Applying & Paying for College

three students in library

Planning for college can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to help students and families choose the path that best fits their needs!

Key steps to applying, paying for, & attending a college

Research schools & types of schools

The term college includes technical colleges, two-year community colleges, vocational or trade schools and four-year colleges and universities. There is not one type of college that is best for everyone, so it is important to take your time and explore your options. You can search for for colleges using the College Board search tool

Use the drop-down menu below to learn more about different types of colleges.

Explore ways to pay for college

The cost of attending a school varies by type of school, location, and more. Each college estimates the cost of attendance by adding together the cost of tuition, fees, housing, transportation, books and supplies, and other living expenses.

The cost of college can be overwhelming, but there are many different resources to help you pay for college. People often use multiple sources of financial aid to pay for college, including grants and scholarships, loans, and work study jobs. 

Learn more about paying for college, applying for financial aid, and types of financial aid available

Prepare to apply

All colleges have an application. Typically, you can submit a vocational, technical, two-year or four-year college and university application online and sometimes in-person or by mail. There is a common application that is used by hundreds of colleges in the U.S., this application is convenient because you can send it to multiple eligible schools. There is also a shared application for many community and technical colleges in Washington.

Most schools ask for your official transcripts from high school and college if you have earned college credit. They may also want:

  • Test scores from the SAT or ACT college entrance exams
  • A personal statement or essay as a way for the college to get to know you and why you are interested in the school
  • A resume or list of activities you participated in like clubs, sports, jobs, etc.
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, coach, etc. who can speak to your qualities, character and capabilities

Some schools may also have an application fee, but you may be eligible to receive a fee waiver if you meet certain criteria. Ask your school's college and career counselor for more information.

Types of colleges & application process overview

Talk with your future school

One of the best sources of information is the college you plan to attend. Don't be afraid to contact the admissions office or financial aid office to learn more about the school and find the best fit for you!