How To Create A Winning College Application

A set of color pencils on a table with the inscription, 'How to create a winning college application'

Ideally, the road to college applications should begin years before you start to put together your package; but if you are like most people, you probably only began to seriously think about college a few months before entry.

Not to worry, you can still make a killer application and snag a couple of scholarships while you are at it.


College application: Do your own research

This is the first and one of the most important steps, if not the most important. After deciding what you are going to major on, do a thorough research on the colleges or universities that you would like to attend and narrow the list down to 5. Whatever you do, please do not take as the gospel truth, reviews/rankings from so-called experts or websites on a school’s standards; quite a number of them are paid advertisements veiled as honest opinions {this is the reason why we’ve compiled at least 90% of all American universities and colleges on our listing site to make the search easier for you}.

Visit the university’s social media handles and get a picture of what life there would be like. Note each school’s engagement with visitors and see if they have a supportive approach to dealing with people; that small, not-well-known university might just be the one to provide you with the right support that could propel you to greater heights not just in your career but life in general.

Contact the school’s admin unit and converse honestly with them. If and when possible, attend open days to get a first-hand view of the school’s grounds and come to a definite conclusion of whether to move on with your application or not.

If scholarships are deal breakers, make sure to peruse scholarship boards or your college of choice regularly to be in the know of the scholarships on offer and their deadlines {you can also check out our scholarship board which we strive to update on a daily}.

If you miss out on any other step, do make sure it’s not this one.


College Application: Organization is key

Now that you’ve firmly decided which universities to apply to, create a checklist for each university detailing what each school requires for a complete application. This step will save you from unnecessary panic attacks as the application deadline draws closer.


College application: Practice makes perfect

The saying, ‘Practice makes perfect’ is such an accurate statement on how best to prepare for the SAT or ACT tests. Daily practice of sample SAT/ACT questions is a sure approach guaranteed to ensure that you score above the 1400 mark. A lot rides on the score you obtain on these tests, such as acceptance by your university of choice and the amount of scholarship money you are awarded.

We’ve compiled a few sample SAT questions which you can find here and there are several more on CollegeBoard but if you really want to do significant damage to these tests, you would need to either attend tutorial classes or get detailed study guides designed for this particular purpose.

One that we highly recommend for the SAT test is the Official SAT study guide; it comes with real SAT tests and tips on how to accurately answer these questions as quickly as possible.

For the ACT test, we recommend the Official ACT Prep guide that contains authentic ACT questions with access to additional questions online.

For online test preparation with tutors, we highly recommend the use of PrepScholar, who are leaders in SAT and ACT preparation with over a decade plus experience in getting students to obtain high scores.


College application: Honesty is the best policy

Some colleges require a written essay on a particular topic as part of the application package; the topics range from ‘why did you choose this particular college’ to ‘what extra-curricular activities are you involved in’. The best way to answer these questions is with 100% honesty as school evaluators can sniff a half-hearted essay from a mile away.

When doing research on a college or university, make sure to find out what a school values in their selection of students and input that into your essay with evidence e.g. if a college values leadership, input scenarios where you displayed leadership qualities.

It’s also important to get a second opinion on a written essay; you can give it to a family member or a trusted friend to get their honest opinion. Nothing beats getting a second view point as they are bound to give tips that can help improve your essay and make it even better.


College application: Appreciation makes everything 10x better

Most colleges and universities require a recommendation to be submitted directly by a high school teacher of your choice; even if you were a total loner in high school, there’s bound to be that one (or two) teacher that you can still turn to for a decent recommendation. Colleges require this as a way of getting to know you better from the most likely person that is aware of your academic capabilities and personal strengths.

Contact your high school teacher way ahead of time as they will probably be swarmed with recommendation requests from other students and also don’t forget to remind them at intervals if they do not send it right away.

When they finally send the recommendation, make sure to send a thank you note or mail showing appreciation for their time; this fosters goodwill and you just never know when you might need them again.


College application: The earlier, the better

Depending on how far you are from your school of choice, it’s best to get this sorted as soon as possible. Once you’ve completed your college application form, contact your high school right away and set the ball rolling. For international students, it is best to begin this process at least three months before the deadline; where possible, insist on the fastest method available such as an international courier.


College application: communication bridges the gap

It is extremely important that you check your mail regularly as the various colleges and universities you have applied to, will be keeping you updated on your application status. Some colleges might need some additional documents or could send you a link which you need to visit to proceed with your scholarship application.

We hope these little tips and resources highlighted above, make all the difference in helping you secure that admission and scholarship.

Please if you have any tips to share, do let us know in the comments.


P.S: For international students who have scaled the hurdle of applications and have received an offer of admission from a US college/university, we at the Unipedia would like to congratulate you heartily and wish you a wonderful time in college. You can go through this article on MyMove, which gives more detailed information on what to expect as you take that big step and what you can do to make the transition an easy one.