Applying to College

Start Early

Most students do the majority of their application work during fall of senior year. Deadlines for most colleges are between January 1 and February 15 (sooner for early admission).

Know What Matters

Colleges consistently list grades in college prep classes as their most important criteria. Other factors include:

  • Difficulty of classes taken
  • ACT/SAT score
  • Class rank
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Essays and/or interviews
Check Your RAI

If you are applying to Iowa State University, the University of Iowa or the University of Northern Iowa, you’ll need a Regent Admissions Index (RAI) of at least 245. The RAI is a combination of your  ACT or SAT score, GPA and the number of core courses you have completed.

Calculate your RAI

Include Documentation

Make sure you include, attach or upload all requested documentation with your college applications. Documents typically include:

  • Application fee or waiver
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Official ACT and/or SAT scores
  • Official high school transcript
  • Official college transcripts for dual credit courses (if applicable)
  • AP exam scores (if applicable)
Check the Details

Know deadlines and application requirements for each college before you apply. Some colleges might require essays, interviews or letters of recommendation. 

Spend Some Time on Essays

Essays show who you are beyond your GPA and test scores, so take them seriously. Be sure you answer the question being asked. Give yourself time to outline, write and rewrite. Spell-check and proofread. Better yet, ask someone else to look at your applications and essays with fresh eyes. Be truthful. Don’t exaggerate activities, inflate your grades or class rank or plagiarize an essay.

Line Up Useful Recommendation Letters

Ask people who know you well. Give them plenty of time, and offer suggestions about abilities or experience you’d like them to emphasize.

Make Sure You Submit!

Don’t assume an online application was successfully submitted. You should receive a confirmation screen and/or email telling you it was received.

Ways to Avoid Application Fees
  • Apply online and by the deadline. Most of Iowa’s private institutions do not charge an application fee as long as you apply online and by the deadline.
  • Apply to schools with no application fee. All of Iowa’s community colleges are free to apply to! Search for other schools that don’t charge application fees.
  • Submit a fee waiver. You might qualify if you are on free or reduced lunch or if you received a SAT fee waiver.
  • Request a fee deferment. Due to Iowa Code, the Iowa Regent Universities can’t offer fee waivers. However, they can offer a fee deferment when the application fees present a financial hardship for the student/family. This means you pay nothing at the time of application, but if you choose to attend that school the application fee will be added to your university bill. This allows you to use financial aid to pay the fee. Each of the universities has its own fee deferment process.