What Is the Typical College Admission Process?

The typical college admission process involves selecting a college, sending in your application and finally, being accepted. The typical college admission process consists of a number of steps.

Research and Apply to Different Colleges

Research different colleges to see which ones are best for you and offer programs you're interested in exploring. In addition to consulting sources like U.S. News & World Report or Princeton Review, you may want to visit colleges and take part in interviews or information sessions. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) outlines various application plans.

Important Facts About The College Admission Process

Prerequisites High school diploma; SAT or ACT scores
Online Availability Online application and enrollment are available for the majority of post-secondary schools
Enrollment Outlook (2012-2023) 12% growth
Most Popular Degree Fields Business, social sciences and history, health professions, psychology and education

Source: The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

Types of Admission:

  • Non-Restrictive: Students can apply to other institutions, but must confirm enrollment by a specific date. Three types of non-restrictive admissions are:
    • Regular Decision: Students submit applications by a certain date and get a decision within a stated time.
    • Rolling Admission: Schools review the applications as received and make decisions regarding admission throughout the admission cycle.
    • Early Action: Apply early and get a decision before school's regular date to respond.
  • Restrictive Plans: Students must abide by the restrictions. Two of these admissions programs are:
    • Early Decision: Students commit to their first choice institution and enroll there if admitted.
    • Restrictive Early Action: Students apply to preferred schools and get an early decision.

Teachers' Recommendations

Many college applications require at least one letter of recommendation from teachers. A teacher's recommendation generally involves the student's performance in the classroom. This typically includes contributions made and work presented.

Write the Essay

College application essays allow you to explain who you are in detail. Some applications have specific questions that address critical life events or academic goals. It's important during the writing process to let your personality show through while explaining why you're an excellent applicant and writing about a topic or event that truly interests you.

Apply for Financial Aid

One can get aid to go to college from local, state or federal levels of government and the institution. In most cases, students are expected to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); other applications may be necessary for institutional grants or local scholarship opportunities. Decisions regarding financial aid are made separately from the decision whether or not to admit.

Make a Decision

If you send lots of applications out, you may be accepted to more than one school. Weigh your options and think critically about important school characteristics, including academics and financial aid. Send in your acceptance to your ultimate choice.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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