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5 Tips for Future College Applicants

5 Tips for Future College Applicants

Author Kareem Al-Mulki by

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A new year brings New Year’s goals, including the top priority for many current high school students: receiving a college acceptance letter. Unfortunately, the college application process is a messy one in which students will necessarily encounter unforeseen obstacles. Moreover, finding answers to questions can prove surprisingly challenging.

Here are some tips that will hopefully help high school students during their application process. Following these suggestions early in your high school career can help make the overall application process much less painful. Good luck to all!

1. Challenge Yourself

Acceptance committees praise applicants who have challenged themselves with rigorous course loads throughout high school. Honors, IB, and AP classes are absolute necessities for any student seeking college acceptance.

The nation’s top universities consistently rank a rigorous course-load as their top priority, meaning a 4.0 GPA resulting from on-level classes will not be as highly regarded as a 3.5 GPA comprised from AP/IB classes.

Moreover, taking AP classes allows students to gain college course credits once they reach campus.

2. Build Strong Relationships with Teachers and Counselors

Teachers commonly develop reputations among high schoolers as ‘evil beings’ who seek to destroy their students with unbearable amounts of busy work. Dramatics aside, this misconception could not be further from the truth; teachers generally go into their profession because they care about students and education. Therefore, it is important that students actively involve themselves in building lasting relationships with their educators.

Getting to know your teachers provides countless potential benefits, the most important of which is that a strong relationship provides teachers with a solid foundation on which to write excellent recommendation letters.

Recommendations constitute an important part of a student’s application and a good letter can make the difference between acceptance and rejection, so it’s probably a good idea to get on their good side early on (and stay there).

3. Get Involved

Colleges increasingly prefer the well-rounded student to the ‘straight A’ student who does nothing but study. Therefore, it is clear that universities are looking for students who involve themselves in the community around them. Leadership positions, volunteerism, employment & internships, and other extra-curricular activities signal to colleges that the applicant has taken an interest in the greater community. This is a student’s best opportunity to prove he or she is more than just a GPA. A good extra-curricular record indicates to colleges that the applicant is a well-rounded individual who is likely to succeed in situations outside of school. Colleges want students who will not only attend classes, but get involved in campus-life and thrive in their respective environments. Therefore, it is important that students develop passions and interests that they can demonstrate, and reflect on, in applications.

It’s best to get involved early in your high school career – admissions officers can easily spot when someone joins a bunch of clubs during their junior or senior year just to put them on an application, and it definitely doesn’t look good.

4. Stay Organized

During the application process, things can get overwhelmingly messy very quickly. It is a good idea to keep a folder with important forms and letters for each college. Also: create a list of top colleges to which you plan to apply, and then write the various due dates for these colleges. You can also set up potential visitation times in order to tour the campus personally before choosing to attend. The more organized your files are, the easier the application process will be. If you’re not sure where to start - buying a calendar is probably a good first bet.

5. Get a Head Start

It is always great to plan ahead. Know when certain forms for various colleges are due and submit them with plenty of time to spare. When requesting recommendation letters, contact teachers as soon as possible in order to give them ample time to complete the letter. Finally, if you are eligible to apply early decision, do it! Applying early decision increases your chance of acceptance, relieves stress on yourself, and allows the college plenty of time to review your application. Plus, not having to worry about getting into college while everyone else is freaking out about applications feels as awesome as it sounds.

Here are some helpful links students may want to check out:

College Admissions Glossary
College Planning Guide for Seniors
Applying to College 101
The Common Application
The Princeton Review’s College Lists & Rankings
U.S. News – Best Colleges
Inside Emory University’s Admission Process Blog
The UGA Admissions Blog

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