Preparing for College

male student on computer

Preparing for College

The college application process kicks off your senior year of high school, but you can take early steps to make it a little less stressful. Browse our tips below to make sure you’re on track to complete your college application by the time you are a high school senior. 

Senior year is where all your planning and preparation throughout high school pays off. The deadlines for college applications come quicker than you think. So, preparing ahead of time can be the difference between an extremely stressful winter and a less stressful one. (Let’s be honest, it is going to be a little stressful no matter how well you prepare—but you don’t want to overwhelm yourself.)


Here are our suggestions for the fall and winter of your senior year:


Before senior year begins: It’s important that you look at the classes you need to take to get into the college or program that you want. At UD, this varies depending on your major. For instance, if you plan on applying to our engineering or business programs, you’ll need to take pre-calculus, at a minimum, before graduation. To find out exactly which classes you should have taken by the end of your senior year, visit our academic requirements page.


Early fall, senior year: If you haven’t already visited campus, this is a great time to do it. Taking a tour and seeing campus is the best way to decide if UD is the right place for you. Simply find a tour date on our website that works for you. Can’t make it to campus? Use our virtual visit website to explore UD from your couch.


Early fall, senior year: Continue to investigate majors that interest you. On your UD application, you’ll put down your first and second choice majors.


Early fall or early winter, senior year: Depending on how you are applying, timelines will differ. If you’re applying Early Action, the application deadline is November 1, so early on in your senior year, you want to put your final touches on your college essay (see the college essay section for suggestions) and begin the application. If you apply Early Action, you’ll hear from us sooner (by the end of January at the latest), meaning that you’ll have more time to make your final decision about where to attend college. If you plan to apply by our priority deadline, January 15, you’ll have more time to apply, but less time to make your final decision after an admission letter arrives. The choice is yours. More information on application deadlines below.


Winter, senior year: Sometime around winter break, it’s a good idea to start filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Though the deadline isn’t until the summer, filling out your FAFSA early will allow us to send your complete financial aid statement early (including merit and need-based aid) so that you and your family have the information you need to make financial decisions long before the deposit deadline.

This depends on the major (or majors) you’re interested in. At UD, we require that all students take at least two years of a foreign language in high school. That one throws some students off. Also, if you plan on applying to our engineering or business programs, you’ll need to take pre-calculus, at a minimum, before graduation. 


To find out exactly which classes you’ll need, visit our academic requirements page.

When we are evaluating applications, we look at the activities students participate in outside of school. But what kind of activities should you participate in? The short answer is: Do what you like doing. If you like playing sports, play sports. If you like volunteering in your community, do that. Take art classes at a local art center. Help out at the neighborhood garden or state park. Or sign up for a pre-college program in a field that interests you. It’s up to you.


When we’re looking at your application, we’re hoping to get a sense of your involvement outside the classroom. (But remember, grades are the most important part of any college application, so keep them up as your first priority.)

Picking a major can be a difficult decision. It sometimes feels as though you're deciding what you want to spend your whole life doing with that one choice. But it’s not that serious.


As many as 1/3 of our students enroll as undeclared or undecided (which at UD we call University Studies)—meaning, they didn't pick a major when they started college. And another 1/3 switch majors after starting school. And that’s OK too.


As you’re thinking about this decision, a good question to ask yourself is: What do I like to do? If you like reading and writing, look at the humanities (English, history, philosophy) or the social sciences (communications, political science, sociology). If you like art, look at the arts. If you like chemistry, look at the majors that involve chemistry (there are many of them). The main thing to remember is: If you enjoy the classes you’re taking then you’ll probably do better in them and you’ll enjoy your time in college that much more.


Visit our Major Finder to see what a major is all about.

To apply to UD, you don’t need to take the SAT or ACT. And if you did take it, you don’t need to send us your scores. You can, of course, but the choice is yours. If you think your high school transcript speaks for itself, then you can omit your scores from the application.


All students have the option of submitting an application without test scores. To find out more about our testing requirements, click here. If you choose not to send your test scores, you are still eligible for scholarships. We make the evaluation based on your academic performance in high school.


Ways to study

First, you could take the PSAT. The test usually takes place in October and is typically free. We suggest taking it both during your sophomore and junior year, that way you can identify what you may need to work on and where you’re showing improvement.  


Besides the PSAT, the easiest way to study is to visit your school or the local library and check out a study guide. You can also find a local college that does SAT or ACT prep classes. We do some at UD.


First and foremost in your college essay, you are telling a story. Don’t forget that. And the main character in your college essay should be you. That’s who we want to know about. We can tell a little about you from the classes you’ve taken and the activities you’re involved in, but really, that’s just data. We can’t get a sense of your personality from data. We want your story.


So how do you write an essay that really captures who you are, what you’re interested in? Here are some quick tips:


Start early. Take a look at the essay prompts over the summer. (You can find The Common Application essays here.) Pick a prompt that feels right to you, and write more than you need. Put the essay away for a week or two then look at it again. Do you still like it? If not, try again, or try another prompt.


Be your harshest critic. After you’ve written the essay and put it away for a while, you should now be able to see it with fresh eyes. What was your main point? Everything that doesn’t support that point, cut it. Cut all the stuff you wrote just to impress us, the big words, the things you embellished a little too much, the sentences that just sound weird. Cut and rewrite. Is there anything that you could say a little better? Anything you could add to make your reader (us) more interested in your story? 


Read your essay out loud. You may have heard this before, but it works. When you read your essay out loud, your ears will catch mistakes and awkward phrases that your eyes missed. 


Have someone else look over your essay. A parent, a friend, your cousin or all three. Ask them to tell you not just what they don’t understand, but also what they really like.


Two more quick suggestions: Your essay doesn’t have to focus on the most dramatic thing that ever happened to you. Some of the most profound things, and the most meaningful moments, are also the smallest moments. You can write about them too. And finally, don’t quote the dictionary, or Einstein, or Shakespeare—just don’t. We’ve read them before. We want to hear from you.


At UD, we only require a school report from your counselor (high school counselors know what this is). Above that, you have the option of sending a letter from a teacher if you wish.


If you would like to send a letter of recommendation from one of your teachers, it’s a good idea to plan ahead. Some teachers may only write a certain number of recommendations every year. Some may want you to supply them with the past work you’ve done to refresh their memory. And no recommender wants to be rushed. You don’t want that either. A rushed letter of recommendation isn’t always the best letter.


Our advice: Towards the end of your junior year (spring or just before summer break) start talking to the teachers who know you well about writing a letter.

All applications submitted by our January 15 priority deadline are automatically evaluated for scholarships. For first-year students, there are no extra essays to complete or boxes to check or secret handshakes. Everyone is evaluated. For need-based aid, make sure to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

 Freshman Fall Applicant Timeline


August 1

Application opens

November 1

Early action deadline

December 1

Nursing program deadline*; there is no early action or regular decision for the nursing program

December 1

Honors program priority deadline

January 15

Regular admission priority deadline.

January 31

All early action decisions released by this date

February 15

All nursing decisions released by this date


All regular admissions and Honors decisions** released by this date

*Completed applications and materials must be submitted before 11:59 p.m. on December 1 to be considered for the nursing program.
**Honors decisions are separate from your admission decision and you may recieve your admission decision earlier than your Honors decision. Honors applications submitted after 11:59 p.m. on December 1 will be considered on a space-available basis.

Get to Know UD

Learn more about campus and our college town

Our website has a ton of information on what campus life will look like. You can read UDaily, our school’s news site, to see what students and faculty are up to, check out our Instagram to get a look at daily life, and follow our Twitter for updates from the University and admissions


One of the best ways to find out if UD is right for you is to visit. At UD, you can take a virtual visit or come to campus. If you come to campus, you can talk to an admissions counselor, meet current students and even sit in on a class that interests you. That last part may take a little advanced planning. Find more on the Enhance Your Visit section of the visit page.