The Ultimate 2021 Guide to the College Application Process

Zainab Rentia, News Editor

At 2 a.m. it’s pitch black. Every room in the house is quiet, except for one. There, light shines brightly all around the room, and its lone resident is diligently typing away at his computer in a steady click-clack rhythm. He looks up only to ponder for a few moments with a grim and determined expression on his face, and then continues typing. As time goes on, he slowly grows weary and with a sigh, finishes working for the day. This is the scene many seniors face during the season of college applications, however, it doesn’t have to be. The Cavalcade is here to break down this overwhelming process.

Cartoon By Anna Agosto

Key Components of College Applications:


  • Personal Information
  • Academics (GPA, courses, etc.)
  • Recommendations (from teachers and counselors)
  • High School Transcript
  • Essays (Personal Statement and Supplemental Essays)
  • Standardized Test Scores (SAT, ACT, etc.)
  • Activities (Clubs, sports, jobs, volunteering, etc.)
  • Resume (Optional)
  • Students should check their colleges’ websites for additional requirements 


General Timeline:


November (Where you should be now):

During this month, if applying regular decision, students should be finishing their applications and having qualified individuals edit and revise them. If you are applying early decision or early action, which are commonly due November 1 or November 15, you should have already submitted your applications. Lastly, rolling admissions, which not many colleges offer, accept applications until all of their spots are filled. Although they are typically open until spring, students should start working on them well in advance. 

The second part of the admission process is the college interview. This is a short meeting with one of the college’s current students or alumni as another way for applicants to show who they are and their interest in the college. They typically happen in the fall, so students should be preparing for them and conducting interviews during this month.

A necessary element for college applications is a student’s high school transcript. Students must request their transcript from Woodson at least 15 days before they are due, but should try to do it as early as possible. 

FAFSA, which is a form all students must complete to determine their eligibility for federal financial aid, opened on October 1 and, “students should complete it by November so it’s just one less thing to worry about,” according to Mrs. Christine Lieb-Mosley, Woodson’s College and Career Center advisor. 

Additional financial aid can come from scholarships, which students should be applying for throughout the year. 


December – January:

Students applying regular decision should revise and submit their applications which are commonly due on January 1 and January 15. If you are applying to a college with rolling admissions, continue working on applications. Lastly, if you have applied for early action or early decision, keep checking your emails for college acceptance letters, many of which come December 1.

Students should continue to apply for scholarships and other financial aid, and prepare for college interviews.


February – April:

A few colleges have deadlines in early February for regular decision applications, and those that have rolling admissions should be finishing and submitting their applications to ensure there are spots available for them.

Most colleges, however, have earlier deadlines, and during these months, especially March and April, they will email acceptance letters. Students should start researching the colleges they have been accepted to and figure out which college is best for them.

Although many seniors are tempted to put less effort into classes after finishing their college applications, Woodson’s senior and junior counselor Mrs. Ashley Demaree advises students “you should continue working hard because mid-February we usually send your transcripts to colleges so it’s important you keep up your grades.”

As always, students should continue to apply for scholarships and look for other forms of financial aid.


May – June:

At this point, students should know where they are going and should notify which college they choose by May. After doing so, students should start looking at extracurriculars they can participate in, classes they may want to take, and check their email for orientations or other events scheduled at your college you may be interested in. 

Once they have chosen their college, students should send thank-you notes to their counselors and the teachers who wrote their recommendations.  



There are many people available to help students succeed in their college applications, including parents, Woodson’s Writing Center, teachers, and especially counselors.

“We [counselors] are here to help you… we want to make sure you do well,” says Mrs. Demaree.

Mrs. Lieb-Mosley, above all, recommends looking at the seniors’ Padlet linked on the College and Career Center course on Schoology which “has everything you need: templates for checklists, important deadlines, and links to other helpful resources.”

She also recommends the “Opportunities” book which can be found on the Padlet, and the College Essay Guy on Twitter, who gives detailed information on all components of the college application. Lastly, the College and Career Center offers College Application Workshops, the next one scheduled for November 29, and Senior Cafe from 7:30 to 8 a.m., where students can come in for help.


Tips for Applications:

In addition to your showing how you are doing well in school, colleges want to see you challenging yourself. According to Mrs. Lieb-Mosley, colleges don’t want to see all A’s, but instead see students taking harder classes while still balancing themselves. 

“Colleges want to see an upwards trend in your grades so starting with some B’s and then ending with A’s,” says Mrs. Lieb-Mosley.

Also in applications, students should include activities they enjoy outside of school to show more of their personality and “what can’t be seen in your transcript,” says Mrs. Lieb-Mosley. 

Another way students can stand out in their applications is by keeping in touch with college representatives. 

“We want you to be in touch with us… if we offer to talk to you then take us up on that and it’ll give more life to your application when we’re deciding who to accept,” says University of Mississippi’s representative Ms. Wesley. 

In essays, “show who you are as an individual and your uniqueness… talk about yourself and your experiences,” advises Mrs. Demaree, “try and write a story… but keep the focus on you… don’t include common quotes that may sound deep to you.”