College Admissions 101: Simple Tips for High School Students

high school students talking

Applying for college is a fun and exciting milestone for many high school students. However, some might find the college admission requirements and application process overwhelming. After all, college admissions forms are different, and many students ponder questions like "Do AP scores matter for college admissions?"

DBU understands the importance of completing the college admissions process in a prospective student’s educational journey. Our handy college application guide offers tips to help students prepare for this significant academic endeavor.

How to Prepare for and Navigate College Admissions

Over 1.2 million distinct first-year applicants had applied to 841 colleges that participated in the Common App through March 1, 2023, according to a Common Application report. This figure represents a 21% increase from 2019-20.

With so many students pursuing higher education, preparing for the college admissions process sooner rather than later helps reduce stress and ensures students complete essential steps. Follow these tips to streamline the undergraduate application process.

Build a Well-Rounded High School Career

A prospective college student should build a well-rounded high school career, starting as early as their freshman year. Taking rigorous AP and dual-enrollment courses (for which they can also receive college credit) are good academic choices.

Successfully balancing studies with non-academic activities is also one way a student can demonstrate their ability to multitask effectively. Notable examples include:

  • Serving in volunteer and nonprofit opportunities.
  • Assuming leadership roles.
  • Doing extracurricular activities in addition to classroom achievements.

Visit Multiple Campuses

According to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 3,542 degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the U.S. in the 2021-22 academic year. With so many choices, deciding what schools to apply to is an essential first step.

In today’s digital world, many colleges and universities offer virtual tours. Students and their families can do as many of these as they want — starting in the summer between a student’s junior and senior year of high school. Visiting campuses in person, however, gives a much deeper impression and allows students to feel the environment and culture of the school. Students get a sense of campus life and community and whether specific schools feel like a fit.

Students can use these visits to add or eliminate schools they want to apply to.

Study for and Take Standardized Testing

Most students take standardized tests like ACT, SAT, PSAT, and AP during their high school junior year. Students should consider taking standardized tests sooner in their high school career if they are taking advanced classes ahead of their peers such as being ahead in math. Some colleges and universities consider or require scores on these tests when reviewing a student’s application; however, these tests are optional at some schools and universities. Khan Academy offers free SAT prep for students to practice before taking the official test.

Apply for Scholarships and Complete the FAFSA

Students need a solid financial plan to ensure they can pay for college. Students and their families should discuss the financial contributions they can make early in the college planning process.

Students should apply for as many scholarships as possible in their senior year. When it opens, they should also complete the FAFSA (Federal Application for Federal Student Aid). Dependent students will use their parent or guardian’s financial information for the form, and independent adult students will use their own financial information.

The FAFSA analysis will determine the amount of federal aid and which federal grants, loans, and work-study programs a college student is eligible to receive. A student’s financial aid package will also list any grants and scholarships the school itself offers (called institutional aid) each academic year.

Students must be able to cover college tuition fees, room and board, and other expenses beyond grants, scholarships, and other kinds of assistance to attend college. For many families, understanding these out-of-pocket expenses as soon as possible is critical.

DBU has many grant and scholarship opportunities available for students based on academics, merit, and on an as-needed basis. DBU also offers private scholarships —gifts funded by local banks, trusts, foundations, and other organizations that go directly to students’ accounts. Our Director of Scholarship and Grant Resources has researched and developed relationships with these private foundations and organizations over the last 10+ years, and this research has been compiled into a database for students to access.

There are more opportunities for financial help out there than you might think, and we want to help you find them. Ultimately, we want to help you fund your education, so you can be successful as a student and in your calling beyond graduation day.

Keep Track of Important Deadlines

High school curriculum and activities can make a student’s junior and senior years hectic. To stay organized, students should keep a list of testing, financial aid, and application deadlines in a physical notebook, Excel spreadsheet, or calendar and reminder apps on their computer or mobile phone. Check the list frequently, like at the beginning of each week, to prevent missing crucial dates.

Gather Letters of Recommendation

Students may ask for and gather letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, activity leaders, work supervisors, and anyone else who can discuss their personal strengths, work ethic, character, and academic abilities.

Key College Application Components

Students can apply to as many schools as they want. Each college or university may have a slightly different application format. Key application components include:

  • Personal information – Name, address, phone number, email address, social security number, birthdate.
  • Official high school transcripts – Student’s graduation date and final GPA. Request this from the high school counseling office.
  • College transcripts – Official transcripts from any college or university courses completed.
  • Misc. – Test scores, honors achievements, awards, extracurricular activities, jobs, and volunteer work.
  • Essay – Open-ended questions allow students to share an experience or story that illustrates something personal about themselves, such as strengths, values, and background. Students can practice writing essays with Common App Essay prompts as early as the summer before senior year.

Apply to DBU for a Faith-based Learning Experience

For more than a century, DBU has helped students discover their calling and prepare for a rewarding career by providing a Christian education. DBU seeks students desiring a Christ-centered quality education founded on the premise of integrating Biblical faith and academic learning. DBU has outstanding programs to meet the needs of traditional-age students, graduate students, and busy adults. Our caring faculty members work together to integrate faith into every facet of learning and campus life — from the classroom to the athletic fields to the dorms.

DBU is a fantastic choice for Christian high school students seeking a Christ-centered college education and who want to strengthen their skills in servant leadership. We offer over 75 degree majors and 40 minors. DBU graduates work and serve in many industries and at major companies all over the world, including AT&T, GM Financial, Keller Williams, and Lockheed Martin.

Students will grow spiritually, socially, and academically at DBU. Learn more about applying to DBU, schedule a campus tour at your earliest convenience, or call us at (214) 333-5360 with any questions you have about the college admissions process. We welcome your application and look forward to taking the next step with you in your admissions process toward a transformative, Christ-centered education with high academic standards.

"An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge." – Proverbs 18:15 ESV

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