How to increase the chance of getting into a good college?

Hello friends
I am currently a freshman and I want to get into good top colleges. How do I increase my chances? I know I have to get a good GPA and get a good act score but besides that how do I increase my chances? Does participating in school sports increase my chances? Does taking a lot of ap/honors classes increase my chances? Does volunteering increases my chances? I would appreciate your help. also, I don’t know If I put this in a right category

2 posts were merged into an existing topic: How to increase chance of getting in good college?

Academics: You want to take the most challenging classes you can but still do well in. It isn’t about who takes the most AP wins…but do try to take some. Don’t think you need to "pad’ your APs by taking like AP Env Science (unless you are into that.)

Sports; Do sports if you like sports.
Music: Do music if you like music.

Clubs/volunteering: Top private colleges do want to see you have interests outside academics…and they like to see you give back to the community and show leadership. But all of these should be in areas of interest to you.

Jobs: Some people need to work. I would work/volunteer in the summer if possible.

Check out “How to be a High School Superstar” by Cal Newport.

“The basic message of the book is this: Don’t wear yourself out taking as many classes as you can and being involved in every club and sport. Instead, leave yourself enough free time to explore your interests. Cultivate one interest and make it into something special that will make you stand out among the other applicants and get you into the toughest schools, even if your grades and scores aren’t stellar. Newport calls this the “relaxed superstar approach,” and he shows you how to really do this, breaking the process down into three principles, explained and illustrated with real life examples of students who got into top schools: (1) underscheduling—making sure you have copious amounts of free time to pursue interesting things, (2) focusing on one or two pursuits instead of trying to be a “jack of all trades,” and (3) innovation—developing an interesting and important activity or project in your area of interest. This fruit yielded by this strategy, an interesting life and real, meaningful achievements, is sure to help not only with college admissions, but getting a job, starting a business, or whatever your goals.”


What @bopper said…in other words…

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There’s a bigger question here…what’s a “good college”?

Do not confuse good with popular. There are LOTS of schools that are pretty easy admits that are great at educating students and helping them get their lives on the right path. Beloit College and Juniata are two fine examples.

The selectivity of a school tells you one thing and one thing only, how popular it is and thus how many applications it draws. It tells you nothing about what your experience as an undergrad will be like. Some of the highest ranked, most difficult admits have the biggest classes in the nation. Some are known for poor quality teaching.

By all means, follow the advice above. It will be helpful no matter where you apply and end up. Do dig in though and learn how to define what “good” will mean for you.


Also read “How to Become a Straight A Student” by Newport. It’s written for college students, so it’s not perfectly fit for HS. You may already have all As, but this book is about how to do it efficiently. It will set you up for the next phase when brute force intelligence won’t be enough.

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As of now you should focus on being the best “you” that you can be. I suggest that you:
–Take a curriculum that is the most rigorous that you can manage. Work hard in classes and do your best.
–Find activities either in your school or community that you enjoy and find meaningful. Work toward making a difference and taking on leadership positions.
–When the time comes, study for standardized tests.
–Enjoy spending time with friends and family.


Here’s another book to add to your library: “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” by Frank Bruni. Among other things, he discusses how you should not define yourself (or let yourself be defined) by where you are admitted to college.


Great book. It’s not just Bruni saying don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get into a unicorn university, but him offering evidence that most currently successful people didn’t go to elite schools themselves. He likes to use Fortune 500 CEOs and the schools they attended as evidence. My favorite anecdote is the Directors of all the NASA facilities. All but one of them went to state schools. The one who went to a private didn’t go to an elite school. It’s a myth that you have to go to a popular/selective school to be successful. Good luck!

Be authentic. Don’t do things because you think colleges will like them. Overall, they are pretty good at fitting the pieces together to see who a student really is. You need to figure out who you are and who you want to be.

Keep options open while you figure out what makes you tick. If you placed into honors classes for your freshman year, take those so that you are positioned to take advantage of AP, etc. as you discover what really appeals to you.

Challenge yourself. If there’s something you want to try or do, give it a go and push yourself to takeit a little further. You’ll be more fulfilled, may develop some resilience, and you’ll be the best you.

Understand the college landscape. There are SO many great colleges out there. Not just the big names or most selective. If you craft a high school experience that let’s you be the best you – even if it includes some Bs and a few false starts on ECs, you’ll be able to present yourself as a great candidate for the place that fits you and your dreams.

In a nutshell, don’t make yourself a "perfect " candidate by fitting someone else’s mold. Instead make yourself a terrific you and find the place where that person will thrive.

Please don’t make high school about getting into college. And when the time comes to think about college, find a school that fits you, rather than trying to fit yourself to a school.

I definitely think the Newport suggestion to avoid overscheduling and overloading is wise. Try to benefit from high school years by exploring your interests and developing any that do develop, as best you can. It is hard to do that if you are spending all your time on homework or spreading yourself too thin. Good luck!


I can’t agree with this enough: “good” is relative to the person measuring it. Know what you value and then you can make a list.

Boston has no good schools at all (if you hate winter) and the Ivy league can’t hold a candle to Georgia Tech and Purdue (in engineering.) If you’re a pretty good student who’s going to need a ton of financial aid then your list will be profoundly different from a trust fund kid who needs a proper golf course on campus. You wouldn’t choose your favorite ice cream flavor from a magazine article, so why would you trust one for this?

If you’re worried about having to face a swarm of hyper-competitive “Where are you going?” questions then be very up-front about what you want and why your list is different from USNWR and they will answer themselves: I’m getting to play on a good D3 baseball team, I got a huge Presidential scholarship, it’s 80 degrees in Florida you know, they have a great program that gets me into PT school early, or the awesome I really, really loved the place the minute I arrived. My DD has always wanted to fly and aimed directly at a service academy for years, no explanations needed.


Check out Applying Sideways by Chris Peterson from MIT Admissions. It’s not a book, but a really good 5-minute read about college admissions. While the examples are more MIT-focused, the message is the same.

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