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The Application Process

  • Rolling admissions means that a college or university will review applications as they are received until all slots are filled. But don’t wait! Rolling admissions are first-come first-served, so applying early increases your chances of being accepted and of receiving the best financial aid packages and merit-based scholarships.
  • Some rolling admissions schools may have a priority deadline. Students who apply by a priority deadline are given higher consideration for admissions and financial aid, but students may still apply after this date.
  • Early action is similar to a priority deadline. It is a nonbinding option that allows students to apply before a college or university’s regular decision deadline in order to find out early if they have been admitted. If you apply early action, you may still apply to other schools and do not need to make a decision about which school you are committing to until the May 1st enrollment deadline.
  • Early decision, on the other hand, is binding. If you are accepted, you sign a contract committing to enroll in that college. While you can only apply early decision to one school (and are committed to attending that school if admitted), you may still apply to other schools (as a backup plan) while you await a response.
  • A final deadline (which even rolling admissions schools may have) means there is a hard cut-off date for submitting your application. Applications received after this date will either not be considered or be considered only for any slots remaining after applications received by the deadline have been processed.
  • While some colleges and universities accept applications into the summer months, know that in order to be eligible for PA State Grant funding, you must submit the FAFSA and PA State Grant (PHEAA) Form by May 1st if you plan to enroll in a 4-year college or university and by August 1st if you plan to enroll in a 2-year community college or technical school. The PA State Grant provides free money you don’t need to repay– learn more here

Helpful Resources

Starting to apply to colleges can feel overwhelming, but making a plan and getting organized will go a long way to helping you ease your mind and achieve your goals.

These resources can help you: Stand Out College Prep’s How to Organize College Applications and our very own college application deadline tool, which compiles deadlines from colleges and universities most popular with PhillyGoes2College users so you can find all the key dates you need in one place.


Most colleges and universities have joined the online application website: Common Application.

The Common App allows students to submit the same application and essay to several schools at once. Be sure to check which universities on your list use the Common App and reference Common App’s guide for first-year students to get started. For students looking at HBCUs, The Common Black College Application allows you to apply to multiple HBCUs at once.

All schools will require an official transcript. Be sure to contact your counselor about sending transcripts to all of the universities on your list.

Application Fee

Most college applications have an application fee. If you cannot afford the application fees, see your high school counselor to receive a fee waiver. Waivers are awarded on the basis of family financial hardship. Some colleges will waive your application fee if you contact the admissions office and explain that you cannot afford it. For more information on college application fee waivers, see these college application fee waiver FAQS.

Offer a Glimpse

Glimpse is a service that allows you to literally insert your voice into the application process through a 90-second video statement that can be submitted to as many colleges as you like. While not a necessary part of the application process, providing a Glimpse is an opportunity to help college admissions counselors get to know you better outside of what is contained in your traditional application materials. Glimpse is free to many users. Head to their FAQ page to learn more, including how to receive a fee waiver.

Once you find the schools that are a good fit you can begin the application process. Most colleges have an online application, but some require paper applications for specific programs.


Placement Tests

Many colleges require students to test their skills in order to determine what college course level best fits where you are academically. Accuplacer is a commonly used assessment. If you are required to take the Accuplacer test, prepare in advance using College Board’s free practice questions and study app. Community College of Philadelphia also offers free online math prep.

Scoring higher on the Accuplacer means that you can skip remedial classes (courses offered to students to increase their skills in math or reading before moving on to regular college courses). While remedial courses can be helpful if you need to refresh and build your academic skills, they do not count towards the credit hours required to earn your degree. It will save you time and money to skip remedial courses, so prepare as best as you can for the Accuplacer. Don’t be frustrated, however, if you do place into remedial courses. These courses are available for a reason: to make sure you are ready to succeed in college level classes!


Many colleges accept College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits. CLEP exams, administered by the College Board, allow you to prove your mastery of college-level material, acquired through individual study or general instruction. With earned credits, you might be able to place out of certain introductory college courses. Learn more about CLEP.


Be sure to provide an up-to-date resume. Depending on your age, schools might not be interested in the activities you were involved in during high school. A good rule of thumb is to list experience as far back as 10 to 15 years.

Transfer Credits

If you are a returning student, you will need to transfer your credits from your previous institution. Begin early and contact your previous institutions as soon as possible. Follow the directions for transfer students on the school’s website. Graduate Philadelphia can assist you in the credit transfer process. 

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