Blog Academics, College Preparation, Financial Aid

College Admissions 101

By Jackie Lea Sommers ’03, Office of Admissions on Friday, September 8, 2023


September in college admissions is the start of a new enrollment cycle! While the year-long process can feel complicated or intimidating, here are the basics you need to know:

Campus Visits

Customize your visit around your specific needs and interests. A typical campus visit at Northwestern will include a campus tour and a meeting with an Admission Counselor— but that’s only the beginning! High school seniors can request other activities like meeting with a coach or professor, attending a class or music rehearsal, enjoying lunch in the cafeteria, visiting chapel, and even specialized tours for areas like communications, nursing, engineering, art, or theatre. Let us craft your perfect visit at


Did you know most students apply to multiple schools? That’s perfectly fine! Get your application materials in early fall of your senior year; some colleges will even let you apply for free if you do so early enough! Here at Northwestern, we require only our application and your most up-to-date high school or college transcripts. In terms of your activities, we’d rather see your passionate commitment to a few than limited involvement in many— and, of course, we always ask how Jesus has been at work in your life recently. Get a parent or a smart friend to proofread your essay before you submit!

Financial Aid

There are multiple angles to financial aid, but they nearly all begin with completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Although we don’t require families to submit a FAFSA, it is how you qualify for grants (free money) and student loans. The FAFSA is usually available beginning October 1 of a student’s senior year, but this year, it will not be open until December— and for good reason! The FAFSA is undergoing big changes— most notably, it is going from 108 questions to fewer than 40. Mark out space during your Christmas break to complete this. In addition, utilize your Admission Counselor’s knowledge to ask about UNW-specific scholarships as well as private scholarships. After you’ve gotten an award, we encourage you to have your Admission Counselor go over it with you and your parents/guardians line by line!

Final Decision

You’ve visited your top schools, applied and been admitted to them, and now you have award letters from each so that you can compare the bottom line costs. In addition, consider the pros and cons of the campus cultures and locations, the academic programs and career opportunities, and where you believe you will best grow personally, academically, and spiritually. Colleges across the country are ideally hoping for a decision from you by May 1 of your senior year. Once you make your final choice, your Admission Counselor will guide you through the steps of paying a deposit, applying for housing, and registering for classes with an advisor. The best is yet to come!

We welcome your questions. Find your UNW admission counselor online and connect today!