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    A Closer Look at the College Application

    We checked out more than 50 college applications. Here's what we discovered.

    Mark Moring

    I am looking at a stack of college applications almost four inches high.

    I called 60 Christian colleges (most have toll-free numbers) and asked for their applications. Almost a month later, 54 of them have landed on my desk.

    My applications came from all over North America. They came from colleges from A to Z—including one school with both letters in its name: Azusa Pacific.

    I got apps from colleges with directional names (Northwestern, Eastern), emotional names (Hope, Moody), godly names (Trinity, Messiah) and royal names (King, Crown).

    Some of the applications were short; one was a single page with just a few easy questions. Some were long; one was a 24-page booklet with six essay questions.

    Most colleges charge a small fee to apply. Of my 54 applications, the fee ranged from free to $55.

    As I looked through my pile, I learned a lot about what you might want to know when you fill out college applications.

    A college application can be broken down into four categories: 1) no-brainer questions, 2) essay questions, 3) references, and 4) a code of conduct agreement.

    No-Brainer Questions

    All college applications ask a ton of questions about things you hardly have to think about.

    They'll want to know: your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and so forth.

    They'll ask about academic progress and achievements. And they'll want to know about extracurricular activities.

    They'll also ask about any community service, leadership awards, etc.

    They'll want to know what you'd like to study, what you want to major in, what extracurricular activities you plan to participate in, and so forth.

    Other things they might ask about: your parents (including their occupations) and siblings; your country of citizenship (and immigration/visa status); your native language; marital status; military status; housing plans; and your expected college course load (full- or part-time?).

    Many will ask how you heard about their school. They may want to know if any of your relatives attend or attended their school.

    You'll probably be asked about your church denomination, your involvement in church, your pastor's name, and so forth.

    Many will ask you if you've ever been kicked out of or suspended from school, and if so, why. They'll ask if you've ever been convicted of a crime, and if so, why. And they might want to know if you've ever used alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, and if so, why.

    Yep, all no-brainer stuff, requiring very little thought.

    Essay Questions

    Here's the part of the application where you have to use your brain. The bottom line: The essay questions are important. They could make or break a college's decision on whether or not to admit you.

    Colleges want thinking people on their campuses, people who can express themselves—preferably in complete sentences. That's why the essay questions are critical to the application process.

    Now, what can you expect to find? Well, there's at least one essay question on most applications, and often two or three.

    Essentially, the essay questions fall into one of four categories: spiritual questions, academic/achievement questions, goal-oriented questions and open-ended questions:

    Spiritual questions. Christian colleges want to know about your Christian experience, and they want to know how your faith has affected your lifestyle and the way you view the world. Here are a few examples:

    • "What does having a relationship with God mean to you?"

    • "Relate your salvation experience."

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