Applying to College

The Hoosiers’ Guide For Applying to Colleges & Schools in Indiana

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What do I need to apply for college?

The application process can seem overwhelming, but breaking it down into steps can help make it go smoothly. Remember, it’s important not to wait until the last minute, especially on elements like reference letters and asking others to proofreading your application.

College Entrance Exams

Most colleges require you to earn a certain score on the SAT or ACT, but higher scores can benefit you in other ways, like scholarships. Depending on the school, the SAT or ACT might be more important for your admission, so be sure to research which you should prioritize.

The SAT and the ACT are both entrance exams. It isn’t necessary to take both, but it is always a good idea. Depending on the student, sometimes a better score is received on one exam over the other and the student can use the better score in their college application.

The SAT includes reading, writing and math sections, with optional subject tests available. You can register and find practice activities at the College Board.

The ACT includes English, math, reading and science. There is also a writing option, which adds a 30-minute writing test. Make sure to find out if the colleges you are applying to require a writing test.

Upcoming SAT Test Dates

November 4, 2023

(Regular Registration: Oct. 5; Late Registration: Oct. 24)

December 2, 2023

(Regular Registration: Nov. 2; Late Registration: Nov. 21)

Upcoming ACT Test Dates

December 9, 2023

(Regular Registration: Nov. 3; Late Registration: Nov. 17)

February 10, 2024

(Regular Registration: Jan. 5; Late Registration: Jan. 19)

April 13, 2024

(Regular Registration: March 8; Late Registration: March 22)

June 8, 2024

(Regular Registration: May 3; Late Registration: May 17)

July 13, 2024

(Regular Registration: June 7; Late Registration: June 21)

Application essays or personal statements

Often as part of the application process, students are asked to submit an essay or personal statement with their college application. Depending on the school you are applying to, the essay may have to answer a specific question or you may be able to be a little more creative in the writing you submit. Regardless, it is always important to have someone else proofread your essay before you submit it as oftentimes, application essays play a large role in acceptance and even scholarship opportunities.

Letters of Recommendation

For many college applications, your chances of getting into college is higher if you also have letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation typically come from adults close to you who have been involved in your schoolwork or extracurriculars, like teachers, school counselors or adult extracurricular organizers. If you’ve been recommended to colleges, admissions departments will feel more confident that you will be a good fit for their school and you’ll have a better chance of getting in. So, what should you keep in mind when asking for recommendation letters?

Ask adults who think highly of you.

These letters are there to list your positive qualities and qualifications, so be sure to ask someone who’s willing to do that. Teachers or extracurricular leaders related to the subject you want to study at college are good sources, as long as you’ve impressed them enough to make them want to write a letter on your behalf. A good rule of thumb is to avoid asking your parents or other close relatives to write a letter of recommendation because college admissions may view their letters as biased.

Ask well in advance.

The adults that you will want to ask for recommendation letters are likely busy, and it takes time to write a letter that sells you as best as possible. Remember that if they agree they’ll be doing you a favor, so remember to be courteous and give them plenty of time to write.

Don’t be afraid to follow up.

Letters of recommendation are important to you, so after you ask an adult who agrees to write one, don’t be afraid to follow up if enough time has passed. Typically it’s best to give two weeks notice before asking again, but if you’re in a time crunch be sure to communicate that to whoever is writing the letter.

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How many colleges should I apply to?

You should consider applying to several schools so that you can keep your options open and improve your chances of getting into a program or college that’s right for you.

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Be sure to include a couple of schools you’ll almost definitely be accepted into, a couple of schools you have a good chance of being accepted into and a couple of schools that might be a reach but you’re hoping to be accepted into. This way, you’ll have options when you make your decision.

To keep your college applications organized, create a folder or document with each school you plan to apply to. In the folder/document, you can store admissions information, deadlines and application materials to easily reference and compare. Learn more about choosing the right school for you or use our School Finder Tool to explore the programs offered at Indiana colleges.


Classroom Worksheets

College Go! Bulletin Board Kit