If you have made the decision to get your education online, you will need to begin the college application process. Most online college admissions procedures are fairly simple and your applications for school can be electronically submitted. However, missing deadlines and failing to follow instructions can often trip-up potential students, and so it is essential to keep everything organized. You will likely have to submit a number of items along with your application:
- Admission test scores (if required)
- Application form
- High school, undergraduate or other transcripts
- College recommendation letter
- Personal essays
Although it will vary from school to school, many online degree programs admit students at any time of the year in monthly increments. Between registering for and taking standardized tests, as well as assembling and submitting all the necessary forms, the entire college application process may take a few months.
When it comes to choosing college application essay topics and submitting test scores, in many cases, online universities have the same stringent requirements that traditional colleges have. Make sure you know what the deadlines for applications are and start early. Even if you apply to a certificate program or an associate’s degree program at a community college, a process that is typically less complicated, you should still begin the college application process well before the application deadline to allow time for any potential mishaps.
Tips for Completing Your Application
- Do not rush through filling out the application. Take your time and read all of the instructions carefully.
- Sometimes the application form includes a section for applying for financial aid. However, a completely separate application form for financial aid might also be necessary. Be aware of all the forms you need to submit and to whom.
- Proofread your application. Some people find it easier to catch errors by printing out the application and making revisions to a hardcopy, and then going back to edit it on the computer screen.
- Lastly, double-check the instructions to make sure that you have covered everything that is asked for and have not missed any fields.
As proof of your academic background, you will need to submit official transcripts from each high school (for undergraduate programs), college, and university you have attended, even if you have taken just one course from an institution.
Often, the transcript will have to be in a sealed envelope to be considered valid, and some colleges will require multiple transcripts from the same school. In order to request official transcripts during the college application process, contact your high school’s guidance office or the registrars of all the postsecondary institutions you have attended.
Tips for Getting Transcripts
- Allow two to three months for your request to be processed.
- To save time, find out the fee for each transcript. Then enclose a check for that amount with your written request.
- Since many schools send transcripts directly to the admission offices of the programs to which you are applying, request an unofficial copy for yourself. Use this copy for your own reference during the application process.
- When reviewing your transcripts, look for weaknesses that may need explaining, even if they occurred years ago. For example, a low overall GPA may hurt your chances of acceptance unless you have a good reason for it.
Importance of the College Recommendation Letter
Letters of recommendation are important because they give the members of the admission committee a more personal view of who you are. A strong college recommendation letter can increase your chances of admission.
How do you get these letters of recommendation? First, if particular teachers or professors are still at your alma mater, get in touch and let them know what you have done since you were in their classes and what your plans are for school.
Tell the instructors what you remember most about the courses you took with them. Most teachers are accustomed to writing students a college recommendation letter and will typically keep their course records for at least a few years to look up your grades. If you are still near your high school or undergraduate institution, make an appointment to see the teachers or professors in person.
If you have trouble recruiting teachers and professors to recommend you, call the online schools to which you are applying and ask about their policies for applicants in your situation. Many programs designed for adult learners, especially professional programs, allow you to use a college recommendation letter from employers. But remember, if you apply to an academic rather than professional program, letters from employers might not carry as much weight as letters from faculty members.
Tips for Letters of Recommendation
- If possible, at least one of your recommendations should be from a teacher or professor, as he or she can best judge you as a potential student.
- If you cannot make up the full complement of letters from faculty members or if you are applying to professional programs, ask employers or people who know you in a professional capacity to write references for you.
- When requesting a letter of recommendation, it is good practice to include a copy of your resume as a reference point for the writer.
- Many forms for the college recommendation letter contain a waiver. If you sign the waiver, you give up your right to see the letter of recommendation. Before you decide whether or not to sign it, discuss the waiver with each person who is writing you a reference. A confidential letter usually has more validity in the eyes of admission committees, and some recommenders will write you a reference only if you agree to sign the waiver.
Online colleges and universities require just as much care through the college application process as a traditional school commands. Online college degrees offer many of the same educational benefits as traditional degrees do, so it stands to reason that your application needs to be as complete as possible. If you take your time, watch your deadlines, and are sure to include every item the university asks for—including your transcripts, personal essay, and college recommendation letter—than your application process is likely to go more smoothly.