How to Get into the College of Your Choice

ResourcesPlanning for College

The advantages to a college education are obvious and well documented. But if you need more convincing regarding its value, in 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that adults with a bachelor’s degree earned over $20,000 more annually than adults with only a high school diploma. If you’ve decided that college is for you, how do you get into the one you want? Here are five tips that will help you secure your future by getting into the college of your graduates

1. Try working closely with your high school guidance counselor. Your counselor can do a number of things to help optimize your chances of getting into the college of your choice. First, they can help advise you on which classes you should take while still in high school. They can also help you with college options, and even your overall strategy for success. It’s also great that they can write recommendations and communicate with colleges about your applications.

2. Develop a theme for your school-related activities. If you’re an art lover, you can take painting or drawing classes, and volunteer or work at a museum. When you do your application essay, refer to this theme. It shows initiative and an organized thoughtful mind.

3. Get involved in extracurricular activities. The number of activities isn’t important. In fact, less may be more. It’s tempting to overload yourself with activities, but the stress can be counterproductive. Colleges want to see you do well, not spread yourself thin.

4. Make and Use Your Connections. If you have friends and/or family who have attended the college of your choice, talk to them and pick their brains to see if they can give you an edge. Work these connections, and ask for recommendations.

5. Avoid Undue Stress. Knowing what you don’t need to worry about is important as well. According to Peter Van Buskirk, a former admissions dean at Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, there are a couple things that are a bit overrated:

  • Firstly, your SAT scores aren’t as important as they once were. “Many colleges are saying that such standardized tests are no longer useful and, to prove it, they have made the submission of test scores optional,” says Van Buskirk. Research the testing requirements of the schools you are targeting. But you will most likely want to take the test regardless.
  • Secondly, do you really need to stress over your college entrance essay? Even though you need to put together a cogent document, the essay has more potential for upside than downside… unless you really drop the ball.

“Only about 20 percent of the submitted essays truly make a difference in who gets in,” says Van Buskirk. “The faculty at a college or university really wants to make sure that I can bring them students who can write.”

The objective for students is to create an essay that the admissions faculty will want to read. They are busy people, so you need to develop something that will catch their eye, and keep it.



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