Applied Psychology

Everything you need to know before you apply for college

Dec 10, 2018

Applying for college can be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these ten steps and you’ll do just fine.

Key takeaways

  • Applying for college can be a daunting experience for many.
  • Your college application begins long before you complete the necessary forms, what you do in school will lay the foundation for a successful application.
  • Do as much research as you can and, even if you already have a favourite college, always apply to more than one college.
  • Colleges provide clear instructions on how to apply. Follow these steps and you will be fine.

The thought of applying for college can be both exciting and terrifying. School is ending and you’re stepping out into the real world. This new life is just around the corner, with only one thing standing in your way: your college application.

Many students feel extremely anxious when completing their applications. All those extra activities you avoided at school suddenly seem to count. There is a lot to keep in mind, from deadlines, online applications and even what pen to use. Fear not, here are 12 tips to make the process a little easier.

1. It’s cool to do well in school

Your acceptance into college is based on a few criteria, one of which being your results. It is important to keep this in mind when preparing for school exams. Your application for college begins before you even sit down to complete the forms.

2. Don’t over think it

The thought of a college application can send even the calmest student into a panic. Suddenly, everything is on the line. It can seem that your very future depends on how you complete this one form. Calm down and breathe. While your application is incredibly important, it is not something to have sleepless nights over. The process is not complicated and, once you start, you will see the steps are easy to follow.

3. Research, research, research

Different colleges excel in different fields, for example Rhodes University is known for its excellent Journalism Department. When deciding on a college consider their strengths and, if possible, visit the various campuses. Do as much research as you can before making your final choice.

4. Closing dates

This is important. You can’t just send off your application whenever you feel like it. Each college has strict closing dates and it is important that your application gets there beforehand. Be sure to check closing dates as soon as possible and factor in the time it will take to complete the form, finding all the necessary documentation and getting everything to the college. Don’t procrastinate on this one, a rushed application or a missed deadline can really impact your study plans.

5. Ask questions

If you’re stuck, ask. If you are unclear about something don’t hesitate to call the university to clarify exactly what they need instead of just giving it a guess. There is truth in the old cliché, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Chances are you have never applied to a university or college before, you’re not expected to know everything. Check the college website there you should find the contact details of the admissions office, it is their job to make sure you have all the information you need before you apply. Don’t waste your shot at your dream college because you were too afraid to ask.

6. Getting it there

Be sure to check how the college would like your application to reach them. Some colleges have online applications while others prefer courier or post. Don’t forget to factor in the extra time needed to get it there.

7. Your results

The college of your choice will most likely require a certified copy of your Grade 11 and Grade 12 June results. Only ever send certified copies and never the originals. Writing exams is hard enough, writing and knowing that these results will impact your future can be very stressful. Start preparing for your exams well in advance, the extra effort will pay off in the long-term. Organise extra lessons if need be, now is the time for the hard graft. Remember, thousands of students apply for college every year, do your best to stand out from the crowd.

8.Take your time

Don’t rush your application. Work through it methodically and take your time. A sloppy application is not a good reflection of the type of student you will be. When completing your forms use a black ballpoint pen only. That purple highlighter you love so much will not make you look more creative!

9. Getting it signed

It is very likely that both yourself and your parents or legal guardians will need to sign the application. Make sure that all the information you have included is correct and true. Don’t forget to get it signed, your application will not be valid if you do.


The college will require both your application and various supporting documents such as a certified copy of your ID etc. Make a list of all these documents before you begin so that you can double check that you have everything before you send. Remember, only ever send certified copies, never the original documents.

11. Cast your net wide

Even if you’ve identified your favourite college and your heart is set on going there, always apply for more than one. You don’t want to be caught short in case you don’t get in.

12. Pay the fee

Don’t forget to pay the application fee. The college will stipulate how to pay this and follow their instructions. Be sure to pay the correct amount and keep your proof of payment. Never send money in the post.

What seems like a daunting task, really doesn’t have to be. Colleges provide clear instructions on what they require, follow these steps and you will be fine. And, remember, if you aren’t sure about something there is no harm in asking.

Interested in learning more about psychology? SACAP offers a range of courses, including part-time and full-time as well as distance learning options. For more information, enquire now.

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