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.