Now that you have Researched your Options and considered Funding Options, now it is time to complete your application. Most applications consist of the following elements, however, always review a university program’s admissions webpage to understand your specific requirements.
- ApplicationSome universities use their own applications, but more than 700 institutions use the Common Application, which can make your life easier. When you create an account with the application, the system will remember and keep your information all in one place, so you don’t have to enter details multiple times. The application will also send emails to the email address that you provide to keep you up to speed on approaching deadlines.
Another great benefit of the Common App is its search tool, which can help you as you continue to search for your best match.
The basic requirements for the Common App are a copy of your high school transcript, a list of your extracurricular activities, test scores and test dates for your standardized tests, and parent or legal guardian information (such as educational background, occupational information, and employer information). Be sure to gather all of this information ahead of when you plan to submit.
56 colleges and universities are now using the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success as an alternative to the Common application.
- Standardized TestingShould you take the ACT or the SAT? It’s up to you, really. At this point, all universities that ask for a standardized exam will accept either, so the choice is yours. Consider which exam suits your needs best and which format you prefer. We recommend you complete a sample test for the SAT Reasoning Test and a sample test for the ACT. Then, compare your results from the sample tests using the ACT–SAT Concordance Reference Sheet, which links scores on both tests by percentile.
Additional tests- Keep in mind that some more competitive universities also require 2-3 SAT Subject Tests or the ACT Plus Writing. If you your first language is not English or your attend a French speaking high school, you will likely have to take the TOEFL English language exam or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
Register for the SAT: collegeboard.org
Register for the ACT: actstudent.org
Register for the TOEFL: etscanada.ca/toefl
Register for the IELTS: ielts.org
There are now more than 200 universities that are test optional. See the list of schools at Fairtest.org.
- Essays and personal statementAdditional writing requirements may include short essays, personal statements, and/or statements of purpose. This is your opportunity to let your personality shine through. Essays are the time to highlight strengths about yourself that are not readily evident in the rest of your application.
The most important part of your personal statement is to be yourself. Of course, you want to do so in a unique way, avoiding cliches while making sure you address the given prompts. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has an excellent guide to writing and checking over your personal statement. You can see accepted student essays to top universities here.
- Letters of RecommendationMost universities request 1-3 letters of recommendation as part of your application. The head or principal of your school, your school counsellor, your personal tutor, teachers, coaches, or supervisors from professional experiences may write recommendation letters. Your recommenders must be able to write about your work and be able to assess your potential to do well pursuing a higher education degree. Be sure to choose someone who knows you well, and be sure to request these letters well in advance so your recommenders can take the time to write great letters for you!
Most schools will want to see at least one letter from a teacher and one from your guidance counsellor. If you guidance counsellor doesn’t know you well, choose another administrator or teacher who does know you well.
- TranscriptsYour guidance counsellor will send your transcripts directly to the universities that you apply to. It is very important that your counsellor is part of your application process to ensure that these documents are set in a timely fashion.
- Portfolio or auditionFor students in the Arts, a portfolio or audition is typically the most important aspect of the application. Work closely with your teachers and mentors in your field to perfect your submission.
Once you are accepted and decide which university to attend, it is time for STEP 4: Confirm your Student Status.