Are you ready to apply to college?


Applying to colleges can be overwhelming if you do not have a good plan in place for managing your time. 

The college application process can seem a daunting task. Most students start applying to colleges during the fall semester of their senior year of high school. This may be the busiest time of your high school career with school, homework, extracurricular activities, and maybe work. Applying to colleges can be overwhelming if you do not have a good plan in place for managing your time. For that reason, time management strategies are critical to the whole college exploration process.  From researching potential colleges to applying for admissions and applying for scholarships.  Also, time management skills developed during this time will be extremely helpful when you get to college and are in full control of your time and daily schedule. Below are some tips on time management. 

  • Make a “To Do” list for every day

  • Start working on assignments that you don’t procrastinate

  • Work on one thing at a time

  • Limit distractions (ex. cell phones or TV) when working on assignments or applications

  • Know your limits...don’t overextend yourself

  • Get plenty of sleep

When you have figured out how to carve out time in your day to work on college applications there are a few important things to know.  First, you need to start researching schools of interest as early as possible.  We recommend that you have 3 to 5 schools on your list of schools to which you will apply.  Three schools as a minimum will make sure that you are doing yourself a service in seeing what possibilities are available to you.  Five schools as a max will help to confirm that you are giving each school enough attention when researching that right school for you.  If you are very organized and have developed great time management skills you may be able to handle researching, visiting, and applying to more than five schools.  

Second, you should have a plan to visit each school you apply to, in-person.  All the research you can do online or in books and catalogs will only get you so far.  And that information is carefully crafted by college representatives and marketing departments to highlight the best aspects of that institution and only let you see what they want you to see.  The best way for you to get unbiased information is to see the campus and talk to students and/or faculty.  You will have the opportunity to do that on an on-campus visit.  

Third, there are two types of schools when it comes to admission policies; open admissions and competitive admissions.  Open admission schools usually only have minimum requirements that must be met to gain admission.  All Montana University System (MUS) schools are open admission.  You need to be on track in completing the college preparatory requirements at your high school:  Four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, two years of laboratory science, and two years of either foreign language, computer science, visual or performing arts, or vocational studies.  Next, you have to achieve one of the following:  ACT Composite score of 22 or SAT of 1120, a 2.5 cumulative GPA, or rank in the top half of your graduating class.  If you do not meet the minimum requirements you may still be offered conditional admission or asked to start at the 4-year institution’s 2-year affiliate. 

Reach Higher Montana and the MUS are launching an application for all MUS schools called Apply Montana. You will be able to apply to all MUS schools with one application by going to  Also, Montana’s College Application Week is from September 28th to October 2nd.  When you apply during that week you will not be charged an application fee.  Some schools will waive the fee altogether and some will defer the cost.  That means they will add the fee to your bill if you decide to attend that school. Application fees in Montana are usually around $30 per school.  Generally, out of state schools charge $30 to $50 per application but some application fees can reach $100 or more.  Many students have questions about the Common Application.  The only schools in Montana that take the Common Application are Carroll College and the University of Providence but many out of state schools use it, especially private colleges.  This application allows the student to use one application to apply to any school that is set up to receive it.  The applicant will have to pay application fees for each school listed on the application.  The fees range between $25 and $90 depending on the school.  

Competitive admissions schools are the type that limit the number of students they admit from year to year.  The reason for this is that they typically receive many more applicants than they have space to admit.  The competitive admission application process typically asks much more of applicants than open admissions schools.  On top of all the requirements of open admissions, competitive schools will likely require application essays, letters of recommendation, and in some cases interviews, both virtual and in-person.  These schools will likely use a holistic approach in determining which students they will admit.  Generally, high GPA and ACT/SAT scores, a well written and engaging essay, and quality letters of recommendation will be viewed most positively by the admissions committee.  This is not to say that everyone with great grades, scores, and essays will get admitted.  There is usually more nuance to the committee’s decisions.   Below are some tips on applying to competitive admissions schools.

  • Review and understand all application instructions and timelines

  • List all of your accomplishments and extracurriculars...what was the most significant experience from each?

  • Ask for letters of recommendation early

  • Form a personal relationship with college admission reps and/or recruiters

  • Practice interviews

  • Be prepared to provide supplemental information if you have a unique living situation

  • Send thank-you notes to admissions representatives

The college admissions process is as intimidating as you make it.  The better prepared you are and more time you can carve out of your schedule for research and gathering application materials, the less stressed you will feel.  

Reach Higher Montana is passionate about helping Montana high school students achieve personal success in education, career, and life. Our advisors can help guide you along your individual path. To find the closest advisor to you, click here. Stay informed, sign up for our newsletter and like our Facebook and Instagram page so you don’t miss out.