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Application Process

Learn how to balance senior year and college applications, get expert tips for AP® exams, and help talking to admissions officers to prepare for college.

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Get your kids ready for college

Frequently Asked Questions

All US colleges accept both the ACT and the SAT exams. Taking a practice test of both can help you decide which one may be the best one for you. That said, more and more colleges are making standardized testing optional. Talk with your guidance counselor about your college list and come up with a testing strategy together.


SAT® is a trademark registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this site.


ACT® is a trademark registered by ACT, Inc., which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse this site.

Early action and early decision are college application methods in which you get an acceptance decision before standard admissions decisions are sent out in the spring. In general, early decision is binding: You have agreed to attend the college, unless there is a financial reason you’re unable to do so. Early action is not binding: You know your acceptance status but do not have to commit until spring.

Deciding how many colleges to apply to is a personal decision. A rule of thumb is anywhere between 5 and 8, but your guidance counselor can help you come up with a target number that’s right for you. In general, it can be a good idea to include at least one safety school (a school you’re likely to get into) and a “reach” school (a competitive school that has a low acceptance rate, or a school whose admissions requirements may be at or above your high school résumé). Remember, there are a lot of materials to submit when applying to college, so having too many on your list may feel overwhelming.

college essay is a chance for the admissions officer to see a side of you that they may not see on your transcripts and résumé. It can be about anything important to you, and the moment you write about doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. Even writing about a summer job can be a great topic. Above all, the essay should be well-written, insightful, and express your true personality.

Rolling admission means colleges review applications as they are submitted. That means that you may receive your decision from them before you hear from other colleges. Rolling admissions applications still typically have a deadline for the last day materials are due.

Communicating with an admissions officer can be beneficial. Not only can they answer any questions you might have about their school, but communicating with them can express your interest in the college, which can reflect positively in your admissions folder. Come up with questions you are curious about before a tour or a college fair. Asking about programs, study abroad opportunities, and campus life are all great places to start.

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