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General Resource : Resources for Colleges >> 2. College Application Advice

  • Tips to Get into a Great College
  • Submitted by Bill on 2010-01-02
  • How to Get into Great College

    Applying to college is a stressful experience. Do you want to be smarter and get into a great college?

    Step 1:
    Choose your classes carefully throughout high school.

    • Take classes that will challenge you, but not that will be impossible. Don't let people scare you away from taking classes that will stimulate your mind, but also remember that taking too many APs and honor classes may hurt you, not help you. Remember that you do not want to get an ulcer while you are still a teenager!
    • Take AP courses. Don't take 7, but one or two a year shows admission officers that you are serious about your education and will take on a challenge. Also, passing the AP exam gains you college credits and can sometimes save you tuition money.
    • If you think you are taking on a tough load, request a prep period if your school allows it. Having an extra hour during the school day to simply relax, catch up on homework, or hang out with your friends goes a long way towards keeping you sane and focused.
    • Get your school requirements out of the way early! This way, you can take classes that interest you, and you can delve deeper into subjects you want to pursue in college and beyond.

    Step 2:
    Pay attention to your GPA. You don't need a 4.0 to get into a great school, but remember that your cumulative GPA for all four years of high school is sometimes used as an initial screen for colleges that receive a plethora of applications. Higher grades will give you more choices when choosing between colleges, and will also give you better financial aid.

    • Study for tests. Know which study techniques work best for you, and use them.
    • Do your homework.
    • Pay attention in class, and take good notes.

    Step 3:
    Get good recommendation letters. Choose which teachers you ask carefully - pay attention to how well you did in that class, whether you think the teacher liked you, whether you liked the class, and how much effort you put into the class.

    Step 4:
    Get involved. Use special knowledge you have to help others. Volunteer in places that interest you, tutor other students, spread your knowledge!

    Step 5:
    Show even more of your leadership qualities by talking to teachers and staff. Show them your respect. Also talk to students around your school often. Run for leadership positions in your extra-curricular activities.

    Step 6:
    Instead of joining all the extracurriculars you can, pick a few you enjoy and stick with them. Colleges will be impressed by your dedication and commitment.

    Step 7:
    Choose a focus. Figure out what you are interested in, and try to find what kind of jobs you might like to have. Once you've chosen a subject of interest, dive into it! Take more courses in that area, find an internship, get a job, volunteer -- the opportunities are endless.

    Step 8:
    Enter contests. Even if you don't win, the time and effort you put into the contests can only help. And if you do win, the words "First Place in the XYZ Contest" really stand out!

    Step 9:
    Make a resume. Keep track of all your accomplishments, so you don't forget them when filling out your applications.

    Step 10:
    Prepare for the SAT or ACT. Most colleges take either. If you want to get into a good college, you can get a leg up by getting a great score on the SAT/ACT! While these scores will not determine your acceptance or rejection alone, it is helpful to get a good score. Don't blow them off!

    • Work on vocabulary words, math problems, and SAT tips of the day.
    • Enroll in a test prep class', if that teaching style works for you. Plenty of people don't take prep classes and still get excellent scores, and other people take classes and improve their scores considerably.
    • Get a test prep book and work through it. Focus on areas that you are not so strong on, and take lots of practice tests.
    • Remember that you can take the SAT multiple times, and choose your best test scores to send to colleges. However, you cannot take the test twice, for example, and choose your critical reading and writing scores from the first time and your math score from the second one. If you like your scores from the second time you took the test, you may choose to only send your scores from the second time, and colleges will not see the scores from your first test.

    Step 11:
    When choosing colleges to apply to, do your research. Choose a variety of schools to apply to and analyze your chances at getting in by looking at mean test scores and GPAs. Choose a couple schools that are a stretch, a good amount of target schools, and a few safety schools. If you apply only to Ivy League schools, you significantly decrease your chances of getting into college as those are some of the most selective schools in the country.

    Step 12:
    Write amazing essays.
    Your essays give the college a chance to see how you write and how you think - your views on life.

    Step 13:
    Prepare for your interview. If possible, try to arrange an on-campus interview rather than an alumni interview off campus. On-campus interviews are conducted directly by an admissions officer, and thus an on-campus interview holds more weight than an off-campus interview, which can be to your benefit if your personality and dedication is more than what the numbers say about you.

    • Relax. Most of the time, your interview will not make or break you, unless you make an extremely bad impression by showing up in torn jeans and a sweaty t-shirt and start swearing at the admissions officer.
    • Research the school before going to the interview. Think about why you are applying, why it would be a good school for you and what you would bring to the school.
    • Think of questions. Whether this is an alumni interview or an interview with an admissions officer, realize that this is a great way to find out more about the school! If you are interviewing with an alumnae, ask them about their experience at the school, what their favorite part was, about the dorms, the food, etc.
    • Be natural. Show the interviewer exactly who you are and why you are interesting. Be friendly and polite, and show them your good side!
    • Look on the internet for some common college interview questions[4], and think of your answers. Some common questions: Why do you want to go to this university? What books do you like to read? What do you do in your free time?
    • Brush up on some current events. You don't need to know "everything" thats going on in the world, but it's a good idea to read the newspaper daily for at least a couple days before the interview.

    Additional Tips:

    • Do not take the admissions essay lightly. In your admissions essay, don't just tell the audience what you are writing for. Show them. Well, you should make it so good and to the point that they will actually say...this is the best! Show them that you are determined to be accepted.
    • You also have a choice whether to take the SAT or the ACT.
    • ACT= English, math, reading, science, and writing with one essay question.
      SAT= Math section(multiple choice+grid-ins), critical reading section (sentence completions, reading comprehension, and Long reading comprehension), and the writing section (the essay and multiple choice identifying sentence errors, improving sentences, and improving paragraphs).
    • Have a life! If you get into the best college in the world without having any fun, there's no point!

    Source: wikiHow
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