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    All About Applications

    What you need to know before you fill out college applications.

    Mark Moring

    I called 60 Christian colleges (most have toll-free numbers) and asked for their applications. Almost a month later, 54 of 'em 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.

    Essentially, a college application can be divided 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: your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, Social Security number, and so forth. They'll ask about your academic progress and achievements. And they'll want to know about your extracurricular activities.

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

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

    They may ask about your race and ethnic background, but you don't have to answer; they want this information for statistical purposes only. They can't use it to decide whether or not to admit you. That's against the law. They might ask you some questions about your physical and emotional health, and whether you have any special needs. Again, this information should have no bearing on whether or not they admit you.

    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 (will you live on- or off-campus?); 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. They'll want to know if you're looking at any other colleges, and where they rank on your list of favorites.

    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. You can answer most of these questions while watching your favorite TV show. But you don't want to be watching TV when you answer the . . .

    Essay Questions

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

    Even if you have a 3.9 GPA, a 1450 SAT score and a .486 batting average, it won't matter much if you can't put your thoughts on paper, logically and intelligently.

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

    OK, enough preaching about the importance of the essay questions. 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 I read fell into one of four categories: spiritual questions, academic/achievement questions, goal-oriented questions and open-ended questions:

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