5 College Application Tips for Undergraduate Students

by Ashley Eneriz

Colleges and universities depend on candidates’ applications to gauge whether they’d be a successful student and a good fit on campus. But it can sometimes be tricky for an applicant to present their best qualities and accomplishments on paper. We get it!

These five college application tips will help you effectively showcase your individual qualities, academic strengths, and extracurricular activities to admissions officers.

1. Give Yourself Time to Dream

You might already have a top list of schools you want to attend, but have you really spent time thinking about them? Have you made time to visit the school and spend a weekend in that college’s town? Don’t just rely on a university’s website to convince you that it’s the right school for you.

“We like to encourage students who are going through the process to carve out time during their senior year to finding a school that they think they could call home, dedicating themselves to the application and financial aid process,” said Kayla Montgomery, assistant director of undergraduate and international admissions at Azusa Pacific University.

Montgomery explained that the more time a student can commit to this process, the better they can solidify what their non-negotiables are and what they need to do to finalize that opportunity.

2. Give Thought to Who You Really Are

It’s crucial that you provide a clear picture of yourself to application officials. The best way to do that is by going deeper into what makes you unique.

For example, you might share that you are a high school senior who loves to play baseball and wants to major in communication. However, on a deeper level, you are a student who balances baseball along with weekly volunteering. You want to major in communication because a recent mission trip to the Philippines made you passionate about helping underserved families gain access to important news and media. The latter description gives a fuller picture of who you are.

Before you fill out your application, brainstorm a list of the following:

  • Sports and extracurricular activities, including clubs and hobbies
  • Volunteer work and mission trips
  • Work experience
  • Significant life events that shaped you (i.e., a family member’s death, being adopted, etc.)
  • Future goals and dreams
  • Accomplishments
  • Failures and how they changed you

3. Don’t Worry About the Finish Line—Just Start

Try looking at your application process as a long-distance marathon rather than a sprint. It can be overwhelming trying to complete all of your college applications in one weekend. Give yourself time and commit to working on an application in 15-minute increments throughout the week.

It might be helpful to print extra applications to use as rough drafts. This will allow you to get all of your important information down without worrying about making mistakes. Ask a parent or your high school counselor to look each over and make notes. Then, once you’re ready, you can copy your details down neatly on the final application.

4. Write (and Rewrite) Essays

If you think you’re going to nail an acceptance letter-winning college application on your first go, think again. Even the most brilliant writers need the space and perspective to write and rewrite. College essay topics are general, but admission counselors want to see specific answers.

“Admissions counselors want to know about you, so be real, be honest, and be you,” added Montgomery.

Remind yourself that no one is going to see your first draft, so it’s OK if it’s riddled with grammatical errors and unclear thoughts. Just keep writing and get your initial thoughts down! Be sure to start the process early so you have time to change paragraphs around, add more detail, and fix errors later on.

5. Get Application Help

Yes, the college application is important, but you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by the process. Consider scheduling some time to speak with an admissions counselor—like the team of professionals on staff at APU—for more guidance, or read up on more of the school’s college application tips geared toward parents.

Are you interested in working toward your undergraduate degree at Azusa Pacific University? We invite you to visit us to explore the campus community or apply today.