College Applications: The Who, What, When, Where, and How


As the 2022-23 school year starts, seniors find themselves facing their biggest challenge yet, college applications. Tensions run high as stress increases among the students as they try to pick the best colleges for them. Due dates for applications begin Oct. 1, so what are some things seniors can do to help prepare them for this?

College prep week starts on Oct. 4, and provides Potomac Falls seniors with presentations ranging from finding out which college is best for you to completing your FAFSA application. Tuesday, Oct. 4 starts with a review from a Princeton College representative on finding your best fit college. Taking place in the PFHS theater at 6pm, students can get an in depth review and tips on picking out which college is just right for them. 

In addition to picking a list of schools to apply to, Counselor Mary Meinhardt said “Have a blend of schools: reach schools, schools that accept students right around your GPA/SAT scores, and back-up schools that you will definitely get into.” Having a reach school, and a safe school are important to the application process, and a wide variety of schools opens up many opportunities.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) allows students to apply for loans, grants, work-study, and financial aid, and since college tuition is on a rise, applying for FAFSA has become more important than ever. On Thursday Oct. 6, FAFSA information night will be held in the PFHS library at 6:00 PM. During this students will learn about the FAFSA application process, and the morning of Oct. 7 at 8:15 AM in the library, students can participate in the FAFSA completion workshop. The workshop provides help to seniors applying for aid, and guides them in the completion and submission of their FAFSA forms.

College essay workshops are also available for students. During college prep week on Oct. 7 in the PFHS library, there will be a college essay workshop seminar. This is a great opportunity to get help on essay ideas and how to write a college essay. Most essay topics can be found in Common App, but some colleges might have extra essays required for their specific applications, so it’s best to be prepared for both.

Each college is different in the application process. “Look at the admissions websites to find each school’s requirements and deadlines! This will help you to get organized,” said Meinhardt.

Some colleges and universities allow students to submit an application for early decision or early action, but what exactly does this mean? The main difference is an early decision application is binding. Meaning that you can only apply to this school, and if accepted, the student is required to attend. This is good for students who only have one school in mind that they want to apply to, but keep in mind that you can only apply to one if you pick early decision. Early action applicants receive their acceptance decision earlier in the year, rather than if they had picked to apply to regular decision. With this, students can apply to as many colleges as they like, but they have to pick which one they want to attend by May 1.

Counselors have laid out the steps for the application process, starting with first completing your application on Common app. However, some schools also have extra steps to their application, for example, additional essays, questions, or portfolios that prospective students need to complete. After this seniors need to request their transcript for each school that they apply to. To do so, follow the link under the “class of 2023 counseling information” tab on the PFHS website. 

Then to request letters of recommendations, students need to match their Common App accounts to their Naviance accounts under the “colleges I’m applying to” tab on the Naviance website. Through that, you can request teacher recommendations, after asking the teacher in person. Some schools might require a counselor application, and students can complete the senior profile for this, which is also under the “Class of 2023 Counseling Information” tab on the PFHS website. Most schools now are test optional, but if your school needs SAT/ACT scores, the scores go directly to the colleges. 

At the end of the day, college applications can be very stressful, so it’s also important for you to take care of yourself. As a quick reminder, Meinhardt said “Just do your best, there are many different paths to the same outcome. Even if you don’t get into your number one school, you will still be able to reach your goals! Just keep an open mind and you will find success and happiness.”

Sometimes it’s good to step away for a few days and come back to an application/essay. A fresh start might be just the thing you need.