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University of Minnesota Extension

Applying for college?

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Is your son or daughter planning to apply for college? If so, you should learn all you can about the application process so you can support your child in the effort.

Both 2-year and 4-year colleges require filling out an application form. This form is different than the one used to apply for federal and/or state student financial aid.

Summer is the best time to start preparing to apply for college. Students usually start the process in September through November of their senior year. Most students apply to five to eight different colleges.

Students may use the Common application that some colleges and universities share online. When given the option, we recommend applying online because it is often easier and faster than submitting a paper application.

Several documents may need to be sent along with the college application form. Make sure your child takes time to check the specific requirements for each college he or she applies to. For instance, every college has its own application deadline. Along with a completed form, most colleges require the following:

  • Payment of the application fee. This fee may be waived for low income students.
  • The test results from Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT). Note: Two-year colleges could ask for these test results if students study certain careers or if they plan to transfer to a 4-year college.
  • High school transcripts.
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from a high school counselor and teachers, as well as adults other than relatives.
  • An essay that emphasizes the student’s unique skills or personality.
  • A portfolio that includes samples of projects, videos, letters about volunteer work, awards, etc.

It is important for students to meet with their high school counselor for help looking for suitable colleges, understanding application requirements and sending school transcripts. It’s also a good idea for parents to join students in that meeting  with their counselor and stay in touch as the application process continues.

Related resources

Prepare for CollegeFederal Student Aid — Get ready for college or career school — it can be easier than you think. English | español

Choosing a CollegeMinnesota Office of Higher Education — Use this guide to explore your Minnesota college options.

College ScorecardU.S. Department of Education — Test out this interactive online tool for comparing schools by program, degree, location size, and more.

FinAid! — Information on loan types, assistance in completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, military aid, and other types of financial aid. Also includes calculators that help estimate college costs, loan payments, expected family contribution, and more.

Reviewed by Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2023

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