How do I apply for college?
Preparing for college will take time. It is an exciting step in life, but there is a lot to do. So how do you apply for college?
If you want to go to college, start preparing while you are in high school. Most of all, you will need to get good grades in high school. You should take part in extra activities, too. This means clubs, sports, and extra classes. Colleges will also look at your volunteer work. These things will help you to get into college.
In the United States, people often say “college” or “school” for all education after high school.
College admission requirements
To be admitted to a two-year college, four-year college, or university, you will need a high school diploma. If you did not graduate from high school, you can get a high school equivalency diploma instead. This is a long test about all the different topics taught in school. If you pass, it shows you have enough education to go to college.
You can earn your high school equivalency diploma (called GED® or HiSET or TASC) at community colleges. You can also go to evening classes for immigrants and refugees, or take our online class.
- Study online with the RCO’s free GED preparation class
Types of colleges
Community colleges focus on career skills. Students who graduate from community colleges often receive certificates or associate degrees. Associates degrees take around two years of study. Community colleges can help students gain important skills to begin careers offering a living wage. This means any jobs that pay enough money for people. Living wage also means you would not need two jobs or help from the government. Some community colleges have programs to help students transfer to four-year colleges.
Community colleges are smaller than universities. They let students attend part-time. They are also cheaper. The average price of a year at a community college is $2,000. The average price at a university is $8,000.
College and university
Colleges and universities are harder to get into than community colleges. You will have to pass tests to enter. Many Americans go to a four-year college after they finish high school. A university is a college that offers not just undergraduate (bachelor’s) degrees but post-graduate degrees too (master’s or PhD). bachelor’s and master’s degrees will help you get a better job when you graduate.
Public and private
Colleges can be either private or public schools. Private colleges cost a lot more money than public colleges. The average cost per year is $30,000. However, private colleges may also have more scholarship money available. They have smaller classes so students get to talk to teachers more.
How to apply
You can start filling out college applications in October. They need to be finished by January. It takes a long time to fill out applications. You should start early and fill out 6-8 applications. College applications cost about $40 each, so only apply to schools you really like. Colleges that are known for having the best education can be very competitive. This means that many students apply but most don’t get in. If you are applying to very competitive schools, you may want to apply to some schools that are easy to get into as well, just in case you do not get into your first choices.
If you know which college you want to attend, you can look on its website to learn about how to apply. This is what you need:
- An online application form
- A personal statement: this is an essay about why you want to go to this school. It is also a chance to talk about your skills and grades.
- Two or more letters of recommendation: letters from teachers or people you have worked for. These letters will say why the school should let you in.
- High school transcripts
- Test scores: for university, you will need to take an SAT or ACT test. These are tests on all the subjects you learned in school. A good score will help you get into college
If you get in
You will get a letter or email telling you got in. This will happen between March 1st and May 1st. If you got into more than one school, you will have to decide where to go. Think about costs, location, and how good the education is. Tell the schools yes or no as soon as you can. This will help other students who are waiting to hear if there is a spot for them.
If you don’t get in
Some students do not get into college the first year they apply. If you do not get in, there are options.
Some colleges offering rolling admissions. This means that they do not accept all the students at one time. Instead, they accept students one at a time until all the spots are gone. If there are spots left, you can apply to these school in the late spring or summer.
You might decide to take a year off and work to save money. You will have time to research colleges and decide where you want to apply next year. You can also try to get an internship or do volunteering in the field you are interested in. An internship is an unpaid job. This experience will help you get in the next time they apply.
Applying for college can be a long process. Take it step by step. Even if you or your child don’t get in, there are other options.
More resources from the Refugee Center Online
- Scholarships for immigrants
- How to pay for college
- Volunteer and internship jobs
- Choosing a college – one former refugee’s experience
- Resources for first-generation students applying for college
- Resources for undocumented students applying for college
- College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP)
- Filling out the FAFSA
- Colleges with rolling admissions