Applying to College: 5 Tips for College Success

Tips are focused on the college list, the timeline, an organizational tool, the essay, and letters of recommendation,
Teenage boy taking notes while applying to college in the library

During an Education Finance Council Twitter Chat, we shared and heard so much valuable information about the college application process. We wanted to be sure to pass along this great guidance to those of you currently applying to college. Here are 5 key tips to keep in mind as your navigate this process:

  1. Your list: Choosing which colleges and programs to apply to can be challenging. There are a number of online resources to help you find the schools and programs that are right for you, including MEFA Pathway, CollegeNavigator, and CollegeScorecard. Take some time to explore these sites to help you narrow down your choices.
  2. The timeline: Understanding the difference between Early Action and Early Decision is important, so we've outlined the details of each one. Early Action is non-binding, but Early Decision IS. This means that if you apply through Early Decision, you should be sure that the college is #1 on your list AND that your family can afford it.
  3. An organizational tool: Staying organized through the process is so important, and that's why we've designed a College Application Manager to help you successfully manage your requirements and deadlines. MEFA Pathway also offers an application tracker – if you don't have an account yet, be sure to sign up now (it's free!)
  4. The essay: College essays are very helpful in that they provide an opportunity for you to set yourself apart from other applicants. Be sure to adhere to the requirements of the essay(s), and always be honest. Our blog post on the college essay can help guide you as you write.
  5. Letters of recommendation: A common requirement, letters of recommendation are a great way to round out your application and provide colleges with different perspectives from those who know you well. Consider asking for a recommendation from a teacher who knows you well and has taught you recently. And never ask for more recommendations than are required by the college. For a full list of tips on letters of recommendation, check out our recent blog post here, and this video.

    Though there are many pieces to the college application process, keeping on track, staying organized, and following our tips will help you meet your deadlines and remain focused. If you have questions about applying to college, be sure to review our dedicated page on applying to college.

    Learn more about applying to college