Surprise, it’s college application season already!

Sponsored: 6 things you should know to make the process easier

(University of Utah, sponsored) Surprise, it’s college application season already!

It may seem surprising since the school year just started, but the 2024-25 college application season is already here! For some that means navigating applications for the first time. And even those who think they’re familiar with the process will want to pay attention since many things have changed in the last few years. To help bring everyone up to speed, we asked University of Utah enrollment experts for six tips to help make the application process easier for students no matter where they apply.

“Many elements of the college application process can seem complicated and daunting,” said Steve Robinson, the U’s senior associate vice president for enrollment management. “However, by taking time to create an action plan and starting to apply early, students can set themselves up for the best chance of success.”

1. Be mindful of deadlines

It may seem obvious, but one of the most important parts of navigating college applications is not missing deadlines. Though the overall college admissions timeline is similar across institutions, each school will have different deadlines for things like scholarship consideration and priority registration.

“It can help to make a master list of all the places you are applying so you know all of their deadlines,” advises Robinson.

Meeting the earlier application deadlines can sometimes increase a student’s chance of acceptance or be required for scholarship consideration. If students plan to live on campus, make sure this list includes deadlines related to housing applications.

2. Watch your email closely

The primary way colleges and universities communicate with applicants and prospective students is through email. Once students begin the college application process, it’s crucial they monitor the email they use to apply. It’s important to note, these emails are often sent only to the student and not to parents. Make sure to not only check the main inbox regularly but to check the spam folder as well. Creating a new email address for the admissions process can also make it easier to ensure nothing gets missed.

“I know this sounds self-evident, but you’d be surprised at the open rate on some of our emails,” Robinson said. “Even with our scholarship offers, the open rate on those emails is not as high as you might think it would be.”

3. Know whether a standardized test is required

In the past few years, it’s become more common for colleges and universities to be “test optional.” This means that students do not need to submit ACT or SAT scores as part of their application.

While most schools in Utah do not require these scores for admission, they are sometimes part of the scholarship award process. At other schools, like the U, students can submit their scores if they would like that information considered as part of the holistic review of their application.

4. Understand the Common Application and the holistic review process

The Common Application is used by more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the globe–including the University of Utah and Westminster University–and streamlines much of the application process for students. When applying for school through the Common Application, students will be able to fill out general information about themselves once, and then answer questions specific to the institutions they are applying for.

As institutions move away from standardized tests, many are adopting a holistic review process that considers more than GPA and test scores. At the U, this process includes looking at the rigor of a student’s classes and their grade trends, in addition to considering their involvement in clubs, their family circumstances, the extracurricular activities they are involved with, etc.

According to John Marfield, the executive director of admissions at the U, applications are not a transactional form, but rather a way for the admissions offices to get to know a student on a deeper level.

“Looking at a GPA or a test score on its own does not tell us how a student will engage with the campus, and we want to assure our applicants that they are more than just a number to us,” Marfield said. “Our staff is looking to see how important life events, dedicated involvement in their school community, or responsibilities at home have impacted their ambitions, interests, college aspirations and academic choices.”

5. Use essay questions to round out your education story

While not all colleges and university applications require essays, students may be given a chance to tell an admissions committee more about themselves beyond the standard questions asked in the application.

Whether this opportunity comes in the form of an optional response or a mandatory essay, students can use this as a chance to share something about themselves that the school wouldn’t know from reviewing the other information they have submitted. At the U, an essay is not required for the general application. However, specific programs such as honors, may require one.

For some students, there may be an extenuating circumstance (such as a personal illness or a death in the family) that they want to include. In other circumstances, students may choose to write about a passion or a pivotal experience that has shaped who they are.

6. For 2024 high school graduates, be aware of changes to FAFSA

The Federal Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA, is not required to apply for college, however, filling it out is often a requirement for scholarship applications. Although it is usually available in October, due to changes made by the Federal Government, the form is expected to be available in December this year. However, this is subject to change.

Because of the delays with this form, it’s possible some scholarship application deadlines and award notices may be affected. Students should watch for information from the schools they are applying to and reach out to their admissions or financial aid offices if they have any questions.

“The Utah System of Higher Education is going to have webinars and FAFSA nights to help people understand how to apply in this new cycle,” said Anthony Jones. “I would say the number one thing would be making sure the student as well as their parents or guardian who may contribute to their financial support have their Federal Student Aid ID established prior to Dec. 1″