College Admissions Field Guide

Field Guide: Your Guide to Navigating the World of College Admission

College Admissions Field Guide

Editor's Note: Updated August 2018 to include the most recent information.

text - College Applicant, illustration - young woman in hiking gear


Each year, thousands of students navigate the perilous wilderness that is the college admission process in their quest to find their perfect match.

So, researchers at Georgia Tech have created this field guide to help you out.

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text - Admission Director, illustration - woman in business suit holding tablet

Native to wood-paneled offices and often sporting reading glasses, the Admission Director is a unique and versatile creature. Interactions are generally pleasant and informative.

However, approaching the Admission Director in an unnatural environment, such as a pool, restaurant, or movie theater, to talk about your essay or waitlist status is generally not advised.

  • DO NOT approach in public or when with its young.
  • When in an appropriate environment, such as during a high school visit, you should approach with confidence, introduce yourself, and say why you are excited to attend A. Director’s university.

text - Admission Counselor, illustration - smiling young woman in busniess suit

This fun and energetic creature will be reading your admission essay, looking over your transcript, and making an admission decision.

However, repeated deliveries of chocolates, offers of foot massages, or daily phone calls in the hopes of influencing their decision will turn this mild-mannered, fun-loving creature into someone you don’t want to meet.

  • Make yourself known by giving them your “30-second elevator pitch” or asking meaningful and well-researched questions.
  • Communicate necessary and helpful information, such as course schedule changes and any major life events.

text - Uncle Joe, illustration - man wearing letter sweater

A curious creature seen only during Thanksgiving and Christmas, Uncle Joe is that loud uncle who can’t help but give admission advice and boast about why his alma mater is far and away the best choice.

If approached by Uncle Joe, limit your interaction with him.

  • If you find yourself cornered, he is easily distracted with yams or eggnog, allowing for a quick escape.
  • Reject any exchange that distracts you from the goal of finding the school that is the best fit for YOU!
text - Boastful Friend, illustration - young man pointing to himself

Both sneaky and ubiquitous during the college admission season, the Boastful Friend can’t help but talk about the numerous acceptances and scholarship offers received.

This individual should be avoided at all costs, as the stories generally do not hold up to scrutiny, and interactions will ruin your day.

  • If accidental engagement occurs, diffuse the situation by changing the topic.
  • With over 4,000 colleges/universities in the United States (not to mention those abroad), there is a place for everyone. Find the fit that is right for YOU!


5 Reasons to apply for early action

1. You’ll find out faster. If you apply by October 15, you’ll get your decision by early January.

2. The criteria are the same. The Early Action application is exactly like the Regular Decision, and we will make our admission decision based on the same factors.

3. You’ll be considered for competitive programs. Students who apply early are eligible for consideration for certain programs such as the Stamps President’s Scholarship Program and the Honors Program.

4. If deferred, we’ll read your application again.And you can update us on your fall grades and activities.

5. There's nothing to lose.Early Action is not binding, and you will have until May 1 to decide whether or not you want to attend Georgia Tech.

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Be prepared! Check out the advice below, shared by Georgia Tech's admission counselors. And for even more insightful information, check out our Admission Blog, penned by our Director of Undergraduate Admission.

text - How to Write an Awesome College Essay

1. Start early! Don’t wait until the day before the application deadline to write your essay. Take time to choose a topic and formulate the content of your essay.

2. Be authentic. Write about a topic that’s personal to you and specific to your life story. Think about your passions in life and what excites you. When you can feel yourself “get into” what you’re writing, you’ll know you’ve found your topic. Still stressed out over what to write about? Read this blog by our Director of Undergraduate Admission: College Admission Essays: I’ve Heard That One Before…

3. Stay on topic. When you review your essay, be on the lookout for tangents. The points you make and details you include should relate to your main topic.

4. Show rather than tell. For example, instead of simply saying "I am active in my community," describe things you have done to serve your community. 

5. Proofread, then proofread again. Grammar and syntax are important. Write your essay in a document editor (such as Microsoft Word) so that you can easily make edits and changes to your copy. Also, read it aloud. That’s a good way to pick up on typos and awkward phrasing.

6. Don’t write what you think admission counselors want to hear. Essays focused on college rankings or fact and figures come across as rehearsed. We know who we are; this is your opportunity to show us who you are!

7. Be careful with humor. Not everyone shares the same sense of humor, and your essay riddled with satire may not come across as you intended.

8. Respect your audience. If you tackle a hot button issue such as politics or religion, be sure to defend your position, but also keep the door open for other perspectives. We are looking for diverse, not divisive, points of view.

text - How to Email a College Admissions Counselor

1. Do your research! Check out the college’s admission website before hitting “send.” Most colleges have a wealth of information available on their admission sites. Examples include admission requirements, application deadlines, scheduling campus visits, and what majors are offered at the school.

2. Beware of your email address! Admission officers notice email addresses that are less than professional. If your current address is more cutesy than professional, you may want to consider creating a new account specifically for the college search process.

3. Target your audience. Be sure you’re sending your message to the correct department, and also to the correct school.

4. Include your name and where you’re from. There are times your message might be redirected to your specific admission counselor, and counselors are often divided by geographic location or by last name.

5. Don’t send personal information via email. If you're asked to submit information such as your Social Security number or a copy of your passport, call the admission office and ask for a specific address for a staff member, rather than sending to a general email account.

6. Remember spell check and grammar check. They are great tools that do make a difference.

7. Be polite and appreciative. A respectful, courteous attitude will get you much further with staff members and student assistants than being arrogant, pushy, or demanding. Be respectful, and it will motivate the person on the other end of the message to go the extra mile for you!

Top 7 College Application Tips

1. Do your homework. Check out our first-year student profile and refer to the Georgia Tech Admission Blog for insights and tips about the undergraduate admission process.

2. Choose one application. Georgia Tech accepts both the Coalition Application and Common Application for first-year admission. We do not have a preference, and there is no advantage in the admission process to using one application over the other. You should select one application that you are most comfortable submitting. Do not submit both. Bonus tip: If you decide to submit the Coalition Application, you are not required to complete the "grades 9-11 coursework" section of the application.

3. Pick a deadline. Georgia Tech will begin accepting the Common App and Coalition Application on Aug 15. Our first application deadline (Early Action) isn’t until October 15, and our Regular Decision deadline is January 1, but starting now will help ensure you get your application in on time. Bonus tip: To be considered for Georgia Tech’s Stamps President’s Scholarship, Scheller Dean’s Scholarship, and the Honors Program, you should apply by our Early Action deadline of October 15.

4. Submit an official high school transcript. Ask your school counselor to send your transcript AFTER you have submitted your application. We prefer that you submit your transcript electronically. Visit our Documents Submission page to find more details on how to do this.

5. Send us all of your test scores. We "super score" within the same test (SAT and ACT) using all test date(s) to give you the best score possible. You may self-report standardized test scores on your application as a temporary place holder for official scores, allowing us to get a head start on review of your file.

6. Let us get to know you. In the "Contribution to Community" portion of the application, we are most interested in learning what you are passionate about, and we value the different interests our students bring to Georgia Tech.

7. Don't rush. Give yourself plenty of time to write and polish your essay. And build in time to get a parent, teacher, or friend to look at it with a fresh eye. Review this year’s essay prompts.

College Admissions Tips for Parents

1. Read the Georgia Tech Admission Blog. It offers you and your student a wealth of information, insights, and tips about the undergraduate admission process.

2. Pay close attention to all application deadlines.

3. Make sure your student submits all required documents:

4. Your student can also submit optional items for consideration. We will also look at one teacher recommendation, SAT subject tests, and AP/IB scores.

5. Fill out financial aid forms, which are required for scholarships, grants, and loans. The priority financial aid deadline at Georgia Tech is January 31 for all applicants.

6. Offer decision support. If your student is accepted at several schools, making a final decision as to which one to attend can often be stressful, so your role in the process is critical. Here are some ways to help your student make this decision:

  • Start with an old-fashioned pros/cons list.
  • Be realistic about college costs and what your family can afford.
  • Explore all options for financing your child’s education.
  • Take one last visit – you and your child will likely see the college through a completely new lens.

7. Secure your student’s spot. May 1 is the National Deposit Deadline by which all schools, including Georgia Tech, expect to know whether an accepted student will attend. Be sure to pay your admission and housing deposits by this date.


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We have no doubt you will traverse the wilderness of college admission with ease and self-confidence, and we invite you to give Georgia Tech a serious look as you explore.

Ready to get started? Apply now!