Take some of the stress out of applying to college by getting an early start. Turning the focus on college admittance at the start of your junior year will give you time to visit the colleges you like and start preparing your resume. This will also give you time to start thinking about your admittance essay. You’ll be able to prep for the SAT and ACT admissions tests and retake them if you don’t like your first scores. You’ll also want to get to know the school counselors and teachers who can write a letter of recommendation for you.
Organize your search by making a folder for each college you research and filing information such as their entrance requirements and costs. Here are 9 tips that will improve your chances of getting into the college of your choice.
- Get the best grades you can during all four years of high school. The importance of grades, especially in core college or university prep classes, cannot be overstated. Take rigorous courses all four years such as college prep, Advanced Placement (AP), honors, and International Baccalaureate (IB). Admissions officers look first for good grades, followed by the strength of the high school curriculum and admissions test scores.
- Practice for the SAT or ACT admissions tests. Use online SAT or ACT study materials and take free online practice tests. Use test prep books and classes. Review the types of material covered and the test directions. Take advantage of tutors and prep courses before or during your junior year. Take the PSAT during your sophomore year.
- Take both the SAT and ACT to boost your chances for admission. You may do better on one test than the other and colleges will accept either test. Schedule the SAT or ACT early enough so that you can take them more than once if you are not satisfied with your scores. Competitive colleges may require you to take SAT Subject Tests and AP Tests. Top colleges accept AP scores of five (5).
- Get involved. Track your involvement in your school and/or community during all four years and summer vacations. Take part in extracurricular and co-curricular activities, hobbies and sports. Volunteer in your community. Move up to leadership positions. Demonstrate growth. Develop a deep interest or talent in one or more areas.
- Put effort into your college essays. They offer you the chance to sell yourself to your chosen college. Use specific examples to show your path. Make it interesting. Edit and rewrite. Proofread carefully. Spelling and grammatical errors will make a bad impression. Get feedback on the essays from your teachers and school counselor.
- Ask for recommendations. Approach your school counselor and teachers who know you well. If they say yes, provide them with an accomplishment resume of your athletics, activities, community service and leadership positions that they can mention. If they hesitate, ask them to suggest teachers who could write an enthusiastic recommendation for you.
- Proofread your application. Ask a parent or a teacher to proofread your final application before submittal.
- Prepare for on-campus interviews. If your college requires an interview, review your essays and information you have on the college. Dress professionally, be friendly and articulate. Send thank you notes or e-mails after the interview and express your continuing interest.
- Clean up your social media. Erase posts that may be inappropriate from your Facebook and Twitter accounts and delete questionable photos from Instagram. Admissions offices are turning to social media to learn more about applicants.