how to apply to college

How to Apply for College

Applying for college doesn’t have to be a daunting process. In fact, it’s easier than you might think! Let’s break down the steps and update the information to help you smoothly navigate the college application journey. We’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide and cover everything you need to know, from assessment tests to financial aid and application requirements.

Time needed: 10 minutes.

You’re about to learn how to apply for college. We’ll cover the types of college applications you may encounter and what you’ll need to complete your applications. Let’s get started.

  1. Take your College Assessment Tests

    Assessment tests like the SAT and ACT are commonly required for college admissions. If you’re in high school, most colleges and universities will ask for your SAT or ACT scores. These tests evaluate your proficiency in various subjects. However, if you’re an adult learner, you may not need these tests. Some colleges might ask you to take their College Placement Test instead.

  2. Apply for the FAFSA

    Financial aid is crucial for many students, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the gateway to securing it. Apply for the FAFSA as soon as it opens on January 1st each year. Keep in mind that your FAFSA application requires your or your parent’s tax information, so make sure your taxes are complete. Remember, you must apply for the FAFSA every year.

    If you haven’t applied for the FAFSA yet, check out our article, how to get college funding. It includes how to apply for the FAFSA. By the way, you have to apply for the FAFSA every year! You also have to list the colleges you are interested in on your FAFSA application. If you have not done so yet, check out our article explaining how to research colleges.

  3. Research the College’s Application Requirements
    Start by researching the colleges you’re interested in attending. Visit their websites and find their online applications. Take note of each college’s application requirements and deadlines. Prioritize your applications based on these deadlines. To help you stay organized, you can use our College Research Tracker in a Google Spreadsheet.

    Simply click the Copy button and you can start organizing your research. You will need a free Google Documents account if you don’t already. Tracking your college research online with Google Documents gives you access to your college research spreadsheet from any computer and or smartphone. You can also share the document with others. Use the spreadsheet columns to track what statistics are most important to you.

  4. Fill out the College Application

    Once you’ve identified your target colleges, start working on your applications. Each college’s application will typically ask you to create a username and password so you can save your progress. Completing the application might take a few days, so be patient. Remember to save your information frequently to avoid losing your work.

    Many applications require a writing sample or essay. Ensure your essay addresses the assigned topic, showcases your personality, and stays within the required word count. Most importantly, proofread your application meticulously for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Plagiarism is a big no-no.

  5. Pay the application fee

    Application fees can add up, but don’t let them deter your college ambitions. The average fee ranges from $50 to $75, but some colleges may charge up to $150. Fee waivers are available for those who qualify, and applying online can sometimes lead to reduced fees. NACAC Fee Waivers are an option for applicants with limited financial means.

  6. Request your Transcripts within the Deadline

    You’ll need to request that your school sends your official academic transcripts to the colleges you’re applying to. Ensure they send official transcripts in sealed envelopes to maintain their status. Transcripts can take a few weeks to reach the colleges, so request them promptly, well within your application deadline.

  7. Get Letters of Recommendation

    Some colleges may request Letters of Recommendation, which can enhance your application. Ask teachers, coaches, advisors, or employers for these letters. Provide clear instructions on where to send them and give your recommenders plenty of time to complete them.


The free college search test helps you narrow down what you’re looking for in a college so you can streamline your college research even further! The questionnaire takes 2-3 minutes to complete and requires no registration. You will be given instant access to your results and will get a unique link to access your results anytime in the future.

In summary, the college application process may seem overwhelming, but breaking it down into these steps can make it much more manageable. With the right preparation and attention to detail, you can successfully apply to the colleges of your choice. Good luck on your college journey!

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