How Do I Apply
What do I need?
Applying to college can feel a little (or a lot) overwhelming. Many schools require a lot of information, some of which may not be readily accessible to some adult students. Every institution has their own specific requirements, but there are many resources to help you along the way. It may be helpful to write out a checklist of what your school needs, along with due dates and where to send it, in order to keep track of all the information and the steps involved, and many schools supply checklists.
There will be an application, either online or on paper, and many schools charge an application fee. Some colleges like USM are free to apply to. Beyond your general information, you will likely be required to submit your transcripts from high school or an official GED or HiSET, as well as from any previous colleges you attended. These may be obtained from your prior schools’ Registrar’s office or school website, and oftentimes must be sent directly from them to the school you are applying to. Official transcripts may carry a fee, but can be transferred electronically and quickly. Some schools may also require standardized test scores, i.e. the SAT or ACT, though for many this has become optional. Along with the application, you may be asked to submit a resume and letters of recommendation, and a personal statement or essay.
Beyond the application, you may be asked for proof of citizenship or residency with a birth certificate, social security card or other forms of identification, and for your health records with immunizations and vaccination status. Certain programs or degree paths may have their own particular requirements. The admissions staff will be able to help and guide you through the application process, or direct you to organizations, advisors and counselors who can support you and answer any questions.
Many people freeze at the thought of writing an essay. Don’t panic, there is help available. Writing may not be your strong suit, or you may blank out on what to write, that’s okay. It’s not as scary as it seems, so don’t be intimidated by it; this is your opportunity to tell your story. The essay section usually includes a prompt and a word count limit to set the parameters, so you just have to respond and tell the college about yourself, on which you are an expert. You don’t have to use big fancy words or novel turns of phrase. Write it in your own voice; authenticity is important here. It may help to brainstorm some ideas, write them down and make an outline first to organize your thoughts. After you have it written out, revise and polish it, proofread for spelling and punctuation and make sure it meets the word count metric. Try reading it out loud to see how it flows, and ask someone else to read it to make sure it makes sense and to catch any errors you may have missed.
There are many good online guides and sites offering step-by-step advice and examples, along with coaches and tutors offering their services, usually for a fee. Your selected school should also have advisors ready to help you through the process, along with workshops, writing clinics or tutoring sessions. A quick cautionary note about plagiarism: with all the samples available, it may be tempting to simply copy and paste something you find online, or get someone else to write it for you, but don’t. It will negatively impact your chances of getting accepted, and it robs you of the opportunity to express yourself in your own voice.
Here are some helpful links: