Preparing for college admissions is important. Where you go to college is intertwined with the future you’re going to have—you’ll be responsible for your own learning, have a deeper, more specified education, and set up your career path.
As a high school senior, you might be nervous about gaining admission to the college of your choice. While there’s no magic bullet, there are reliable ways to stand out from the crowd. Here are five tips for getting into your dream college.
Balance your challenging courses
You might be tempted to position yourself as the ideal student—someone who takes a slew of honors classes and ace them all with no problem. However, for most people, that’s simply unrealistic. Continuously struggling in demanding classes won’t make for a great application.
There is such a thing as a weighted GPA—some high schools will calculate your grades with how difficult your courses are in mind, boosting your B in AP English to an A or A-. However, this is not a guaranteed procedure, and some selective colleges disregard it altogether.
Instead of picking the most grueling courses, aim for balance. Pick some challenging classes based on subjects you shine in and strive to do well in all your studies, but don’t concentrate all your energy on academics—it’s not the only factor admissions committees consider.
Demonstrate excellence in your extracurriculars
While extracurriculars are an excellent way to show how well-rounded you are as a candidate, you don’t want the stress of admissions to pressure you into joining activities just to pad your resume during your senior year. Colleges check for cohesiveness, and your pursuits being unfocused won’t reflect well on you.
Instead, do activities that are a natural outgrowth of what you’ve already committed to. If you’ve been a MUN delegate for the past few years, try to be a committee chair. If you’ve been volunteering at a pet shelter, spearhead community service projects like doggy runs or fundraisers. Be strategic in showing your passion and prowess in the activities you’ve chosen to spend time on.
Write an exceptional college essay
The top universities in the world count the prompt essay response as 25% of your overall application, and many colleges follow their lead. This is why it’s crucial you succeed in it. The best way to start is choosing a great prompt—in other words, a great topic. The prompt is what frames the self-portrait you write and introduce to admissions officers.
When you pick the best essay topic for your needs, you have to know which ones to avoid. Steer clear of controversial subjects—like politics—as you don’t know the viewpoints of whoever is going to read your essay.
Don’t write about role models, as inspiring as that can be—remember, colleges want to hear about you. Instead, consider writing about your own story of overcoming obstacles or solving difficult problems. Show what makes you different and an excellent addition to your college’s roster.
Attain glowing recommendation letters
If you want the best chance at attending your dream college, recommendations are a vital aspect of admissions you need to consider.
These provide admissions officers with objective statements about your talents and character beyond what your grades can demonstrate. If you want a complimentary review of yourself, make sure you request it from a mentor who knows you well. This could be a teacher, a coach, or a club advisor—as long as it’s someone excited to sing your praises.
Additionally, put yourself in your mentor’s shoes and provide them with the information they might need, such as your CV or a list of key qualities and accomplishments you want them to mention.
Show interest in your college of choice
If you truly have your heart set on a specific college, show it. Tour the campus, participate in optional interviews, and reach out to admissions officers. This will show the school that they are a priority for you, leading them to put more weight on your application.
Another powerful way to demonstrate your commitment is by applying early. Not only will this show the school your enthusiasm—you’ll also exhibit that you’re able to meet deadlines with foresight and competence.
Enrolling early has the additional benefit of giving the college a chance to provide feedback if they reject but see potential in your application. With this, you can submit a better application during your dream college’s regular enrollment.
Applying for college can be nerve-wracking, but don’t worry. Your senior year isn’t about building yourself from the ground up, but polishing what you’ve already done. Create a clear, holistic picture of yourself and put your best foot forward, and you’ll get into the college that’s right for you.
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