from distinct individual stories beat the routine ones that anyone could write.

Whenever admission officials review applications, they’re hunting for insight into the student’s individuality apart from all numbers, the schoolwork, and the after-school activities. This is really where your personal statement can differentiate you from other applicants–it is your chance to attract attention in the midst of other candidates.

In the event that you and another scholar have equivalent grades and exam results, your personal statement could serve you in a good way, tipping decisions in your favor.

Write to describe exactly why you believe the school is an excellent place for you, or share your perspectives on learning, livelihood, nation-wide politics or research. Provide the admission official with a little observation into your everyday life, your character, and your qualities. Before submitting the essay, see to it that your statement is in perfect grammatical shape and sticks to the allowed word count.

Yet, where exactly do I begin?

Good Question! First, make certain that you properly address the topic or respond to the question posed. This might seem apparent, but many college students hand in ill-informed personal statements simply because they misunderstood the topic presented.

Remember, the writing must constantly talk about you.

If the prompt asks you to write about “a person you idolize,” your composition really should not be a personal anecdote of that individual, but rather a representation of his or her impact on your growth.

Invest time to create a complete discussion; consider exactly what’s relevant to you; conjure up thoughts; and describe feasible alternatives (and see to it you check out some of the example essays posted at CollegeXpress). Get others, including your teachers, to review the writing and pay attention to their comments. You’ll basically get only several hundred words to create a impact, so select a subject that’s special, different, and unforgettable.

Most of all, be sincere! 

After-School and Non-Collegiate Activities

Regardless if you participated in several sports programs, offered many hours of volunteer services each month, or played Shakespeare in the school play, after-school activities are certainly not going boost or kill your admission application. However, officers absolutely looked at activities to assist admission officers help them discover the individual behind the exam results and GPA. Once more, these guys need to find your individuality and to obtain an understanding of exactly what influences you.

Whenever listing your extra-classroom activities, keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity. Never bundle your application package with activities that you signed up for and then dumped a few days later. In the event that you truly belong to many groups and committees, emphasize the ones where you were most engaged in. Leadership functions are excellent, such as managing editor at the school journal, although you can easily talk about ventures you steer headed too.

Finishing and Sending the Admissions Application

college-students-studying-smPrevious to submitting all your documents, verify that the school’s admissions to-do list is complete. It actually is your duty to ensure that all of requested paperwork hits the registrar’s office. Once again, you can easily call the university to check if your application is missing documents; you also can review your admissions’ status over the Internet.

Deal only with the items that you control. See to it that you review and adhere to the school’s instructions entirely and that there are no writing mistakes.

Look at everything once more!

Keep duplicate copies and scan everything (create an independent directory on your laptop for every institution applied to); note the days that you sent off each document, payment, and record. It also doesn’t hurt to get a professional, a relative or a reliable colleague to examine your admission package and essay for mistakes.

Indeed, the waiting around is tough, and stressing over the specifics may be aggravating. However, the payoff is normally exciting; and you will let out a big scream when that see that huge box sent from you ideal university sticking out of your mailbox! 

Phrases You Ought To Learn

The subsequent lineup of explanations and descriptions is a useful resource to understand the common expressions and often-used acronyms employed during the university admission process.

I. Exams and Tests and Assessments

Institutions differ in their focus on standardized tests, but studies show that admission specialists scrutinize your test results as being the second-most, essential bit of info you provide them. Your grades within upper-level coursework are actually is number one, and your overall GPA normally lists third. Additionally, several universities look at your exam results in order to identify just what classes you should be registered in, following admissions.

ETS (Educational Testing Service): A not-for-profit organization hired by The College Board to create exams.

SAT: (Scholastic Aptitude Test) This exam is often needed to get into many universities. The SAT is split into several areas; each segment is graded on a ranking of 200-800, and the exam has a pair of writing sections. Low SAT scores certainly does not suggest that a college student is incapable of participating in higher education’s challenging environment; high SAT scores only just implies that a person could possess the ability to perform these tasks easier. Right before you take the SAT, you really should review and learn The College Board pamphlet, ”Taking the SAT,” readily available online.

AP (Advanced Placement Tests) Created for solid learners who have finished higher education classes in secondary school. APs are offered in particular disciplines and are adopted to figure out whether applicants can handle difficult college classes. If you believe that you might want AP classes and testing, see your admissions advisor.

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): The TOEFL is an exam created for learners where English is not their first language and whose standardized test results would clearly be impacted because of the language barrier. Typically, these foreign students sit for both the TOEFL and other exams, including the SAT or ACT.

ACT, Inc: An institution that creates and manages exams for university admission and class placement; and furnishes online solutions for campus browsing, web-based application forms and financial-aid calculators.

II. Registration Deadlines and Entrance Terminologies

Numerous registrar department calendars require documents to be submitted by the fall or earlier.

Non-Restrictive Application: Learners can register to other schools; they have up until May to think about their alternatives and to accept or decline proposals.

Normal Decision (Response): Individuals send applications before published due dates and obtain decisions within precise time frames.

Rolling Admissions: Institutions evaluate documents as they are handed in and select students throughout the academic year.

Early Action (First Choice): University students register in advance and obtain a decision well ahead of the school’s normal reply schedule.

Early Selection (ES): Applicants apply to first-choice schools wherein, if accepted, they are obligated to register.

Shared Application: Enables college students to complete and copy a shared application (Common Application) packed with accompanying endorsements for submitting to many universities. You must consult with admission advisers in order to find out if the university accepts shared applications and if any additional documents are needed. This application is offered online, at , where you can easily download the document or transmit your forms over the Internet.

January (Mid-Term) Admission: Several college and universities accept undergraduates to commence learning after the school year has started. January entrance might be a worthwhile alternative for individuals who perhaps finished a secondary school course or session early.

Postponed Admission: Various institutions grant accepted freshmen the possibility to postpone or put off registration for a year or a semester. College students who postpone registration might prefer to make money to pay for college beforehand; or to go on a long vacation; or to engage in personal activities. A partial payment is typically demanded from the institution to keep their spot open for the upcoming session.

Open Admission: Several universities do not pick their students and grant admission to practically every individual who applies. Such institutions normally offer comprehensive courses tailored to deliver remedial or prerequisite classes to learners with scholastic weaknesses.

College Tuition Retainer: A.K.A–admittance deposit, obligation payment or obligation fee. An institution normally obligates college students who have been accepted to confirm their intent to register by surrendering retainers or payments to be discounted [normally] from their university fees and tuition.

III. University Terminologies 

College: A school where learners can obtain either associate or bachelor degrees after graduating from high school.

Simultaneous Enrollment or Dual Registration: A method that enables individuals to enroll in neighboring higher education institutions while they finish secondary school.

Private University: A scholastic institution paid for mainly by university tuition and foundations.

Public College or University: A scholastic institution paid for mainly by university tuition, foundations and government taxes. Public institutions offer lower tuition for in-state college students.

Transfer Schools: A two-year program that leads to an associate degree. It is tailored for learners who eventually plan to attend a four-year institution.

University: A school which might resemble a college, but normally grants master and doctorate certifications along with bachelor’s degrees.

Undergraduate Certification: Associate diplomas (two-year) or bachelor’s diploma (four-year).

Associate’s Diploma (Associate of Arts, Associate of Science): A two-year diploma that normally readies the individual for additional learning. Several associate certifications satisfy practical training requirements for specific professions, but most college students in two-year colleges plan on finishing their education at four-year institutions.

Bachelor’s Diploma (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Fine Arts): A four-year certification in a defined field of study.

Master’s Degree: A graduate diploma obtained through research after undergraduate certification.

Graduate Diploma (Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Fine Arts): A couple of years of academic work in a particular field of study after obtaining a bachelor’s diploma.

Postgraduate Diploma (Doctor of Philosophy, Juris Doctor, Medical Doctor): Several years of research in a precise and distinct field of study after obtaining either a bachelor’s diploma or and/or master’s degree. 

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