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Researching and Applying for College

By A.W. Berry,
Staff Writer

There are a few steps you need to take in order to get started.

Researching and applying for higher education is a task that affects students for the rest of their lives. With the right techniques, this process can be made manageable and effective. This in turn allows applicants to enter the most realistic program that best suits their individual educational goals. Carefully choosing the most suitable degree program and then properly applying can increase the chance of admission. This-along with the actual admission-to the chosen education program makes the application and research experience worthwhile.


A number of resources are helpful in the research process. Guidance counselors and academic advisors are there to provide assistance, but may not do so unless asked first. Schools also publish and mail prospectuses to potential students; however these documents do not always demonstrate daily life aspects of educational institutions. Talking with existing students, reading college student reviews and studying institutional statistics published by the Department of Education NCES College Navigator can all be helpful when determining program viability. The College Board also provides a number of useful tools for applying to college, including an application checklist and an admission test preparation guide.


Test scores and grade point averages are used by many educational institutions to gauge student potential for success. Studying score and test expectations for programs saves time and money spent applying for programs that either do not match academically or have different expectations from their applicants. In addition to providing college search information, Barron's Profile of American Colleges and The Princeton Review have annual guides that publish admission score ranges for tests such as the Standardized Admission Test (SAT), and the General Record Examination (GRE).


Knowing your own educational goals is also relevant to the application process. Clearly-defined goals such as GPA score, major, career objectives, and participation in school programs not only helps applicants understand what they want from a school, but also helps schools know what they are likely to get from the applicants upon enrollment. Some students know what they want to study and what school they want to attend from early on, others find their way as their interests and careers develop. In any case, before applying or researching an educational program, having a good idea of what one wants gives reason to the purpose.


Application letters, also known as application essays, convey a lot to application reviewers. They give educational program administrators additional insight into the personality and character of potential students, which helps them gauge how well they will fit in and function in the school environment. For example, Bari Norman, a former Columbia University Admissions Officer suggests tying in personal narrative with educational objectives per a Good Morning America interview. The ability to effectively communicate ideas in writing, the ability to focus on specific topics, and the style of communication can all be conveyed via an application letter. In addition to expressing character, these letters define personal objectives, highlight qualifications and should be both to the point and clear to understand.

Last edited: October 31, 2011, 6:45 pm EST
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