We all dream of attending our ideal college or university. For many of us, these schools are the more competitive schools difficult to gain admission to. Regardless of where you're applying, here is some advice to help ensure you do all you can to receive as many acceptances as possible!
1. Start everything freshman year!
The most important thing to understand when building your background and experience is that the earlier you start working on things, the more successful you will be. As you continue your high school years, classes will become more difficult and managing your time will only get harder. Some things to focus on during your freshman year include:
- High Grades: By focusing on getting high grades from the very beginning of high school, the better your GPA will be when it's time to apply to colleges. It's true that colleges like seeing improvement in your grades, but they also know many courses taken by upperclassmen, such as AP courses, are more challenging. It is best to start with high grades and try to maintain them throughout your high school years.
- Class Participation: Always keep a good habit of speaking up in class and asking your teacher questions. If you feel too shy to ask in front of the whole class, take the time to e-mail your teacher or speak with him/her after class. Ask if you can meet with them for extra help if you need it. It is important to keep a good relationship with your teachers. Speaking up in class becomes especially important not only for grades but for when you will need recommendation letters from teachers. You will most likely need these recommendations if you would like to work, volunteer, or intern over the summer after freshman year.
- Joining Clubs: Make sure to join school clubs from the very start of your high school career! It is better to invest your time in two to four select clubs rather than jump around from one club to another. Show up to meetings, participate in events, and work your way up the ladder. There is bound to be a club for everyone's interests. Whether that's theatre, varsity volleyball, or anything in between, make sure you find a club that you like and stick to it! Focus on making yourself known throughout your freshman year. Towards the end of the year, ask for any openings within the board and if you could apply for any positions. All the hard work will pay off once you get that leadership position. You can even take the initiative to create your own club!
- Meet With Your Guidance Counselor: It is important to have a good relationship with your guidance counselor since the start of your high school career. Not only do they write one of your recommendation letters, but they are also wonderful resources! Whenever you have questions or have a problem, speak to them about what's bugging you. If you need help finding work opportunities, deciding what classes to take, or learning more about resources and opportunities available at your school, talk to your guidance counselor!
Take Honors/AP/IB courses!
While it is true that regular classes may be easier to get high grades in, colleges like to see you challenge yourself. AP and IB classes are college-level courses offered by many high schools. If you score high enough on the AP/IB exams, you may be able to receive college credit for that course! Colleges encourage taking such courses, as long as they prove not to be too detrimental to your grades. If you feel that the course is too difficult for you, transfer out of the class. Never overburden yourself to the point where one thing starts bringing other things down!
Volunteer, Work, Research!
Wherever you choose to apply, always remember to build up your resume with some experience. Whether that means volunteering at your local pet shop, working as an intern at a law firm, or conducting research in a lab, do your best to get involved in what fields you're interested in and in what you care about in general. Colleges like to see you commit to a program. Rather than jumping from one volunteering position to another, choose a position you wouldn't mind keeping for a while. The same thing goes for work and research. Try to keep things consistent. But of course, if there is a certain duration for a program, there is no problem in taking a position elsewhere afterward. Keep yourself busy! Use both summers and the school year to find good opportunities.
Do well on your SAT/ACT!
The college admission process involves many factors. If your grades and experience outside of school aren't too strong, then do the best you can on your standardized tests! Before deciding on what test you want to take, do extensive research and take the time to take some practice tests or preparatory classes. You may even find it helpful to take both tests and submit the better score afterwards. This works for some students but doesn't work for others. If you are eligible for financial aid, ask your guidance counselor or college office how you can get fee waivers for the tests. The higher your scores are, the stronger your application will be. If you feel there is a subject you excel in, you can also take SAT II tests or the SAT Subject tests. Many colleges don't require them anymore, but if you score well on the test don't hesitate to include it in your application!
Get started on applications early!
Start researching what schools you want to apply to towards the end of your sophomore year. Ask any specific questions you have about the admissions process. Keep in mind which teachers, mentors, and other advisers you want recommendation letters from. Ask them before the end of your senior year so that you know you will receive a letter from them for sure. This also saves you and them from the hassles of communicating during the fall of senior year. Start brainstorming ideas for your CommonApp essay when prompts are released over the summer. Make outlines for potential essays and think about anecdotes, experiences, and goals you can talk about. Decide whether or not you want to apply early for any of the colleges. Making a pros/cons chart usually helps for this.
Get in touch with the schools you are applying to!
Visit schools throughout the course of your junior year. You can even visit some the summer before junior year. E-mail admissions advisors and let them know you are interested in their college. Reach out to colleges and ask them for potential interviewing opportunities, or an opportunity to sit down with an admissions counselor.
Having a Good Circle of Support!
One of the most important things is to have close friends and/or family members that can help you when you get stuck. Whether it has to do with deciding where to apply or with editing your essay, you always want to have a group of people to gain advice and guidance from.