Road to College: How to Choose and Apply to College

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How to Choose and Apply to College:

When choosing a college, you’ll want to look for a program that meets your academic and social goals.  The simple rule of applying to colleges, however, is to find more than one that fit your criteria. Applying to only one school is never a safe choice and is not highly recommended.  Similarly, applying to too many schools indicates that you don’t care which school you get into, as long as you get into one.  

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College recruiters typically love the schools they work in, so they want to accept those they feel love their school too. A good rule of thumb is to apply to three to five schools to show you care where you go while leaving yourself options. Sometimes, these “options” are referred to as safety schools.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

A Challenging High School Curriculum

Schools want to know you did more than just attend classes.  They want to know if any of those classes were accelerated or advanced. Be sure to mention in your application if you were involved in AP, Honors, or other accelerated programs.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Good Grades

Not only do schools want to know if the courses you took were advanced, admissions officers want to know how well you did in school. More important than good grades is the fact that you maintained consistently good grades or that your grades show an upward trend from freshman to senior year. You don’t have to have the best GPA to be considered––you just need to show that you are always improving. Colleges like to see improvement.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Good Standardized Test Scores

Great grades are one thing, SAT’s and PSAT’s are another.  Nearly all four-year schools require that an SAT be taken, prior to being considered for admission.  If you didn’t take these tests or performed poorly on them, you might consider attending a two-year college first.  Most two-year colleges don’t require SAT scores and the majority of four-year schools don’t require an SAT score, if you already have an associate degree.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Extracurricular Activities

Schools like knowing you did more than just go to school and do what was expected of you.  They like knowing you joined a group, started a club, or played on a sports team.  These activities show that you’re outgoing, sociable, and willing to involve yourself in group activities.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Community Service

Doing your part to serve your community is a shining star on your application.  Schools love admitting students who have helped others, locally and beyond.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Internships and Work Experience

Colleges are also big fans of internships.  Getting an internship shows you tried to test out a potential major/career path before applying to their program.  It also lets admissions officers know that you’ve have thought your education through.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Essays

Some schools require multiple essays on different subjects as well as general essays on why you want to go to their college.  Essays are a major part of the application process and can help you gain acceptance to schools if you have a low GPA . In the end, it’s important that you take the time to compose well-written essays that highlight your goals and writing capabilities.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Standard Recommendations

You will also need to reach out to teachers, guidance counselors, and former or current employers for a letter of recommendation. Colleges love to hear why you think you should attend their school.  However, it’s also important that those who you’ve worked with think you’d be a good fit as well.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Additional Recommendations

Sometimes, schools ask to see how you have engaged with adults, beyond teachers and counselors, who think highly of you. Whether this letter comes from a friend’s parent, a family friend or another trusted figure, colleges want to see other adults supporting your decision to attend their school.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Awards or Honors

Schools want to know if you’ve won any awards for merit, scholastic achievement, sports, or the like. Items like this do wonders to boost your chances of being accepted.


Finding the Right Fit

An important factor for you to consider is your degree of personal happiness and comfort at a school. Once you’re a resident, the campus will become your home.  So if you don’t feel at home before you become a student, enrolling may bring more emotional/psychological harm than it is worth.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Having Doubts About Your College Choices

Having doubts about your college choice is completely normal.  If you have questions when you visit, talk to someone who does not have a stake in your attendance.  If a friend, relative, or former classmate recently graduated from the school, tell them what’s bothering you.  Hopefully, they can satisfy your curiosity and quell any doubts. However, if you still have doubts after talking to an alum, don’t attend the school.  It’ll be a huge waste of personal energy and investment if you back out or don’t finish. If, after a few years, you change your mind, you can always transfer.  

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges

Visit Campus and Do Your Research

For this reason, it’s a good idea to visit each campus you apply to. Sometimes, this isn’t possible, due to cost or distance. In these cases, it’s recommended that you go over the school’s website from top to bottom and seek out external reviews from current and former students. When it’s all said and done, you’re hoping that the school meets your criteria and you meet theirs.

The 10 Factors to Consider When Applying to Colleges
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