As high school seniors finish up their college visits and decide which schools are up for consideration, students will soon begin the college application process.

To help students prepare their applications Questia, the premier online research and paper-writing tool for students, has compiled ten helpful hints to assist students with everything from personal statements to submission dates. 

  • Visit the Campus:  Admission offices keep track of all potential students who register for an official tour of their campus and this display of student interest may end up being a marginal factor. In addition, not only will visiting the campus illustrate your interest in the school, it will acquaint you with the campus and gives you the opportunity to ask faculty members questions regarding the school. 
  • Apply With Early Admission:  Occasionally early applicants have better admissions odds, so students should consider applying early for their top college picks. Students who apply through early decision programs are typically indicating that particular college is their first choice and because of that demonstrated interest, they may be given a decisive edge. 
  •  Make Your Personal Essay Personal:  U.S. News & World Report released do’s and don’ts students should take into account when drafting their personal statements. Since this is an opportunity to let your personality shine through, it is imperative to pick a topic that invokes passion. Allow your essay to be reflective but also keep it short, sweet and on-point as admissions officers have limited time to read through each essay. 
  •  Secure Recommendation Letters:  Be sure to extend the same consideration to teachers and counselors for completing a recommendation letter that you would want for yourself in finishing a writing assignment. Besides providing adequate time, share information about yourself, personal achievements and awards so your teacher can help portray the real you within the letter. 
  • Register for the Proper Standardized Test:  While some schools do not have a preference as to which standardized test scores are referenced, others have stringent guidelines and may only accept an SAT score. Since some high schools only offer the ACT to students, make sure that you are registered for an SAT test through a source such as the SAT website and receive your test scores before the application due date. 
  • Practice and Prepare for Alumni Interviews:  Like applying for a job, applying for a college sometimes requires a sit down interview. To prepare, be sure to research the institution and outline key messages you will want to express about yourself. Don’t forget that first impressions matter so remember to be put together and dress neatly. 
  • Highlight Extracurricular Activities:  There is more to an application than good grades and high test scores; how you fit into the community and make an impact is important as well. Emphasizing your involvement in student council, local organizations or school sports teams will illustrate your commitment to the community and showcase that you are a well-rounded individual. After all, those additional extracurriculars are often what can make or break an admission decision. 
  • Seek Outside Help:  Invoke the help of parents, teachers, counselors and family friends in your college application process. Whether it’s having a fresh set of eyes proofread your application and essays for the umpteenth time or simply speaking with an alumnus from your prospective university, seeking help from outside sources will allow you to present a polished application and ensure you make an educated decision. 
  • Apply to Safety Schools:  While an Ivy League institution or elite liberal arts college may be your dream school, remember to keep your options open and your expectations realistic. The market is competitive and many of the students who receive a rejection letter had many of the same qualifications as those who were admitted.  Make sure not to put all your eggs in one basket and to apply to schools with varying qualifications. 
  • Weigh Financial Aid Options:  Picking a school that is the right fit is important but so is picking a school that will fit your budget for the long-term. Will your parents help contribute? Will you be taking out student loans? Are you eligible for financial aid? Attending college is an investment so these are questions that must be considered when choosing a school that is within your price point.

Cengage Learning is a leading provider of innovative teaching, learning and research solutions for the academic, professional and library markets worldwide. Questia, part of Cengage Learning, is the Web’s premier online collection of copyrighted fiction and non-fiction books, academic journals and research periodicals for students and includes integrated tools for note taking, organizing research, citing sources, creating footnotes and building bibliographies to help students write better research papers faster. For more information, visit or

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