If you've got a high school senior at home, you probably got a stack of college applications sitting somewhere in the house.
The deadlines for many universities are coming up in the next month. Schools like UT Dallas are due at the beginning of May, so students still have time to make final adjustments.
"The application is a way to put your best foot forward to connect with an institution and show them who you are as an applicant," said Ingrid London, provost of admissions and enrollment at UT Dallas. "So it can be really helpful to thoroughly read through what you submit on the application and just fully include a lot of information about yourself and why you're a good candidate for institution."
The pandemic has changed some of the expectations universities are looking for in new students as college admission officers recognize that high school students have endured a lot these past two years.
So if your student has missed a sports season or were set back in some way by COVID-19, that’s OK.
"I will say, over the last couple years, universities understand the impacts that have happened from the pandemic on things like extracurricular activities and [how] that may look different,” said London. “So really just include as much information as you can and we will take all of that into consideration."
Grades and GPA are one thing, but since a lot of schools did away with SAT or ACT testing requirements during the pandemic, maybe now is a great time to stand out in the essay portion and those letters of recommendation.
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“I would really encourage students to use that as an opportunity to provide context with things that may have happened outside of their academics – relating to any impacts they may have had with different structures of school education over the last couple of years, different challenges they've faced,” said London. “But those supplemental materials can be a really great opportunity to add to their application those elements that they weren't able to include through a high school transcript.”
She said universities are often looking for overlapping elements and want to see not just those academics, but how much students are involved in extracurriculars or things outside of school.
Since deadlines are weeks away, students will also have time to contact the university admissions offices directly, which London said will answer questions and share details on exactly how to stand out with that school's application.
But no matter how good the application is, there is one thing students might be getting wrong.
"One of the most common mistakes we see from students with the college search process, I think, is applying to institutions they themselves may not be interested in to please others – whether it be a friend or a family member,” she warned. “Finding the right university goes back to each individual student and that's where we really encourage students to find a good fit for you in what you are looking for. Do your research."
At the end of the day, London said it’s important to stay positive.
“Keep having fun. The college search and application process can be very daunting at times, but just know there's a lot of resources and support out there. Really just utilize those resources and have fun with it. It's a very exciting time as you're figuring out and planning that next step,” she said.
Looking ahead to once those acceptance letters come in, London said that despite the decline in COVID-19 infection numbers, she's still seeing a lot of universities and colleges continuing to offer total virtual or hybrid tours.
“Which is very exciting. So I think as far as ways in which to connect and engage with different universities, explore your options. There's never been a time where we've had this many options and ways in which students can do that,” she said.