Tis’ the season for applying to college. From college rep visits to letters of recommendations, it seems as though there are so many things making seniors drown in their applications. Deadlines begin to creep up on students, making it seem like a race to finish applying as quickly as possible. Thankfully, in this day and age, there are many tools to make applying to schools as easy as creating an account and clicking on what school they want to apply for! The process of applying can seem confusing, scary, and overwhelming. However, here are 5 things that make the process to apply to schools a little bit easier:
The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form that is completed by students in the United States applying to college to help determine how eligible they are for financial aid. The FAFSA is made available to the public on October 1 of every year. The FAFSA is dreaded by students and parents alike due to the strenuous effort it takes to fill it out. When filling it out, you will need to provide your (and your parents’) financial information, and students include any schools they are applying to. After completing the FAFSA, a process which can take anywhere from 2-3 hours to do, students will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). Their SAR shows the student where/if they are eligible for any type of financial aid, and a version of their SAR is sent to the colleges that the student included in the FAFSA. Students must re-apply for federal aid through the FAFSA as long as they are in school (so it doesn’t end once you get into college).
LOSFA stands for Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance. It is a program of the Louisiana Board of Regents. The LOSFA is responsible for administering state scholarships and grants. The LOSFA is more for students who do not need loans, or are not eligible for federal grant aid due to their family’s financial circumstances. There are many different programs that are a part of LOSFA, one of which is TOPS.
What the heck is TOPS (and what’s up with all these acronyms), you may be asking? TOPS is one of the programs administered by the LOSFA; TOPS stands for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students. It is a program that administers state scholarships to Louisiana residents who are attending any Louisiana public colleges or universities, Louisiana community colleges, or any institutions that are a part of the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. There are three levels of being awarded TOPS that each have different requirements for you to be eligible: the TOPS Honors Award (minimum GPA of 3.00, minimum 27 ACT Score), TOPS Performance Award (minimum GPA of 3.00, minimum 23 ACT Score), and the TOPS Opportunity Award (minimum GPA of 2.50, minimum 20 ACT Score).
The good ole’ Common App. Since 1975, students have been going to the Common App to help them in the application process. The Common App allows you to create an account and answer questions about the student’s family, school counselor, and many other aspects of the student’s life. Students can add colleges to their list, and apply to up to 20 schools through this website. The application process to each app on the student’s list happens through Common App, everything is electronic no need for any papers or anything. The Common App makes it easy for students applying to do it all in one place.
Personally, I feel that the term “essay” when talking about your writing used to apply to college is misleading. Before really understanding what that means, and writing one myself, I thought it was an actual essay on a topic that would be boring, when in reality it is about me. Your college essay is all about you, and the things that make you you, standing out from all the other applicants. It is a what you have the most control over in your application, and it is a chance for you to give the university that you are applying to a glimpse of who you are, in your very own words. It is a chance to define yourself by what is not on your transcript. Maybe you are very passionate about dancing, or art, or playing chess is a big part of your life — well then write about it! You have from 250-650 words to tell your story!
To the class of 2020: Good luck in your application process!