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The Pawprint | ENHS

The Pawprint | ENHS

The Pawprint | ENHS

College Apps: Everything You Need to Know

Gitashri Gopalakrishnan, Assistant Editor

How Do I Even Start?

Not every student is already familiar with the college application process. I’m sure you’ve heard things like CommonApp, FAFSA, Early Action, and a litany of other random acronyms and websites. Ultimately, this article will lay out everything you need to know about applying for college and hopefully help you make better applications. 

The first thing you need to do is create your list of colleges: who is your best, most amazing top choice? And who are you okay with going to if you don’t get into any exclusive schools? Knowing which schools you’re applying to helps tremendously, as it lets you know what materials and supplements you need ahead of time, so don’t skip this step! For example, this was my list:

  • Washington University St. Louis

—Why Major, Personal Statement, 90-Second Video

  • University of Chicago

—Creative Writing Essay, Personal Statement, Why Us

  • University of Oklahoma

—Personal Statement, Why Major

Immediately afterward, create your CommonApp account. CommonApp is a website that combines hundreds of college applications into one standardized submission with two to three extra tasks for certain colleges you may send it to. 

After you create the account, you need to fill out the titular CommonApp, which can take anywhere from one to twenty hours and will require you to see your transcript. Once you finish this, you’re already one step closer to Harvard. . . or UCO!

You can find a link to CommonApp here!


Personal Statement

The personal statement is the CommonApp essay that goes to each college you apply to, and always follows the same topics—this is always under 650 words. This essay must stay personal and sell yourself as the student that you are; it is not a resumé or a place to list off your accomplishments. It is narrative—a story. The more unique, the better. You could write about something silly or serious: the time you lost your favorite pair of socks or the time you experienced a death, but make it show something. 

The crucial pillar is to convey your resilience and your evolution as a person. Your goal is the story expressing who you are and what you hope to become—while still standing out from the sea of other applicants.

It’s important to spend time on this essay as it is the most important and considered section. Get feedback from teachers and friends (but do not ask your parents); make it the best essay you’ve written to date.

My personal statement was about my struggle to combine my artistic qualities with my scientific interests.


College Resume

Next you need to build your college resumé: this is not like a work resumé. This resumé is a compilation of all your accomplishments, activities, leadership roles and interests that you participated in—through highschool only. Unlike career resumés, the college resumé may be multiple pages long while maintaining professionalism. You can, and should, implement your personality into the design. Oftentime you’ll want to list next to each entry which years you participated in/received it (Fr, So, Jr, Sr—or—9, 10, 11, 12). This lets admissions teams know what all you did and what all you plan to do for the rest of your senior year. It gives a greater understanding of your work and aspirations both inside and outside of the classroom. The resumé is essentially the second most important piece to your application.



You may find that some schools have additional required tasks to fulfil, such as another essay or a video. These take time to complete, so do not put them off. These tend to swing admission decisions as they are more personalized to the school itself: a good UChicago essay shows your passion for UChicago specifically. Some of these supplements require you to make an account with the university’s website, so do not wait until the deadline.

Personally, I had to make a 90-second video for my application to Washington University St. Louis, and I made sure it was perfect before submitting it.

Importantly, an optional supplement is not optional. Any and all attempts to demonstrate your character and talents are tantamount to your admission.


Early Action/Decision

Early Action is CommonApp’s method of early admission and allows you to submit applications early (before November 1) to be considered only alongside other Early Action applications. Applying this way is usually the best way to ensure your chances of admission, and doing this often also increases your ability to gain financial aid or housing if admitted. If a college allows you to apply this way, it is always best to do so.

Early Decision should not be confused with the first: Early Decision is a binding application, meaning that if admitted, you must attend. This choice can only be made to one school and cannot be unmade, so be certain before considering applying Early Decision.

More information about early applications can be found on CollegeBoard’s website here!

What if I get deferred? Don’t panic! Being deferred from an Early Action just means that your application was pushed back to be assessed during the normal admission rounds. This may be because the university ran out of early spots or because they were not certain on their decision. Review your school’s website to be certain how this process works for you.



The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a national government program where Seniors in highschool can apply for need-based grants from the federal government for college. It involves a form that must be filled out with your family as soon as possible (opening in December this year). Not everyone who applies will receive aid, but most will receive at least something. It’s always worth applying for, and colleges will not see your FAFSA until after you are admitted. This step is crucial for most applicants, so do not forget to fill it out completely and correctly.


Where Does That Leave Us?

College app’ season is a daunting and sobering experience, and actually applying only makes that feeling more real. With all these different acronyms and essays to keep track of, a lot of students get lost and misunderstand what they need to do to insure a good future. 

For people below senior year, now is the best time to prepare for everything mentioned here. Get involved, start writing that essay and ask for recommendations from your favorite teachers. Everything and anything helps when you want to get into the perfect school for you.

What’s your plan for college? You experience applying so far? Start the discussion in the comment section of this article!

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About the Contributor
Ethan Leehan, Senior Editor
Ethan Leehan is a senior at Edmond North as well as at Francis Tuttle Bioscience and Medicine Academy. He enjoys baking, cooking, science, and writing. Ethan plans to attend university under a Biochemistry and Linguistic Anthropology double major.

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    Gitashri GopalakrishnanSep 29, 2023 at 12:37 pm

    Omg this is so helpful!