5 Experts Tell Us About College Admissions
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in Fall 2015, around 20.2 million students were expected to attend an American college. This figure has increased by almost 5 million since Fall 2000. With so much competition in admissions, applying to college can seem intimidating. As a result, GraduationSource has partnered with some of the top college application experts asking for the three things they tell students applying to college.
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1. Everyone is different
Whether it’s the size of the school or the personality of the student body, each university is as unique as you are. Be open to exploring colleges that aren’t on your friends’ college lists. Think deeply about the traits that describe your ideal school, not the ideal of others. If you need to, create a description of the type of school you see yourself attending. Then use that description to inform your college search.
2. A good college search/choice is about fit, not selection
The right college for you is the one that meets your academic and career goals, is financially attainable, and suits you personally. “Selective” schools have reached a mythological status in popular culture and largely define what students expect from the college experience. But in truth, students are happiest at schools that offer the degree programs they want, in a comfortable setting, and with a compatible student body. Future success is by no means determined by the selectivity of a school. It’s more likely assured by picking the right school for the right person.
3. Have fun with it
Going to college is exciting, and the college admissions process shouldn’t become a chore or a source of family tension. Try to enjoy the best parts of the experience like visiting colleges and discussing opportunities. Enlist assistance from a counselor if you’re having trouble with the most challenging sections, such as penning your personal statement. If you have fun with the college admissions process, you’re more likely to submit an application that reflects confidence.
1. Be yourself—your best self
Give yourself the time to write, edit, and revise your essays so that they present you in the most effective light. A great time to write your first draft is during the summer before your senior year.
2. There is no magic formula to guarantee admission to a particular school
Keep in mind this is a two-way street. You want to select schools that are the best fit to support your future goals. Colleges want to pick students who they believe are the best fit for their educational community and culture. In either case, a focus on how you will thrive and enhance the campus is the primary concern.
3. Too much extracurricular activity is possible
Remember to balance your participation in activities with strong grades in a rigorous curriculum. A few on-going activities that demonstrate increased leadership and commitment to a cause are better than an assortment of random events.
Dr. Jim Overton
Founder College Consultants of South Carolina, LLC
College Consultants of South Carolina, LLC
1. Look for schools that welcome applicants
While the yearly college ranking lists drive attention to the most selective colleges, some schools in the US are admitting most of the folks who apply. Sure, it’s essential to meet their particular admission requirements. But only a relatively small number of schools are rejecting most who apply. Rather than targeting schools that select only a small percentage of applicants, consider the institutions that welcome applicants.
2. Start your college research before your senior year
Too often student decisions are made based on what family and friends recommend. This method ignores the factors that lead to academic, social, and personal fit for individuals. Knowing how a college fits for you takes time. While there are many print and online resources to help you, you need to spend the time to explore what is available. You need time to visit colleges, either in person or virtually. Even after you have been accepted, go back and revisit the schools to make sure they will be a productive place for you.
3. Opportunities for student engagement are more important than a college’s reputation
The skills you develop are much more important and valuable than the reputation of a school. In 2015, Purdue University released results of their Gallup poll revealing the principle experiences that lead to graduating in four years and being prepared for life after college:
- At least one professor who excited them about learning
- Professors who cared about them as a student
- Working on a project that took a semester or more to complete
- An internship that allowed them to apply what was learned in class
- An opportunity to be active in college extracurricular activities and organizations.
There are many ways high school seniors inadvertently sabotage their admission chances. Here are three that happen with surprising frequency.
1. Social Media
Don’t put anything offensive on your public social media profile. If you insist on exercising your right to freedom of speech, be aware of what it can cost you.
2. Getting the Name Wrong
“And that’s why I really want to attend [name of a different school].” You probably think this happens scarcely? But you’d be wrong. Spend the extra minute to make sure you check the school you name in your application essays.
3. Incorrect Information
The whole point of the application process is to paint yourself as a worthy and well-qualified candidate. To prove that you’re a perfect match, you list out some factoids to represent your accomplishments. Make sure those facts are correct.
David Mainiero (JD, Harvard, BA Dartmouth)
1. Genuinely be yourself in your applications
You should not try to be someone else. Recognizing how others got into school can be helpful as a basis for comparison, but your application must be unique. Far too many students believe that it is advantageous to strictly follow the footsteps of others who have been there before. There is simply no formula for admissions success. Applicants should underscore their individuality and how they’d help contribute something to a graduating class that others cannot.
2. Be Critical of College Admissions Information and Advice
There are tons of people who claim to be experts at college admissions. These sources can be valuable as you seek information about the process. But the best and most direct source of information is the admissions office of the school itself. Because current admissions officers are bound by confidentiality restrictions, they cannot be as helpful to you. Still, they can give general advice and direction about what they are seeking in applicants. Perhaps some of the best information is gathered from former admissions officers, specifically those from the schools to which you are applying.
3. Build Your Candidacy Early
College applications are not just forms to be filled out. They are a blank canvas on which you should paint a picture of your life. Even when candidates understand this premise, they don’t realize that the college application does not begin your senior year of high school. It starts from the moment you set foot on your high school campus. You need to think carefully and strategically about which activities you pursue, and how you advance in the areas in which you are passionate. You should learn about different types of schools, different learning styles, and planning out your time as productively and efficiently as possible. These methods will give you a tremendous advantage over those who have haphazardly planned their college candidacy.