Five Simple Ways to Get Accepted to the Right College for You!
For many of you high school students, the question of where you’ll go to college hovers menacingly over your heads for your entire high school career. But you don’t seriously consider the best ways to get accepted into the college of your choice until somewhere toward the start of your senior year, when it’s time to start the application process.
To get accepted into the college of your choice, prepare before your senior year by showing leadership and intellectual curiosity, research schools that fit your specific interests, consider smaller, less well-known schools, visit the school to create a relationship with an admissions counselor, and write compelling personal statements.
Five Things to Do to Get Accepted into College:
Show leadership and intellectual curiosity throughout high school
Spend enough time researching to find schools that fits YOUR interests
Add smaller, less well known colleges to your list
Visit schools to create a relationship with an admissions counselor
Write compelling, unique personal statements
Prepare Before Senior Year: Leadership
Let’s face it: it’s hard to think about preparing yourself for college when you’re worried about next week’s Algebra II exam and the essay that’s due tomorrow and your soccer practice and the Key Club meeting after school. All of the above activities can be a part of your preparation for college as long as you seek leadership roles and keep track of them.
In addition to seeking leadership roles in existing clubs and organizations, try to create your own club. Most schools have a process by which clubs can be created. Gather a group of like-minded students and found an organization. It will be good for all of your college applications, as you all created the club from the bottom up.
Leadership can be expressed in many ways--in classes, in clubs, in sports, in jobs, in your home, and in your community. Try to find ways to be a leader in many areas, not just one or two. When you create your activities list on the Common App, be sure to keep all of these areas in mind.
Prepare Before Senior Year: Intellectual Curiosity
Colleges like to see students who seek independent means of exploring their passions. If you are not an extrovert who can readily find five friends to start a club, find your own passion and explore away!
Become an expert about something--knowing enough about just about anything could impress a college admissions counselor. Saying that you can identify every tree species within a hundred mile radius of your home demonstrates intellectual curiosity. And if you intend to apply to selective schools, get involved in research in your area of interest.
Most universities have outreach programs that provide opportunities for high school students’ participation. Find such a program and get involved. And if you can create a relationship with a university professor who could vouch for your interest or skill, cha-ching! You’ll score many points with an admissions officer.
It doesn’t necessarily require a college research program to catch an admissions officer’s eye. Many of my students admit that they spend hours on social media watching random funny videos. Use your YouTube bingeing to learn about something you love, and then create your own YouTube channel to share what you know and love with others.
Don’t forget those antiquated things called books: read! Some colleges ask you to list the titles of the last twenty books you’ve read. Some require you to distinguish those you were required to read for school and those you read for fun. There are innumerable books about any of your interests. Find some books and read as evidence of your intellectual curiosity.
Watch good movies. If you’re going to sit in front of the TV and veg-out, spend some of your time watching quality movies. Find lists of the greatest movies of all time and watch them. Watch foreign movies. Maybe your passion will turn out to be Swedish movies from the 1930’s. Or silent films. Or the development of Disney cartoons.
Finally, visit museums and participate in their events. Most communities have a museum of some sort. Find ways to become involved first as a student and then, potentially, as a mentor to younger students. This shows both leadership and intellectual curiosity. Double BAM!
Spend Time Researching Colleges to Find Your Fit
If you’re anything like most of the students I work with, your list of colleges looks like this: Florida State University (FSU), University of Florida (UF), University of Central Florida (UCF), University of South Florida (USF), and, since we live close to it, Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU).
This is a perfectly good list of schools. But it is so generic that I can tell that the student did no research at all to find a school that actually fits his or her interests.
Don’t forget that this school will be your home for another four years. There are many options available. Don’t limit yourself to the schools your friends intend to apply to or the ones you’ve heard a lot about. Spend the time to look for schools that fit your preferences.
Do you really want to attend a university with 30,000, 40,000, or even 60,000+ students? Do you want to live in an urban setting? A rural area? Are you sure you want to stay in Florida? Is the school you’re considering strong in the major you’re considering? What student support services are available? Will you feel safe and visible on campus?
Here are some places you can start with to find a school that is a perfect fit for you. There are many other such sites available. Choose the one you find easiest to work with, and get to it!
Seriously Consider Applying to Smaller Liberal Arts Schools
As I said above, when I first look at most of my students' college lists, I see the same schools’ names. That is fine. But it’s not enough.
When I ask why they’re applying to those schools, they say because their friends are or perhaps they qualify for Bright Futures scholarships. That is helpful. But they don’t realize that they will find friends anywhere, and their Bright Futures funding can be applied to other Florida schools that may suit them more.
Don’t get me wrong: Florida has great public universities that are good for many students. But they are large, often in urban settings with tens of thousands of students, with large classes and few opportunities to get to know a particular professor unless you’re in grad school.
If you’re serious about creating networks and relationships with your professors, you might want to consider smaller private colleges. Smaller schools offer more opportunities for individualized education and for a fit to your particular needs.
Plus, your Bright Futures Scholarship money and Florida Prepaid investments can be applied to private schools as well as public schools. Many private colleges in Florida belong to a group called PCUF that seeks to make private colleges affordable to all students.
Not every student flourishes in a large university setting. It is well worth looking into smaller private colleges. Your ability to find a good fit for your preferences and create relationships often make the (sometimes only slightly) higher cost worthwhile.
AND if you show great interest in a smaller college, you become more than a number. Large state schools use numbers (GPA, SAT/ACT scores) almost exclusively to determine their student body. In small private schools, admissions officers will likely recall conversations you’ve had, so they are more likely to support your cause during the culling process.
Visit the Campus!
If you can possibly set your feet on the campus soil, do so! Every campus has a particular feel. You want to be sure the campus atmosphere resonates with you. Do you feel at home? If not, don’t waste the application fee!
When you visit, be sure to arrange to meet with an admissions officer. And be sure that you set up the meeting and do the talking during your interview/tour, not your mom or dad. This is important.
As soon as you set up a meeting with an admissions officer, the college will start a file on you. You want that file to be supportive of you. Your taking the initiative on setting up meetings and answering (and asking!) questions during the interview will gain you brownie points with your admissions officer, who ultimately should be your advocate.
After you return home from your tour, write your admissions officer a thank you note and reiterate your interest in the college of your dreams. This shows gratitude and builds a relationship with a person who may have the power to admit you...or not.
If you cannot actually travel to the campus community, arrange for a virtual visit. Here are some sites that facilitate virtual college visits (but also be sure to call the admissions officer of the particular school you’d like to visit to hear their suggestions).
Make use of these virtual offerings. Just like a real tour, prepare questions and get the name of an admissions officer from the college of your choice so you have someone to thank and contact at a later date with questions.
Then be sure to contact that person at a later date and ask good questions. Do not ask questions that you can readily find answers in a Google search. Ask questions that show your interest in a particular aspect of their school that only someone who spent time on campus could answer.
Write a Compelling Personal Statement
With more and more colleges becoming test-optional, your personal statement or college entrance essay becomes more and more important.
Don’t hurry through it or push it off until the last moment. Take your time with it and be sure that it reflects an interesting aspect about you that is not evident to someone reading through your Common App.
If you have a great deal of information on your Common App about your involvement as captain of the soccer team, do not write your essay about that. If your commitment to the Key Club was stressed in other parts of your application, do not write about that. You are better off writing about an aspect of yourself that surprises and delights your admissions officer.
Ask yourself questions like these: What do I know more about than most people? What quirky habit do I have that tells a lot about how I approach the world? What have I done that most people would never think of doing? What do I so love doing that the rest of the world disappears as I do it? What article of clothing or piece of jewelry do I have that tells my story?
Or tell a story about a family cooking tradition or your favorite meal or the best birthday you ever had. Try to avoid the topics that most students turn to. Do not write about your performance during a sports event, a summary of your academic and extracurricular activities, or even a missionary trip in which you learned about yourself by helping others.
Why not? Because those topics are so commonplace and too many students write about them. You want your essay to stand out from the hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of other essays your admissions officer may have to review.
If you can’t think of any topics yourself, that’s what we’re here to help you with at College Essay Doc! We have as many exercises and activities as you need to take you through brainstorming until you find the perfect essay topic. Then we help you craft the most compelling composition in your authentic voice.
Click here and sign up for a session with College Essay Doc and write that perfect college entrance essay!