Advice for College Applications

Let us give those who are embarking on college application mayhem a little advice. Here are some tips I have found helpful. Feel free to add to it!

Start early. Keep a running record of your extra curricular activities, such as an academic resume. Keep a record of all of the awards you have received, as well as programs you have done, all extra curriculars, clubs, and volunteer work. Look at the applications you will be filling out ahead of time so you can be thinking about how to present yourself in the best way possible. DON’T turn in the application the day of. Shoot for a week early so you can catch any details such as recommendations, transcripts, or score reports from being received.

Teacher recommendations should be from teachers your junior year or later. They know the real you better than your freshman or sophomore teachers would. Keep things organized for them. Make a folder with your academic resume, schools applying to, and due dates for each recommend-er and give it to them at least three weeks early. Make sure you follow up with a thank you note and let them know if you got into the school; they won’t find out unless you tell them.

Keep in touch with the schools you are applying to. Make sure they have received all information; don’t rely on them to tell you. Make a campus visit if possible. Check out the places you may be living, as well as the library and whether your major is offered there.

Don’t write your essay about a role model. The college wants to get to know YOU, not your grandmother or your father. Write about an achievement you have made and how it has affected you, or a big problem you faced and how you solved it.

Have a few well-developed extra curriculars instead of every one the school offers. Instead of being a member of everything, be the president or vice president of three or so. Follow your passions; colleges like to see students who do things for themselves and not the college itself.

Be aware of scholarship opportunities. There is a big packet in the counseling office. Check out the schools you are thinking about and see if they have scholarships you could be competitive for. Search for schools who give merit based and need-based scholarships. If you are good at writing, find an essay scholarship. If you have volunteered a lot, look for a scholarship that values service. You don’t have to have stellar grades to be eligible for scholarships.

Make sure you fill out every applicable thing that you can on the application. If there is a blank space where you can write about any special circumstances, describe an extra curricular that has helped shape you into the person you are now, or write about how dedicated you are to your education, etc. The key to essays is to convey information in the shortest way possible. Try to keep the main essay under 1,000 words.

Challenge yourself in high school. More often than not, it looks better to have a B in an AP or IB class than it does to have an A in a regular one. Colleges put a lot of stock into the rigor of your high school curriculum.

And STUDY STUDY STUDY for the SAT/ACT. Don’t make your scores a weak part of your application. They are not the be-all end-all to college admissions, but having a high score will probably get you admitted easier than those with weaker ones.

Here are some extras:

Choose the schools you would love to attend, even it’s your safities. And DO NOT choose schools based on ranking. Try to visit your schools if can, if can’t, talk to students online.

Agree completely. Also, don’t take your first attempt cold turkey - buy a review book and prepare for those tests from the start. Not studying because you wanted to see how you would do by not studying is a poor excuse for any imperfect score.

Isn’t one of the Common Application’s prompts to write about someone who has influenced you? As long as you keep a healthy balance between talking about yourself and your role model, I don’t think colleges are going to be upset you wrote about one of the given essay prompts.

Wow, thanks for all the advice. That was extremely helpful and made a lot of sense.

I dont think there’s anything wrong about writing about your role model. I wrote about my grandfather and his influence on me. Personally, i think it was one of the strongest parts of my application (cause my grades sure weren’t! ). As CameronSeib said, just keep a healthy balance between your ‘heroes’ and you.

Great tips for those looking forward to college admissions. I will be sure to pass this on to some rising seniors. :slight_smile:

IMO you can write about anything, even your role model, if you manage to put in the influence of the subject on yourself. What you learned, how you became a better person, etc.

is there anything i can do now in the summer to help with the admissions process?

Here’s what I am helping my daughter, a rising senior, do this summer:

Find out the application requirements of each of her chosen colleges by getting the information directly from their websites. I copied and pasted the information I’ve gathered so far (I was researching ACT/SAT requirements) into a Word document so it will all be in one place.

Start gathering information for the applications and preparing to write the essays.

After the Common Application for next year comes out August 1, complete the application to the extent possible before school starts.

My daughter already requested teacher recommendations because her school requires all juniors to do so before the end of the school year.

I hope this helps!

Is Common App stuff already being sent? I got sent a Fall 2011 Application already…

from which school frenchsilkpie? just curious

Good post rupee2

Id just add the “dont kill yourself over this” factor… College admissions do have a large impact on the rest of your life, but being rejected from a top choice is not the end of the world, and you will have an amazing college experience no matter where you end up (for the most part)… there are great people, great parties, and a great education waiting for you at thousands of institutions, not just the one that you may have thought was the best.

Working in the admissions building i can say colleges do ask for an essay about someone who influences you, but the essay should ot be about that person, the essay should be about how you have grown and matured and are a reliable candidate for their school.