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Applying to college can be overwhelming especially if it’s completely new to you. It’s totally normal to have tons of questions about the process. We’ve gathered some FAQs and listed some common terms. Read on to learn more!

Common Questions

When do I start applying to college?

Most applications are available a year before you attend school. For example, if you hope to go to college in the fall after your high school graduation, your application will open in the summer before your senior year or in the fall of your senior year. What can you do in advance to prep for these applications? Decide where to apply, take the ACT/SAT, brainstorm topics for your college essays, and ask for letters of recommendation.

Where do I find the application(s)?

The college’s admission website is always the first place to start. From there, you will see how they like you to submit your application. Some schools will have you submit directly on their website, and others use an outside application like the Common App. When you find this information, you will also see other requirements. This includes information about essays, letters of recommendation, application fees, and test score ranges. 

Which semester do I apply for?

Typical first-year students begin in the fall, but that doesn’t mean it’s your only option. Some programs require a mandatory summer session or allow you to start in the summer. If you do start in the summer, check out some of the perks.

What do I need to apply?

Here are some of the most common items you will submit: essays, letters of recommendation, application fee/fee waiver, and high school transcripts. 

What do I do once my app is submitted?

Make sure you accomplish other parts of your to-do list! This may include applying for scholarshipsfilling out your FAFSA, and submitting updated test scores. Once you hit the submit button, it’s out of your hands. Be confident in the fact that you gave it your all, and read these tips for passing the time.

Vocabulary to Know

Early Decision

Early Decision gives you the opportunity to apply early (usually November) to your first-choice school. In turn, students will receive an admission decision in advance of the regular notification date (usually December). Be aware that with early decision, you can only apply to one school under early decision and if you are to be accepted, you must agree to attend if provided an adequate financial aid package. You can still submit regular decision applications, but they must be withdrawn if accepted.

Early Action

Similar to Early Decision, Early Action allows you to submit your application earlier than the regular deadline and receive an admission decision early in the admissions cycle. Unlike Early Decision, Early Action is not binding. You still have the opportunity to apply elsewhere and weigh all of your options before making a final choice.


When colleges are test-optional, they are waiving the requirement of ACT or SAT test scores. This gives you the choice to submit testing scores or not. If you’re not sure if you should apply test-optional, read these tips

Deferred Admission

When you receive your admission letter, there’s a possibility you will see the word “deferred.” The word “defer” means to delay. You’ll usually see this if you apply early to a school. If you’re deferred, your application will be deferred into the regular decision pool. As an applicant, you can be deferred for many reasons, so don’t be discouraged. 

Rolling Admission

Colleges with rolling admission keep applications open for a large window of time. They also process applications as they are received, rather than after a hard deadline. This usually means the earlier you submit, the earlier you know your admission decision.