Applying to College: Log On, Get In
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The college application process is a multi-step affair with many deadlines and due dates depending on the school you apply to and the type of application you submit.
- Applying to more than one college? Some schools now accept a common application so that you don't have to fill out your basic information over and over. See the Common Application Web site to find out which schools accept the application.
- Part of a successful application is applying to the right combination of schools: some reaches, some maybes and some safety schools. Before you start writing essays and getting recommendations, visit College Data, which helps you determine your chances of being admitted to a college.
- One way to prepare for the SAT is to take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) administered by the College Board. To learn more about what's on the test and how to register, visit the College Board's PSAT/NMSQT page.
Choosing what college or university you attend may be one of the most important decisions you'll make. The college search advice in this section offers search tools, rankings and reviews to help you narrow the options and determine what fits you best.
- College and university rankings can be useful for exposing certain attributes of schools, but rankings are dependent on endowment funds, alumni giving and other nonacademic factors. Don't use rankings as the most important way to judge a school; you might miss out on some great institutions.
- There are many good schools that lie under the radar. Author Loren Pope has written several books directed at students looking for a good match rather than a brand name. Check out "Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That's Right for You" and "Colleges that Change Lives: 40 That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges," which includes sections for students with learning disabilities as well as for those that are homeschooled.
- Some basic terms that you'll come across in this guide and in your research include:
- Safety School: a school that will likely accept you.
- Reach School: a school that will be difficult for you to get into.
- Early Action: a nonbinding application that puts you in the first round of applicants.
- Early Decision: a binding application that puts you in the first round of applicants. If you are accepted ED, you are required to attend the school that accepted you. Generally, you can apply to only one school Early Decision.