Applying to College

So, you’ve chosen a college. The college application process can be strange and confusing, but we’re here to help.  When you’re putting together your application, try to give some thought to the college’s perspective. Colleges thrive on diversity and participation. No college wants to offer their limited places to people who are just going to sit in their room all day and only want to go to college because it’s convenient. You’re aiming to put together a group of people who want to be involved and share their interests and skills because that’s what makes a good college community.

The college application process has three major components; your online application, an interview, and an offer.

The online application

You should aim to do this part in a few sittings as it’s quite long. Make sure you write down your application ID because for some reason it’s not emailed to you. Don’t send this straight to your college of first preference – they don’t need it just yet.
You’ll need a few things to complete your application:

  • A list of the colleges, sorted by preference
  • A passport sized photograph of yourself
  • An academic referee
  • A personal referee
  • A current CV
  • A 500 word “personal synopsis”
  • “Skills and contributions”

Here’s some things you should know about the form:

  • Your academic reference should be someone who understands how you work with others – a teacher you get along with is a good choice
  • A boss, family friend, sports coach etc. would be a good personal reference
  • Your CV is a really good opportunity to show your level of involvement with your school/sport/community/dance crew/church. This isn’t the same as applying for a job so you can put down your blog, performances, projects – whatever you want.
  • Personal synopses should demonstrate why you want to be a part of college and what makes you a good candidate. If you’re not sure what to write, remember this doesn’t have to be something you’ve already done – some amazing prize you won, or how you volunteer to build homes for orphaned puppies, or that you fight crime by night. Discuss your future goals, or an experience you’re waiting to have, or a skill you want to share and develop. You’re probably only 18 – nobody is expecting you to be Leslie Knope.

    Image: toptenz
  • The skills and contributions section is a great way to add extra goodies to your application. Got a weird skill/hobby that doesn’t really belong on your CV? Add knitting/baking/French speaking here. You want to show you’re willing to be involved and ways in which you might do that.
  • Save a copy of everything you submit. It’s likely you’ll be asked about it in…

The Interview

Your college of first preference will interview you after your application is submitted. From this point you’ll be communicating with the college directly, rather than through the intercollegiate body who deal with the online form. The style and format of the interview varies a lot across the crescent. It might be just you and the head of the college. It might be over Skype. It might be you and a small panel. Be prepared to discuss things you wrote in your application, what you like about the college, whether you were there on open day, what you’d like to study – that kind of thing.

For your enjoyment I offer one of my more embarrassing tales: My College Interview.
I didn’t know how long it would take me to get from Southern Cross to College Crescent so I took an earlier train just in case, figuring I could just wander around if I was early. However, by the time I got off the tram it was raining. A lot. I didn’t know anywhere dry to go, so…I arrived for my interview 45 minutes early. Except I went to the wrong office. They showed me to the right office who told me to wait in the Senior Common Room and did I know I was quite early?
I brought a reference letter my school had written after I had submitted my application but was so nervous I forgot to give it to anyone so I just held this piece of paper for no apparent reason the whole time.
I had spent hours the week before thinking of a good question to ask in my interview, and finally came up with what I thought was a brilliant question – it was responsible, it was thoughtful, it showed character. And halfway through my interview…I forgot my question. I panicked and made up some terrible, vapid question that showed I was painfully nervous and possibly stupid.

That night I researched share houses while definitely not crying or drinking.
And you know what? It was fine.

Here’s what you should know about interviews;

  • Be polite. Quite often, the people in your interview will be living with you, and they don’t want to fill their home with jerks.
  • Write down your questions.
  • Be honest. Don’t say you’ll sign up for every sport if you won’t. If asked, say something along the lines of “I’m interested to try new things, but sport isn’t really my strong suit. I’m better qualified to contribute to volunteer work/music/drama/arts and crafts.”
  • Read over your application the day before so any questions about it don’t throw you off.


You’ll receive a phone call in January to confirm whether you have received and accepted an offer from the university, whether or not you’re still interested in your college of first preference, and whether you have been offered a place there.

You got in

Source: Photobucket
Source: Photobucket

Congratulations! Make sure you get the details of what happens next – usually a welcome pack is mailed to you with details for payment, O-week, and a move in date. If you applied for financial assistance, you should ask about it now.

You missed out
Bummer. Every college has a limited number of places and changing needs each year. Sadly, they just can’t take everyone. Don’t be disheartened, there are options for you!

  • The Waiting List: It’s not uncommon for a student to decide against returning to college after offers to new students are made. It might be the case that a place opens up in a few weeks, so ask whether it’s possible to be considered in that circumstance. Note that sometimes the waiting list will already be full, so this might not be an option.
  • Non-residential programs: non-residential programs vary across the crescent and are a great way to be involved with college life. A non-resident student can sometimes move in at a later date if a room opens up. Ask if there are availabilities in the non-residential program and whether there are anticipated vacancies mid-year/next year. This works well for some people, but won’t suit everybody.
  • The Collegiate Pool: applicants who are not offered a place at their first-preference college can be considered for availabilities at other colleges on their list of preferences.

Good luck, future freshers!

– Jacky

One thought on “Applying to College

  1. Great piece Jacky and thanks for being honest about your college interview. Similarly to you I panicked in mine: I was asked about sports in the first few mins and instantly lied and claimed I loved them (I don’t!) then revealed in the following chit chat that I couldn’t show evidence of participating in a single sport … Luckily I had other interests and made it to a waiting list and into my college of choice later.

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