How to Survive the College Application Process: Part Two

Now that you’ve done all the early college-application stuff — finalizing your list of schools and creating an application-process checklist, all of which can be found in Part One of this series — it’s time to move forward and set things in motion!

Here’s what to get done in these first few weeks of September:

1. Ask for letters of recommendation

One very important component of a college application is letters of recommendation. Many colleges require at least two letters of recommendation from teachers who have previously taught you in academic subjects.

Writing a letter of recommendation is no small task. Teachers put a great deal of thought into writing these letters for their students, which takes time. Therefore, it’s helpful to teachers — who are often asked to write letters for several students — if you ask them as early in the school year as possible if they are willing to write your letter.

Always remember to thank your teachers, whether or not they agree to write you a letter! When choosing teachers to ask, start with the teachers you know best and in whose classes you performed the best. These teachers will likely be able to best vouch for your character and academic performance.

If your teacher agrees, there are a few things you need to do. First, gather enough envelopes so that letters can be sent to each college on your list. Next, address and add stamps to these envelopes so they’re ready for your teacher to mail off to each of the colleges you’re applying to once he or she finishes writing the letters. Be sure to give your teacher the official letter of recommendation form for each school, making sure the form mentions the deadline by which your teacher needs to send his or her letter.

2. Register for standardized tests

If you still have standardized tests to take, it’s important to register for them as soon as possible to secure your spot. Double-check the standardized test requirements of each school to which you’re applying, and then register if you need to. You can find dates for the SAT and ACT on their official websites.

If you want to get a jump-start in preparing for these tests, you may wish to check out helpful study guides, practice tests, and other powerful resources, such as the free Varsity Tutors SAT Prep Book and ACT Prep Book.

3. Begin filling out your applications

Early September is an appropriate time to begin filling out your applications. While you won’t need to submit your applications for a few months, completing much of the basic forms on your applications early can help save you time later (when you’ll likely be getting busier with your academics and activities).

The great thing about college applications is that you can fill them out online. That means you can work on them incrementally, saving your progress and coming back later to complete the rest. That said, it’s critical you save your work as you go along. It’s not a good feeling to spend several hours working on an application only to open it up again the next day and find that work is gone!

4. Start searching for scholarships

Like your college applications, many scholarships aren’t due until late fall. However, it’s never too early to start scoping out these opportunities.

Pay a visit to your high school’s guidance office and ask about what kind of scholarships may be available through your school. Then, look at scholarships offered by your prospective colleges, and also through outside organizations and businesses. (The Varsity Tutors College Scholarship Contest is a great one to enter as well!)

Once you’re past this stage of the application process, keep an eye out for Part Three of this series...

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