Unpacking higher education

Fall is typically a hectic season for high school seniors as they apply to colleges.


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Many college campuses feature grand buildings, and setting is always something to consider when deciding where to apply.

Growing up, multiple aspects of life create many different feelings of excitement, joy, dread, and terror. Applying to colleges is one of the most important duties of high school seniors and includes visiting colleges, writing essays, and asking for recommendation letters. With deadlines approaching, It may be hard to prevent oneself from being overwhelmed. To provide some comfort I’ve created an application guide to help ease any anxiety surrounding college and applications.

Early Decision

Early Decision is one of the important periods in which applicants can apply to colleges. Early decision is submitting an application during a given time, and if that particular college accepts you early on, you must withdraw applications from other colleges and solely commit to that particular one. By accepting an application early, the application is more likely to be noticed by the admissions office and hopefully receive an acceptance letter earlier than other students. While early acceptance is beneficial to some, it can be stressful for those who are undecided about where they want to go. Many colleges have numerous dates of early decision deadlines, including dates ranging from November 1 to the 15.

Early Action 

Unlike Early Decision, Early Action is a proactive but open-ended way to apply to a favorite college. It is nonbinding, stating that you aren’t required to go there if you get accepted. Applying to multiple colleges under early action is allowed and provides a chance to get on the admissions radar. Accurately determining financial aid needs before deciding to do early action is crucial because of the risk of missing out on those opportunities by applying too early. The deadline for Early Action I and II varies by school, and is generally somewhere around November 1st and November 15.

Regular decision

Regular decision is the typical process students can choose to go through when applying. Through standard decisions, students will receive a decision from admissions no later than April 1st. Students who go the standard route generally start applying for colleges in the fall, after early action and early decision. The deadline for a regular decision depends on the school, but most of them follow the January 1 deadline.

How to apply?

For an actual application to a college, many students have found themselves relying on the CommonApp or applying through a college’s website. The CommonApp asks for information about an individual, and then sends the information as part of an automatic application created to relay applications to multiple colleges without having to resend that information multiple times. The other option is to go through the school’s main website to apply directly to the school. Either one works, although some schools require the CommonApp and others don’t. 


For a four-year university, many colleges are asking for several requirements during senior year. A multitude of colleges will request a written essay regarding a vague topic to learn more about what makes each student unique. Cannon Falls’s AP Composition class saves students from enduring the essay-writing process by themselves and touches on information regarding college essays. 

During their junior year, CFHS provides students with the option of taking the ACT. The ACT is an exam students take that is used by colleges to help make an admissions decision. Today, several colleges differ with their ACT requirements and vary on whether they want it included in applications or not. Students also have the option to take an SAT exam, though SAT administration is not provided by the school. Be sure to check your top colleges on their ACT/SAT requirements, as retakes are always available and are never a bad option to consider. 

Along with your application, you’ll need to submit your high school transcript to your colleges. Parchment is a website that Cannon Falls High School uses to send out transcripts. Make an account, and order a transcript to send along to each school. This is required in the majority of cases unless schools are willing to accept unofficial transcripts with self-reported grades. 


One of the main ideas decisions to be made before attending a college is deciding on a major; an area that a student may wish to study and receive their degree in. Several seniors may feel like they have no idea, or don’t have their life planned out to retirement, and that’s okay. When attending college, an option to switch your major is always available, as well as the option to enter college “undeclared” and decide upon a major later on.

Education after high school 

When people hear the word “college,” They typically assume that they must attend a full four years of college and earn a Bachelor’s degree. But, college is not one size fits all, and academic routes can differentiate in many ways. Whether it is a twelve-week program, a two-year technical degree, or 8 years of medical school, the main goal is to create a path to a career that is most suitable for any given student. Although any type of schooling is encouraged in today’s economy, a student has all the power to determine what to do with their life, and what school to attend. 

Applying to college can be a suspenseful, stressful time filled with uncertainty and questions. There are many resources to fall back on when in doubt, and getting rejected from a preferred college is a minor setback, and won’t prohibit a future career. Any schooling after high school can be beneficial to building a solid foundation to prepare for a successful career. Although applying to college is considered, by many, an overwhelming and stressful process, it is an important step in furthering your academic and career goals.