Applying Yourself to College


Elyssa Huff, Writer

The time has come. 

Every year, the much-dreaded college application process begins for Homestead’s seniors, and it never becomes any easier. 

The importance of the process has increased over the years, with more high school graduates going to college than ever. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 69.7% of high school graduates were enrolled in college. However, that doesn’t make the process of getting there any less arduous. 

“It’s a really difficult and time-consuming process,” Daniel Bean (12) said. “It’s hard to juggle my hard schedule while making enough time to work on my (application) and apply to colleges.” 

For seniors in today’s era, it is not uncommon to apply to a high amount of colleges. 

“I’m applying to 14 colleges total, at present count,” Bethany Villaruz (12) said. “I’m applying to a lot of different places, from Notre Dame (University) to Kenyon (College).”

When applying to many colleges, most students say that The Common Application, an online application in which a student can fill out their information and then send it to several schools, is useful and efficient. 

“I would say that the Common App is probably the most helpful resource that someone can use,” Ethan Ledbetter (12) said. “It’s helped me to find a lot of colleges and be able to apply to quite a few that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.”

However, applying to so many colleges is not without its drawbacks. The entire application process, for example, is extremely expensive –more so than what most people would usually think about or consider. 

“In my experience, application fees range from $60-90. If you’re submitting an art supplement, which I am, that can be an additional fee that just depends on the college. Test scores, like the SAT or ACT, are also expensive unless you send them immediately after you take the tests,” Villaruz said. 

Despite the application expenses, fee waivers are available to those that apply, which would greatly lower the cost of the application process. 

“Typically students have to be on free-reduced lunch to qualify, but if a student qualifies for the SAT/ACT fee waiver, they’ll also qualify here,” Ledbetter said. “On the Common App, it asks you if you want a fee waiver, and if you say yes, you just have to fill out a form for why you would qualify.”

The price of college itself has increased exponentially over the last few decades; according to Forbes, between 1989 and 2016, the cost of a four-year degree doubled, even after inflation, and the price of college is increasing at eight times the rate of American wages (Maldonado, 2018). Even with these added costs, there are ways to lower the cost of tuition as a whole. 

“Scholarships are everywhere, and they’re super easy to find,” Ledbetter said. “Homestead has them, as does the College Board. I started applying to them sophomore year just so I’d have a head start and be considered a top priority for some of the better scholarships.”

College applications are an extremely rigorous process, and students stress the importance of time management and keeping track of the entire process. 

“I have a lot of homework already, so to throw college applications into the mix is a lot,” Bean said. “I also have a lot of extracurriculars that take up time, so I don’t have a lot of free time to set aside time to work on my application.”

Acquiring teacher recommendations is an essential part of the system, and many students are unfamiliar with its process as a whole. However, people stress the importance of asking for them respectfully, as well as getting them in time for your application. 

“Recommendations are really important, especially if a college specifically requests them,” Bracey said. “Talk to the person involved, and give them at least 2 weeks’ advance notice and a copy of your resume or the purple form found in the counselors’ office.” 

Because of all the time and money put into the process, students should also consider options that do not include a traditional four-year college. 

“Community college is absolutely a great option for students. Students would be really surprised at the number of kids who start out at Purdue Fort Wayne or Ivy Tech. It’s not a bad way to start out your postsecondary career because it gives you an opportunity to make an academic transition first,” Rachel Bracey, high school counselor, said. “There are also a lot of certificates and programs for more specialized trades that aren’t necessarily four or two-year degree options. Along with Apprenticeship programs, there are a lot of other options for students who don’t necessarily want a four-year degree.”

Even if you are not a senior, there are still ways to prepare for applying to college or another program as a younger student. 

“If you know where you want to apply, I would recommend sending your test scores right after you take them,” Bean said. “The College Board offers three free score sends to the colleges of your choice, so that could save you quite a bit of money later on.”

SAT scores cost $11.25 to send per college, and ACT scores are $16 if you select priority sending. If not, ACT scores are $12. Fee waivers are available to those that apply. 

College is a major decision for students, and is one that should not be taken lightly. The most important part of the application is to breathe and complete each step as needed.