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Journalism Next | Applying for college remains daunting but manageable

MANATEE -- Supplements, brag sheets and teacher recommendations. Oh my!

It's that time of the year again where seniors are stressed, time is limited and essays are written. This is the dreaded college process.

Though students stress out over the process, applying to colleges can actually be quite simple if done ahead of time.

"I wish I started the college process earlier," said senior Alexa Kess.

How does one get started? The process can be broken down into a few, large steps.

The Common App

The Common App is an online application many colleges accept allowing students to fill out the same application for multiple schools at once.

If most schools on your list use the Common App, it is imperative you complete it early. Getting this app done early means you can get most of your apps done.

Next comes dealing with all those schools who not on the Common App. To apply, go to the school's website and click "Apply Now."

Application status

You will most likely be asked how you want to apply: Early Decision, Early Action or Regular.

Early Decision (binding) means you get first dibs on housing and financial aid. If the school is No. 1 on your list, you will want to go Early Decision because the admissions decision is binding, which means, if accepted, you must go to that school and cancel all other applications.

Early Action (not binding) means if admitted, you'll get second dibs on housing and financial aid.

Regular decision means you find out later and get what's left in housing and financial aid.

"It is kind of like playing the odds. You have to pick the program that is the best fit for you. I decided to apply Early Decision because I think the school would fit me best. You have to really do your research to decide which program is best," said senior Jackie Olson.

Essay supplements

Once you have chosen how to apply, you need to fill out all of the information. This form-filling takes a while, but you have to do it. Once you have all the basic information, get ready for any possible "supplements."

Supplements are short essays (around 500 words) students write to show their personalities. Example of supplement-type questions might be: "Why do you want to attend this college?" or "Tell me about yourself."

Some would argue the hardest part of the application is the personal narrative essay. To write a good college essay, include lots of detail, make the topic personal and interesting, and don't brag about your achievements in a list-y way.

"The hardest part is to try to show yourself in the essay without trying to seem fake or trying too hard," said senior Wendy Tan.

"It is very detailed in that it really shows the student, not just by academics, but the essay shows personality. It is a well-rounded way to know the students," said senior Nam Hoang.

Though the process may seem overwhelming and stressful, knowing what school awaits you once you are done with high school is amazing.

"The process is stressful. It is a roller coaster. It's a lot of work to fit into a short amount of time, but it will be fine by the end, " said senior Libby Grimond.

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