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Choosing and Applying to College

Choosing a College

We’ve provided some resources here that you can use to research different colleges. You can also come to our College Planning Centers to talk over your choice with us.

Ultimately, your choice of college is a personal one, based on your academic history, your career aspirations, and your overall feeling of how well you fit with the school. You can find a list of Massachusetts colleges and their application deadlines in our Deadline Datebook.

Massachusetts and New England


Standardized Tests

Research the admission process for each school to which you are applying to determine which tests you need to take. The sites will give you information on where and when the tests are available.

Many high school students start taking standardized tests for college applications in their junior year. Most tests charge a fee, but it can be waived or reduced if you can’t afford it.

Below are brief descriptions and links to the websites for the most common college admissions tests. For graduate school application information, see below.

The four most common tests are:


Applying to College

There are several steps that are common to almost every college application.

For most college applications, you will need to:

  • Fill out an application form.
  • Get several letters of recommendation.
  • Write one or more application essays.
  • Provide your high school transcripts. 
  • Provide your scores on standardized tests.

Graduate school applications have similar steps, but different tests and requirements. Boston-area students can get in-person help for both college and graduate applications at American Student Assistance® College Planning Centers.

The Common Application

Many colleges have their own application form, but nearly 500 accept the Common Application, a single form designed to make the application process simpler.

Things to keep in mind

  • Different schools have different application deadlines.
  • Ask for transcripts and letters of recommendation early.
  • Keep copies of everything you submit.
  • Send thank-you notes to people who write you those letters of recommendation.

Applying to Graduate School

To get a master’s degree or other advanced professional degree, you need more standardized tests and another round of application forms. Each school will be slightly different, so it pays to research your options and come by our College Planning Centers for more assistance.

The major standardized tests for graduate school are:

GRE - Graduate Record Examinations With the exception of law, medical, and business schools, this is the most widely accepted general aptitude test for graduate school admission. The GRE® includes both subject tests and a general test.  A fee reduction program is available for qualifying applicants.

Dental Admissions Testing (DAT) Conducted by the American Dental Association® (ADA), this test has been in operation on a national basis since 1950.

DSSTs - DANTES Subject Standardized Test Accepted or administered at over 1,900 colleges and universities nationwide and approved by ACE (American Council on Education), the DSST program provides the opportunity for people to earn college credit for what they have learned outside of the traditional classroom.

GMAT - Graduate Management Admission Test The GMAT® is a computer adaptive test for admission to business school and is available year-round. You can schedule your test by calling 800.GMAT.NOW or visiting

LSAT - Law School Admission Test The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized test required for admission to all 202 law schools that are members of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). The test is administered 4 times a year at hundreds of locations around the world.

MAT - Miller Analogies Test The Miller Analogies test is a high-level, analytic ability test that requires the solution of problems stated as analogies. There is no registration form for the MAT. The MAT is administered by the Psychological Corporation, but fees and testing are handled solely by Controlled Testing Centers.

MCAT - Medical College Admission Test The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) assesses problem solving, critical thinking, writing skills, science, and other requirements for medical school. Fee assistance is available to applicants who demonstrate financial hardship.

TOEFL - Test of English as a Foreign Language TOEFL® measures the ability of non-native speakers of English to use and understand North American English as it is spoken, written, and heard in college and university settings. To register by phone, call 800.GO.TOEFL. Fees can be reduced for students in financial need.

TSE - Test of Spoken English TSE measures the ability of non-native speakers to speak in an academic or professional environment. It provides accurate, valid, and reliable assessments for candidates for graduate assistantships, employment, or licensure and certification.