Crunch time

If you haven't applied for college yet, get in gear

If you haven't applied for college yet, get in gear

January 09, 2007|by CHRIS COPLEY

It's Jan. 9. Do you know where your college application is?

If you're a high school senior and you haven't applied for college yet, there's still time, but just barely.

"It's not too late, but you've got to move quickly," said Randy Longnecker, guidance counselor with Williamsport High School. "The later you wait and the longer colleges have to look over the others' application, the lower your chances of being accepted. We encourage our students to apply before the Christmas break."

Many colleges, such as the University of Maryland, require applications to be turned in by Jan. 15. That's less than a week. You can do it, but you've got to hurry.

Here's your game plan:

See your guidance counselor at school. He or she will have lots of information about colleges and can help you select a few that suit your preferences. What do you want to study? In what size school will you feel comfortable? Do you like living in the city or a small town? Your school guidance counselor can point you to colleges that suit you.


There are lots of other resources you can access. Local public libraries have shelves and shelves of books on applying for college. The Internet has many, many Web sites about the application process. The Princeton Review has a site at College Confidential's site is at

Apply online. Virtually every college has an application available online. Applying online will help you meet the deadline. Start today! Applications can be complex, with several parts - high school transcript, letters of recommendation, an essay, SAT scores, etc. You probably won't finish the application in one sitting.

When writing your essay, be yourself. Your application is a representation of you - your grades, your activities, your attitudes and opinions. College application officers want to get a sense of who you are. Don't just write what you think the admissions officer wants to hear. Do reread your essay before submitting it. Every piece of writing can be improved with a second reading.

Make sure your application is complete, accurate, neatly prepared and submitted on time. A calendar or schedule might help. Write down things you need to do or get. Stick to your schedule.

Register for the SAT or ACT. If you haven't yet taken an SAT or ACT, that might not be a problem. Many colleges do not require a college entrance exam, including 10 in Maryland, eight in West Virginia and 23 in Pennsylvania. Check out the Fair Test listing at But many colleges do require the SAT or ACT. Check to see if the colleges of your choice will accept your SAT or ACT score at a later date. The next available SAT is on March 10; you must register for it by Feb. 2. The next ACT will be given on Feb. 10; late registration deadline is Jan. 19. Some colleges will accept students pending the results of their SAT or ACT.

Visit the college. It's a smart move to visit the college or colleges you think you'd like to attend. You can see the dorms. You can look at the facilities you'll be using in your field of interest. You can talk to students and find out what student life is like. But if you can't visit before you apply, schedule a visit for later.

OK, that's about it. Applying for college is a big task, but attending college is worth the effort. For many students, college is a pathway to a richer life, in more than one way.

"One of the biggest (reasons to attend college) is income. The more education you get, the higher your income potential," Longnecker said.

"But something that doesn't get talked about much is that going to college exposes students to new ideas and broader concepts. A lot of students don't figure out who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are until they're in their early 20s. Attending college opens up more doors, gives them flexibility in a changing marketplace."

College brings opportunities

Why do you need a college education? You don't. Some people make a decent income without having a college degree. But your income is related to your education, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

In 2004, the average income of full-time workers ages 25 to 34 who had earned a high school diploma or GED was $30,400 for men and $24,000 for women. It sounds like a lot, but if you expect to get married and raise children, that's going to be difficult with this income. And there's little or no extra money for traveling, eating out in restaurants or electronic toys.

In 2004, the mean income of full-time workers ages 25 to 34 who had earned a bachelor's degree was $50,700 for men and $40,300 for women.

The other question is this: What do you want to do for the next 15 or 20 years of your life? When you were little, you probably didn't want to grow up to at the mall. You wanted a cool job. With a cool income. Cool jobs often need workers with training and education.

So do you need a college education? No. But if you want a cool job with a decent income, a college degree can be a big step.

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