Let the race begin!
The first college application priority deadline for many universities across the nation is Nov. 1.
But if you are thinking of applying for school and have not begun the process, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.
Zuleyka Rios, the assistant director of multicultural recruitment at Marquette University, and Katie Doyle, an undergraduate counselor for students in Milwaukee County at Cardinal Stritch University, work closely with students going through the college search process.
We asked for their advice, and here’s what they said:
1. Make a list of universities you are interested in.
“It is never too late to get started,” Rios said. Identifying five to six universities you are interested in will focus your search right from the start.
From that list, she recommends students identify a few “target” schools. Target schools are institutions students feel confident they will be accepted at.
2. Visit schools.
“There is a home for everyone,” Rios said. “We are fortunate to live where there are many great universities in the city or within a couple of miles of Milwaukee.”
Visiting schools can help you to find out about the admissions process in person, many times with a student tour guide by your side. It also can give insight into what your campus experience may be like.
Start at a school’s website to find information on official tours and major-specific visit days. If you cannot visit, some university websites have virtual tours and other online resources.
3. Start and submit your applications.
Taking the leap and opening an application can be a daunting task in itself.
You may have to request transcripts, letters of recommendation and ACT scores, depending on whether or not a school requires them. There are several schools in Wisconsin that are “test optional” and do not require a student submit a standardized test score. Connecting with your high school counselor can make the process a lot easier.
4. Tackle the college essay.
The college essay can be the toughest part of the process for applicants, Rios said.
“It may be hard to think of a succinct story to tell or something important they want to make sure to share with a college,” she said. “I think everyone has some story to tell – think about who you are, think about your values and goals, think about experiences that you have had that have defined you.”
Here are some tips Rios offers as a guide to focusing your essay:
- What is it that you want a college to know about you before they decide on whether or not you are a good fit for a school?
- What do you think you can convey in your essay that won’t be conveyed in any other part of your application?
- Make sure you spend time crafting your essay and get it done with enough time before the deadline to get feedback from a teacher or counselor.
5. Focus on financial aid.
“The tuition sticker price can scare students away from applying,” Doyle said. “My best advice is to submit your application and see whether or not you get in.”
Scholarship opportunities and financial aid programs can make college an affordable investment, Doyle said.
Doyle said many universities offer additional scholarships to students who are accepted that may require an additional application. Students should look into opportunities at each school they are considering.
One of those opportunities is the MATC Promise program, which helps students attend the Milwaukee Area Technical College for free.
Rios said many Wisconsin universities have partnered with MATC and created guaranteed transfer agreements that allow students who start at MATC to complete their bachelor’s degree at their university.
FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, allows students to apply for federal aid for the school year. Submitting the FAFSA also allows students to be eligible for student aid programs on campuses.
“The sooner the student submits this to schools, the sooner schools can create financial aid packages for each student after they are accepted to the university,” Rios said. The FAFSA application opened Oct. 1. Click here to create your FAFSA account.
6. Ask the professionals.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Doyle said. “It is literally our job to answer your questions!”
Reaching out to an admissions office will help you learn about the application process.
MPS students should also connect with advisers in the College and Career Center in their high school.