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Applying to College: The Application Packet

September 15, 2021
An illustration of a person flying on a pair of binoculars, as if they were a magic carpet.

Once you’ve decided where to apply, it’s time to get the application in order! An application for admission is broken into two general parts: the application itself and the additional information. The application consists of information that most colleges require, and the additional materials vary from college to college.

For information on what’s needed to apply to York College, visit: ycp.edu/admissions/apply

1. Application

The application is where colleges seek personal information, extracurricular activities, and a character statement if the college requires one.

Paper Application vs. Online Applications

If applying on a paper application, make sure that it is the current and correct application. Many colleges will not accept an old application. New applications will typically be available in late summer before the senior year.

To apply online, visit the college websites. You can also visit the Common Application, www.commonapp.org, which allows you to submit one application to many member colleges. Remember: when applying online, make sure to upload or send in any additional materials. Also, work with your school counselor to send your official transcripts to each college you apply to. Your application for admission will not be considered complete without these additional materials.

York College does not assess an application fee, so submitting your application is FREE!

2. Application Fee or Waivers

College application fees are usually non-refundable and can range from $0 - $100, and sometimes more. But don’t panic! Not all colleges charge an application fee, and there are a few ways that application fees can be waived…

a. SAT Fee Waivers – If you qualified for an SAT Fee Waiver, you can send in an application fee waiver with your application. You can get the application fee waiver from your high school counselor.

b. NACAC Fee Waivers – A form is available from the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. The form can be downloaded from their website (www.nacacnet.org) and must be signed by a counselor.

c. Alumni Vouchers – Some colleges offer alumni and college employees the chance to send in a voucher to waive the application fee of an interested student. Contact the college for details.

d. Campus Visits – Some colleges waive the application fee if you have visited the college. Ask the Admissions Office for details.

e. Ask the college for a fee waiver. They may be able to work with you!

3. Transcripts, Test Results, and Character Statement

Official Transcripts

Colleges will only accept transcripts that are “official.” Transcripts should be sent directly from your high school to the college: electronically transferred or in sealed envelopes. Transcripts that have been opened are no longer considered “official” and will not be accepted by colleges for your application. Test scores should be sent directly from the testing agency (ex. College Board or ACT) unless otherwise stated by the college.

Standardized Tests

Some colleges and universities require standardized test scores as part of the application package. However some schools are test optional, meaning a test score is not always required for acceptance. Check with the college’s Admissions Office to determine whether or not a test score is required. If one is, you will need to take one of two tests before you can apply. Be sure to sign up early!

a. SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)www.sat.orgThe SAT involves two sections (Critical Reading and Math) and is scored out of 1600 total points.

b. ACT (American College Testing) – www.act.org The ACT involves four sections (English, Math, Reading, Science) and is scored out of a possible 36 points. Most colleges require you to take the optional writing test for your ACT scores to count, so make sure to sign up for “ACT plus Writing.”

Test Fee Waivers

Standardized tests can be expensive—between $40 to $80 each time you take the test—and it’s not uncommon for students to take these tests more than once. The good news is test fee waivers are available for eligible students for both the SAT and ACT. All test fee waivers are available through your high school counselor. They do not cover late registration fees, so be proactive: ask for the waiver and sign up for the test early!

Test scores can be automatically sent to colleges you are applying to by filling out the School Code (a four-digit code unique to each College/University) in the appropriate box on the test. School codes are entered at the end of each test. If your college of choice is unknown, scores can be sent after testing, but additional fees may apply.

Example: York College SAT Code: 2991,
York College ACT Code: 3762

Studying for the Tests

There are many free ways to study and take practice tests to get familiar with the SAT and ACT. High school guidance offices and local libraries have guidebooks available that offer practice tests free of charge. For free online practice tests, check out khanacademy.org and the College Board website: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/.

Test Optional

Some colleges provide an application pathway that does not require a standardized test score. In this case, submitting a standardized test score, like the SAT or ACT, is optional. Without a test score though, supporting documentation becomes very important. You’ll want to check with the college’s Admissions Office to determine what additional materials may be required in lieu of a test score.

Character Statement

The character statement is the student’s promise that there is no false information on the application. Make sure it is signed and know that colleges with character statements look at lying on your application like teachers look at plagiarism. Honesty is important.

4. High School Counselor Recommendation

This informs colleges of the high school’s grading scale, the student’s class rank, and lets the Admission staff know the applicant is in good standing and intends to graduate on time. Many colleges require materials in addition to the application. Each college has different requirements, so make sure to send exactly what that college requests.

Possible Additional Materials/Supplements Colleges May Request: 

Teacher Recommendations - Many colleges ask for 1-2 teacher recommendations. These recommendations should be from 11th or 12th grade teachers who taught an academic core subject.

Essay/Personal Statement - An Essay is a writing sample on a specified topic. A Personal Statement is usually on any topic chosen by the applicant. For example, applicants will use it to explain a challenge they faced in a subject area and how they overcame it. At some colleges, these are required; at others they are “highly encouraged.”

Interview - Some colleges require an interview with either an Admissions Counselor or alumni as part of the application review process. If required, schedule this interview as soon as possible because interview time slots can fill up quickly. This can be taken care of online or by a simple call to the Admissions Office.

SAT/ACT Scores

Portfolio/Audition - If you are applying for an arts, theatre, or music program, some colleges require a portfolio or an audition submission at the time of application. Contact the college to inquire about setting up an audition time, or for specifics on portfolio submissions.

Tips for Students

Teacher Recommendation 

When asking a teacher to write a recommendation, ask them early in the fall semester of your senior year so they have time to write a thoughtful letter and are not swamped with other requests. You want the teacher to be able to shine the best possible light on your application! You may want to also seek a recommendation from your high school counselor, especially if they know you well.

If English is not your first language, and you took ESL classes in 9th or 10th grade, have one of your teacher recommendations be from your 11th or 12th grade English teacher—this proves to the college that you’ve worked hard at mastering the language and succeeded.

Essay/Personal Statement

When writing an essay on an assigned topic, make sure that you answer the question that is asked! If time allows, ask your English teacher to look over your essay for grammar and punctuation. Be sure to give them enough time in advance, just as you would a teacher recommendation.

When choosing a topic for a Personal Statement, don’t write about information you already listed in the application (such as a list of activities you’re involved in). Colleges already have a handle on your day-to-day activities from the application. Instead, write about something that they wouldn’t know about you by just reading the transcript. Describe the impact you made by performing a service in your community. Why do you want to attend this college or major in a certain field? What is an interesting fact about you or an experience that you’ve had that the Admissions Office would find interesting or unique? Keep in mind that some colleges and the Common Application provide prompts to respond to as opposed to selecting a topic of your choice.

For information on what's required when submitting your application to York, visit ycp.edu/admissions/admissions-guidelines.