Applying to Schools

Applying to Schools

What Are College Entrance Exams, And Why Do I Need Them?

College entrance exams are tests that score you on your comprehension of high school concepts. Most colleges require you earn a certain score on the SAT or ACT, but higher scores can benefit you in other ways like scholarships. Depending on the school, the SAT or ACT might be more important for your admission, so be sure to research which you should prioritize. Talk to your school counselor to see if you qualify for fee waivers allowing you to take exams for free or at a discount.


It’s recommended that you take the SAT in your junior year. That way, if you want to improve your scores you can retake it as a senior. The SAT includes reading, writing and math sections, with optional subject tests available. You can get registered and find practice activities at the College Board.


Like the SAT, the ACT should be taken in your junior year so you have an option to retake it as a senior. The ACT includes English, math, reading and science. There is also a writing option, which adds a 30-minute writing test. Make sure to find out if the colleges you are applying to require a writing test. Sign up for the ACT and find out what’s included on the test at the ACT homepage.


The SAT and ACT are major exams that can have a big impact on where you go to college, so it makes sense to get as much practice as possible before taking them when the stakes are higher. The PSAT and PreACT are tests that get students used to the types of questions that they’ll have to answer in the real exams, and can make sure you’re ready to take the SAT and ACT.

What Do I Need To Apply To College?

The fall semester of senior year is the time when most students complete and submit their college applications. You can find out more about the colleges in Indiana on our interactive map. Specific requirements should be available in the admissions section of each college’s website.

The application process can seem overwhelming, but breaking it down into steps can help make it go smoothly. Remember, it’s important not to wait until the last minute – especially on things you may need others help with, like reference letters and proofreading.

Step 1: Choose at least six colleges to apply to.

A good rule of thumb for your list is to include a couple of schools you’ll almost definitely be accepted by, a couple of schools you have a good chance of being accepted by, and a couple of schools that might be a reach but you’re hoping to be accepted by. This way, you’ll have options when you make your decision.

Step 2: Get organized.

Create a folder for each school you plan to apply to. In the folder, you can store admissions information and applications materials to easily reference and compare.

Step 3: Keep a calendar with application deadlines clearly marked.

Some schools have strict deadlines for their applications, while others will accept applications year-round. Make sure you know the deadlines for each school you’re applying to – including priority and scholarship deadlines – and check to see if there are deadlines you have to apply by in order to qualify for financial aid.

Step 4: Make a checklist.

Your list should include application deadlines and to-dos. You should add one of these checklists to each of the folders you’re keeping. Download a printable checklist here.

Step 5: Find out each school’s specific application requirements.

For some schools, transcript and test scores aren’t enough. You may need to write a personal essay or include some other writing or portfolio sample, and you might need references from teachers or staff at your school.

Step 6: Talk to your school counselor about fee waivers.

Applications cost money, and if you apply to multiple schools the costs can add up quickly. You may be eligible for reduced or waived application fees if you’re concerned about the cost of applying to multiple colleges. Express your concerns to your school counselor, or contact the admissions office of the college you’re interested in. Learn more about different kinds of waivers here, and open the table below to learn about College Application Week fee waivers.

Step 7: Proofread

It’s incredibly important that your application materials are error-free. Thoroughly proof your own work and ask a teacher, parent or other adult to review each application and associated materials before you submit anything.

Bonus: Indiana College Application Week Information

Every September, Indiana holds its annual College Application Week to encourage more students to apply to college. This year’s College Application Week is September 21-25, 2020. Use the table below to find out admissions information for colleges and universities in Indiana, including information about fee waivers for all students during College Application Week (Sept. 21-15 or during College GO! month (all of September). And, click this link to find out about virtual events happening throughout September where you can tune in to learn about college applications and visit with admissions counselors with many colleges and universities.

College Website Phone Map Deadline Common App Essay
Fee? College GO!
Fee Waiver
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Note: Information accurate as of September 14, 2020. Please contact your college for additional details.

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Getting Letters of Recommendation

For many college applications, your chances of getting into college is higher if you also have letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation typically come from adults close to you who have been involved in your schoolwork or extracurriculars, like teachers, school counselors or adult extracurricular organizers. If you’ve been recommended to colleges, admissions departments will feel more confident that you will be a good fit for their school and you’ll have a better chance of getting in. So, what should you keep in mind when asking for recommendation letters?

Ask Adults Who Think Highly of You

These letters are there to list your positive qualities and sell you to colleges, so be sure to ask someone who’s willing to do that. Teachers or extracurricular leaders related to the subject you want to study at college are good sources, as long as you’ve impressed them enough to make them want to write a letter on your behalf.

Ask Well in Advance

The adults that you will want to ask for recommendation letters are likely busy, and it takes time to write a letter that sells you as best as possible. Remember that if they agree they’ll be doing you a favor, so remember to be courteous and give them plenty of time to write.

Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Up

Letters of recommendation are important to you, so after you ask an adult who agrees to write one, don’t be afraid to follow up if enough time has passed. Typically it’s best to give two weeks before asking again, but if you’re in a time crunch be sure to communicate that to whoever is writing the letter.


Part of the application process is learning about the costs of the colleges you’re interested in. But, don’t let a high sticker price scare you away. Many students qualify for financial aid to help reduce the costs of college. You can find estimate the costs of colleges by using the College Scorecard. And, continue reading to learn more about tuition in Indiana and the different kinds of fee waivers you may qualify for.


NOTE: Information from 2019-2020 school year. All totals are based on full-time residential student status (typically about 30 Credit Hours per year). Tuition costs include mandatory student fees/charges. Room and board is based on double occupancy and the largest meal plan available.

Institution Tuition Room & Board Total
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Many Indiana colleges offer application fee waivers to encourage students to apply regardless of financial difficulty or other circumstances. If you can’t find information about fee waivers on a college’s admissions web page, call and ask. Most colleges offer more fee waivers than students realize.

  • 21st Century Scholars
    If you’re a 21st Century Scholar, you may receive automatic fee waivers at some Indiana colleges.
  • Campus Visits
    Some colleges award an automatic fee waiver to students who have participated in a campus visit day. If you’re planning on visiting, ask about fee waivers.
  • Children of Veterans or Veterans
    You may be applying to a college that waives application fees for children of veterans, or may offer you a free application if you are a veteran. It is worth it to to ask.
  • Financial Need
    If you show financial need, most colleges are able to provide financial assistance. If you aren’t sure if you can afford the fee, ask the college if it can be waived.
  • Foster Children
    Foster children, orphans and wards of the state can receive a fee waiver through the NACAC fee waiver, which must be approved by your school counselor. If you are a foster child or orphan, your college may automatically waive your application fee.
  • Free and Reduced Lunch
    If you qualify for free or reduced lunch, you may also automatically qualify for a fee waiver. Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch can also take the SAT and ACT for free. Ask your school counselor for more information.
  • NACAC/ School Counselor Waiver
    The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) offers a fee waiver for students whose families have an income below federal poverty level, who participate in the 21st Century Scholars program, who live in federally subsidized public housing, whose families receive public assistance or who meet other criteria. In order to receive the NACAC fee waiver, you must submit an application through your school counselor. Learn more about requirements here.

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