How to Help Students Apply to College

Don’t isolate the college application process to the space outside the classroom. In-class activities can motivate students to create outstanding college applications. Here are a few tips to help you bring the college application process into the classroom.

Help Them Choose a Major and School

College image

Image via Flickr by CollegeDegrees360

Deciding on a career and selecting a school are difficult tasks for every student. Although many students enter college with an “undeclared” major, some use the major to determine which school to attend. If a student has a general idea of his or her interests, he or she can build an appropriate course load upon arrival at college. Here are a few ways you can support them in this journey.

  1. Offer Resources:  Students can narrow down their college and career choices through several college databases offering information on costs, available programs, campus life, and more. Setting aside class time to introduce and walk through these databases is helpful to students, and it enables them to ask you (someone who has attended college) questions.
  2. Go on Tour: Visiting colleges and speaking with admissions professionals can help students gain a greater understanding of what college is about. When students embark on the application process, they may not know which schools to visit. Use college virtual tours to show students what a college looks and feels like. Discuss what they liked or didn’t like about what they saw.
  3. Bring in Reinforcements: Invite professionals from a variety of fields to speak to the class. If you live near a college, invite faculty, staff, or students to talk about the college experience. For students who are interested in an studying education, involving education majors from a nearby college provides your students insight into college life, and it offers the college student front-of-class experience before they do their student teaching.
  4. Make It a Project: Turn the college and career search into a project. Have your students interview a professional in their desired field. Ask them to create their own virtual tour of a school to show their classmates.

Help Them Succeed on Their Entrance Exam

Many colleges use an entrance exam such as the SAT or ACT to qualify students. Your school may offer PLAN or PSAT tests to students, but there are other ways to help prepare students.

  1. Give Bite-Sized Chunks: Reviewing for the entire SAT or ACT can be overwhelming, but it’s much less daunting if you break review down into intervals. Start each class period with the SAT question of the day. Have students answer the question and talk through why they arrived at the answer they did.
  2. Create Study Teams: If your school has a good tutoring system, encourage students to seek tutoring assistance in test-related subjects. Set up study teams in class with a good mixture of students. If one student excels at the verbal portion of the test, but struggles in math, pair them with students who struggle verbally but succeed in math. Creating “study buddies” can also teach students to be accountable to one another, and it can ease some of the tension associated with studying alone.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice: Download practice tests for both the SAT and the ACT, and have students complete them in class. Discuss the responses together to reach a common understanding of the correct solutions.

Help Them Develop a Strong Resume

Colleges are eager to admit students who have a strong high school resume, for resumes demonstrate a student’s passions and indicate his or her ability to balance academic and non-academic pursuits. Students may not readily associate life outside the classroom with college success, so it is important to draw connections between the two.

  1. Determine the Criteria: The college application process is not one-size-fits-all. Make sure that students are familiar with what each college wants, and help them create a checklist to ensure that they prioritize and meet the criteria.
  2. Look to the Past: Past events and classes can help predict the future for students. Encourage them to brainstorm their past activities as well as the classes they have enjoyed. Have them write about how they think these activities and classes will help them in the future. Share responses in class so students can learn from each other’s experiences.
  3. Showcase the Possibilities: Opportunities abound for students, but they may not know where to look for them. Organize a mini job fair of internship locations for students wishing to gain work experience before heading to college. Create a service-learning project for a local charity, such as organizing a food or clothing drive for a local homeless shelter.
  4. Create Living-Learning Opportunities: For a semester-long or year-long project, have students identify something they’re passionate about or wish to learn more about. Ask them to set up an apprenticeship with a mentor in their desired field. Young bakers can apprentice in a local doughnut shop while car enthusiasts can work under an auto mechanic’s tutelage. Culminate the project in a paper, multimedia presentation, and a tangible outcome, such as customized doughnut creations or an entirely rebuilt engine.

Help Talk and Write About It

The application essay is standard for most colleges, and since so much is on the line, students are intimidated by the task of writing it. This is probably the simplest task to transfer to the classroom. In many of our classes, we teach writing, so why not make the writing assignment a practical experience that students can use in the application process?

Download questions from college entrance essays, and use them as prompts for in-class writing assignments. Because the mechanics of the college application essay are similar to that of any other essay, use this opportunity to hone such writing skills as grabbing attention and providing detail.

The college of their choice may interview interested students. Offering students opportunities to present before the class in general will gain them practice in speaking in front of others. Creating a mock interview session will also help prepare students for the pressure of speaking in an interview and of answering such questions.

In Short

Students stress over gaining admittance into college, but we can do plenty to help them. Not only can our actions help better prepare students for the tangible aspects of the admission process; providing them with the tools that they need can also help them become more relaxed and assure them they are in control of the process.


  1. Jasleen Kaur

    December 6, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    Anyone can help me how to apply in colleges for higher studies ?

  2. Joseph McGlone

    December 9, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Thanks for essential post. It’s useful for us. I like your post

  3. Lalit Pant

    January 5, 2016 at 3:15 am

    Yes after completing school education it becomes very tough to choose best college for higher studies. You mentioned really nice thing to crack entrance examination of desired college and this article is very helpful for me to select best college.