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HBCU College Application Guide: What You Need To Know

When you’re ready to apply to college, it is important to understand the process. This may seem incredibly daunting, especially for students who may not have the support from parents or siblings who have gone through it already and can offer advice. Because there are so many steps, such as writing an essay and obtaining letters of recommendation, admissions experts and current college students recommend that students begin the process by creating a to-do list during their junior year of high school. Students typically begin filling out college applications in the summer between their junior and senior years of high school.

You and your family may want to consider financial implications when discussing which application-as well as how many-you intend to submit. Many college admissions experts recommend opting for nonbinding applications, including Early Action and standard submissions, if money is a concern. This also offers families a chance to compare financial aid packages from various schools. Using this approach, you will typically have until May 1st to decide which school to attend and pay an enrollment deposit for regular decision deadlines.

If you're currently struggling with understanding how to apply to college or maybe even several colleges at once, we're ready to help. Here's what prospective HBCU students should know about applying to college.

Important College Application Deadlines to Keep In Mind
While applying to colleges as a high school senior you should be aware of several key deadlines. The first type is called Early Decision, or ED deadlines. Students who apply for ED, typically in November, will hear from colleges sooner than peers who submit applications later. Decisions on ED admissions are frequently made by December. Some colleges also have a second early decision deadline known as ED II, typically in January with decisions released in February. You should also know that most ED acceptances are legally binding, which means that an applicant must enroll if admitted.

Another type of application deadline that occurs in November or December is called Early Action. Students who apply through Early Action, like those who apply through Early Decision, will generally hear back from schools sooner. The main difference is that early action acceptances are not binding agreements.

Students may also apply by a standard admissions deadline for a regular decision. These deadlines will vary, but can be as early as November 30th for some schools, though some extend as late as January 1st. Regular decision students usually hear back from their college by mid-to-late March or early April, just in time for College Decision Day.

Last, rolling admissions are another option to keep in mind. Rolling admissions schools evaluate applications as they come in and make decisions based on an ongoing basis. These schools may have a priority filing date, but there is no hard application deadline. The institutions continue to accept them until all incoming class spots are filled.

Which College Application Platform is Right for You?
First, be certain to check your college before planning on submitting applications from third-party platforms. Some colleges have school-specific or university-wide submission requirements. To understand which application platforms a college accepts, students should visit the college's website to determine what works for that school. Also, the colleges which accept the apps are listed when visiting the Common App, Coalition Application, Common Black College App, and CBCA websites.

The Common Application, which is accepted by over 900 colleges, including some located outside the United States, is a popular option. Students complete the Common Application once and then send it to multiple colleges. In addition to the main applications, Common App schools frequently have a supplemental section. Students may need to budget time for extra writing if the supplement contains additional essay questions.

Other options include The Coalition Application, a newer platform accepted by more than 150 schools, and the Common Black College Application, which more than 60 HBCUs accept. Both are fantastic options for applying to several colleges simultaneously.

What You Need To Know About College Application Essays
Most colleges require students to submit at least one writing sample as part of the application process. This is usually termed the college essay but may also be a personal statement which may have a limit of several hundred words. If you choose to apply using the Common Application, the main essay should be approximately 650 words long.

The prompts used for application essays are broad and open-ended. Many colleges choose to leave the essay prompts open-ended because they are eager to see what you choose to write about and what you feel is important.

One recommendation for students is to tell a story about yourself within the essay. This doesn't mean your story has to be about an impressive accomplishment. In fact, many experts say the most memorable essays focused on more ordinary topics, but they were written in a self-reflective way that offered immense insight into a student's identity and gave a sense of the student's voice or ambitions.

What Are the Key Elements of a College Application?
In addition to an essay portion, want to highlight five of the essential parts of the college application. Please note that additional components such as interviews may also be required. If you are waitlisted or asked for additional information, be sure to respond as soon as you receive these notifications.

Here is what we recommend focusing on as the five key elements of your college applications:
1. Personal Information - students must provide basic information about themselves, their school, and their family in the first section of nearly every college application.
2. High School Transcript - colleges will request an official high school transcript, which records the courses you have taken and your grades. Some may request that you include class rank. Admissions offices typically require a transcript be sent directly from the high school rather than from the student.
3. Standardized Test Scores - most schools require SAT or ACT scores from applicants, but the number of colleges requiring them decreased when many testing centers closed during the Coronavirus pandemic. The testing companies usually send these results.
Test-blind and test-optional are important terms to remember: Test-blind means any scores submitted are ignored whereas test-optional colleges do not require ACT or SAT scores but will consider them if submitted as part of your application.
4. Letters of Recommendation - colleges frequently request two or three letters of recommendation. Seek out recommendations from folks who can comment not only on your academic abilities but also on personal qualities and achievements.
5. Resume - some applications may allow a student to upload a resume. Much of this information is generally asked for in other parts of a college application too. Admissions experts advise applicants to detail ways you participated in your high school and relevant activities outside of class, including structured activities like sports, clubs, or part-time employment.

We hope this article makes it easier to submit your college application quicker and easier than ever! We love to see our next generation of Black leaders and innovators take this important step towards achieving greatness.