College is an incredibly formative and educational experience, helping to provide the life skills and technical knowledge needed to pursue an unlimited number of professional pursuits. While college is an exciting and fulfilling time in a young professional’s life, understanding how to apply to college online is a crucial part of positioning yourself for success in your career aspirations. Many questions can come up when someone is first applying for college, especially if the future student has only recently graduated from high school. Concerns such as “When should I apply to college?” and “What do you need to apply for college online?” are only a few of the common questions that arise when first considering how to apply for college. While the process of applying to college may seem overwhelming, taking the steps to properly prepare and intelligently plan the application is the key to success.
In this article, we’ll explore every step of applying to college, from the decision to pursue a degree to the moment they begin the process of planning their transition into higher education. With these helpful tips, applying for college online will be a simple, streamlined, and stress-free process.
How to Apply for Online College – A Step by Step Guide
In terms of applying for college, there is no point in jumping the gun without being able to provide the proper documentation and being adequately prepared for what the application process will entail. Our step-by-step guide will provide an efficient route to applying to college and one day earning a degree of the student’s choosing.
1. Decide on your degrees of interest
While this isn’t universally the case, most aspiring college students have a passion, hobby, or desired career choice in mind that leads to the desire to seek and obtain a degree. College is a time spent in dedicated study, and while a major doesn’t usually need to be declared for most four-year degree programs, having an idea of a degree of interest is a good idea before applying for a college to ensure the school offers an appropriate program for those interests. If a student wants to one day become an ASL interpreter, they should ensure that the colleges they apply to will offer a relevant degree program to help further their career interests.
It’s suggested for future college students to consider if they’d like to pursue an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree depending on their chosen vocations, with many online degree programs offering specializations and certifications outside of these degrees. College applicants should strongly consider what they’d like their career to look like, and decide which degree would be most appropriate to help them in these goals.
2. Research schools that offer degrees in those areas
After having a working grasp of what type of degree or degrees the future student is most fascinated in, the next step is researching colleges that offer relevant programs to these interests. Online schools have the benefit of having no geographic constraints, which can be great for those with specific career goals that have found a lack of relevant programs regionally close to them. Luckily, with the help of the internet and the massive shift of college applications being completed electronically, finding schools with degree programs in a student’s specific interests is a fairly simple process.
3. Determine any financial considerations
Whether someone is obtaining their degree traditionally or through an online program, college can be an expensive undertaking without the proper financial preparations. Before diving into the research needed to choose the right college, it’s very important to understand any financial restrictions to be able to guarantee that the student will be able to fully complete the degree program. These financial factors are not only for the college’s tuition costs but also for their application fees and potential relocation costs. College applicants are recommended to create a set budget for their degree of choice to help them properly choose a program that will not break the bank or prevent them from truly benefitting from the experience.
For those that know their budget is lower due that are struggling to find a college within their financial abilities, applying to scholarships and grants through their college or government agencies is a common option. Applying for Scholarships and grants is especially helpful for these applicants, as they do not need to be repaid later on and can provide a helpful avenue toward higher education based on extracurricular activities, personal prerequisites, and positive academic behavior.
4. Take standardized tests
While researching degree programs, there will likely be one common denominator amongst the countless online college applications: standardized test scores. While some degree programs may not require an SAT or ACT score, many colleges and universities will consider this a standard expectation within a college student’s application process. Each college has specific test score requirements for the application to be considered and having a good idea of what each college requires can help future college students properly anticipate and prepare for their exams.
It’s also a never bad idea to begin taking the required tests fairly early on in the college application process, not only to get ahead of the game but to also give applicants time to achieve a higher score later on if they fall short of their college’s requirements. Deadlines will be much easier to meet and students will have a realistic expectation of which colleges they have the most likelihood of sending them an application letter.
5. Make your initial list of schools
At this stage of knowing how to apply to college online, the future student will have a strong idea of their budget, their eligibility, as well as the specific career interests that may help them begin to know which schools are their best choice. Create a list of possible colleges and their respective degree programs, as well as the pros and cons of each college’s programs. Make sure to include a balanced list of schools, from schools that may be close by, online, or even across the country as well as schools with distinct degree programs that spark an inherent interest.
6. Review application process, requirements, and deadlines
After creating a list of desired colleges, the next step is developing a firm understanding of the application requirements for each school’s program. A few considerations should be what test scores are required, what essays are eligible for use, do any applications require unique prequalifications? It’s also crucial to know the application deadlines for each college, as these can vary school-by-school based on their unique academic calendar. The last thing any college applicant wants is to miss the application deadline for a school they love by just a few days or weeks, so it’s important to understand everything required before even beginning the application process.
7. Gather necessary application materials
After knowing what each school requires for their application as well as the specific deadlines for each, it’s time to begin developing a portfolio of documents and application materials to help streamline the process of applying for college online. These documents may include high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, proof of extracurricular activities, and much more based on each school’s required prerequisites.
8. Ask for recommendations
Many colleges and universities will seek additional insight on the lives and academic nature of their applicants, with numerous schools requiring letters of recommendation for their application. While many of the other credentials for a college application are naturally procured during a student’s educational process, letters of recommendation require applicants to seek consultation and recommendation from a professional or academic colleague, educator, or mentor. Naturally, choosing an appropriate person that knows the applicant well and can honestly vouch for their credentials and experience is a valuable element of any college application.
Letters of recommendation are a common and prominent part of many college applications, so it’s highly suggested to prepare for these recommendations earlier rather than later. What kind of an impression does it give the person providing the reference if it needs to be rushed due to a pending deadline? Giving the writer of this letter enough time to draft and prepare their letter of recommendation is crucial in guaranteeing that they have enough time to write something properly representative of the applicant’s nature as well as allowing the applicant to feel assured that their application will have a positive addition.
9. Write your Personal Statement and other essays
After properly preparing a letter of recommendation for the application, it’s time to review what application essays are needed for the colleges of interest. Application essays tend to be unique to each college, with specific programs and degree levels featuring specific prompts to learn more about the potential student. Personal statements are a common college application requirement and are essentially cover letters for aspiring students to help provide insight into their unique qualifications and professional goals for college application analysts.
For high school students learning how to apply to college online, it’s suggested to take advantage of the many peer-review opportunities that are common within many high schools and afterschool programs. This allows college applicants to get unbiased feedback and critique on their application essays to help give the impression they are looking to provide.
Once the aspiring college student has created a list of dream schools, researched their requirements, fulfilled the prerequisites, and properly gathered required documents, it’s time to finally apply to college online. The last step is naturally the easiest, simply fill out the application fully and correctly and provide the required paperwork for review. Make sure that before applying that everything is correct, properly spelled, and 100% accurate to prevent needing to edit or re-submit the application and give a positive first impression that’s needed for their success.
Other Questions About Applying for College Online
Now that we have learned how to apply to college online, it’s time to address some of the most common questions regarding applying for college and what should be anticipated within the process. Timing is important in applying for college successfully, with some of the most common questions from aspiring applicants being:
When is the Best Time to Apply for College?
For high school students wondering “When should I apply for college?” they should consider beginning the application process at the end of their junior year and beginning of their senior year of high school. While each college’s academic calendar will vary, most application deadlines for the fall semester will be due within January. Many high school students will take their standardized tests within their junior year to give them time to achieve their desired score, and by senior year college applicants can properly gather the documents and essays needed to properly complete the applications.
That being said, not everyone pursues a college education immediately following high school, which provides some leniency in terms of the application time frame. Online college programs are especially popular amongst young professionals already within the workforce that are looking to earn their degrees and remain in the field at the same time. This is due to online degree programs having increasingly convenient online application processes, flexible deadlines, and convenient course structures.
When Is It Too Late to Apply for College?
The answer to the question of “When is it too late to apply to college?” is simple: Never. College applications may have a plethora of prerequisites and qualifications, but age and professional standing are not setbacks in any college application. College applicants can feel free to apply as early or as late as they want as long as they have properly achieved the necessary prerequisites for the college of their choosing. Especially with the increase in online degree options available, college applicants can feel free to pursue their degree whenever they’d like at the pace of their choosing.
When Should I Apply for College?
The best time to apply for college is whenever it fits into your professional plan and personal goals! Each college student is different, with diverse backgrounds and reasoning for wishing to pursue a degree and attend a college of their choosing. Regardless of what the college applicant’s background and career aspirations may be, learning how to apply to college online and understanding the preparations needed to create an appealing application is the first step in pursuing professional dreams.
Online degree programs can be a valuable option for those looking to receive a college education that may already be in professional positions that would benefit from obtaining a degree. Whether they’re looking to complete a bachelor’s program or wish to maximize their career options with a master’s degree, the flexibility and convenience of online degree programs is a welcomed and popular choice among those looking to attend college and attend to their non-academic schedules at the same time.