Secrets to Getting into Your Dream College
These 12 tips will improve your odds of getting into your dream college.
- Demonstrated interest. Colleges want to improve their yield, which is the percentage of admitted students who enroll. One way they do this is by looking at demonstrated interest. Obviously, students don’t apply for admission if they aren’t interested. But, additional indications of interest, such as visiting the campus, going on a campus tour and scheduling an optional interview, increase the likelihood that a student will enroll if admitted.
- Apply early. Even if you don’t apply early action or early decision, submit your applications before deadlines. This helps you stand out from the crowd. Do not apply early decision, as it limits your options if the college’s financial aid offer is inadequate. When applying early decision, apply early to a match school, not a reach school, to increase your chances of getting in early. If you get in early, it will eliminate a lot of stress and the need to apply to safety schools.
- Pick three dream colleges. More than 94 percent of college freshmen are enrolled at one of their top three choices. So, if you pick three dream colleges instead of your one-and-only dream college, you will be more likely to get into at least one.
- Apply to your family’s alma mater(s). If your parents or grandparents attended a college, the legacy advantage can be the equivalent of getting an additional 50 points on the SAT.
- Save on application fees. The Cappex Application does not charge any application fees and is accepted by more than 125 colleges and universities.
- Get great grades and test scores. A good high school GPA, especially in core college prep classes, matters most for college admission, followed by the strength of the high school curriculum and admissions test scores. Take Advanced Placement (AP) classes and tests. Not only can you earn college credit, but getting a 4 or 5 on an AP test can improve your chances of getting in. Prepare for college admissions tests by taking practice tests, reading a daily newspaper and practicing with test prep books and classes. Take both the SAT and ACT and submit the better score to increase your chances of admission.
- Don’t dabble in extracurriculars. A perfect GPA and test scores is no guarantee of admission to the most selective colleges. These colleges want to see how you will contribute to the campus community. Your involvement in hobbies, music, sports, volunteering and other activities can be a good indicator of your future contributions to the campus community. But, don’t be a joiner. Depth matters more than breadth. Colleges do not want well-rounded students so much as they want a well-rounded campus population. They want a group of specialists more than a gaggle of generalists. They want world-changers. So, get involved in your community for all four years of high school not just to fulfill a senior year service requirement.
- Ask your teacher for a great letter of recommendation. Most teachers are required to write a letter of recommendation if asked. By asking the teacher if they can write you a great letter of recommendation, you give them a way out if the letter would be lukewarm. If they hesitate, ask them for suggestions of teachers who could write you an enthusiastic letter of recommendation. If they say yes, provide them with a copy of your accomplishments resume, so they can mention your accomplishments in their recommendation.
- Enter essay competitions throughout your high school years. Writing scholarship essays provides great practice for college admissions essays. Answer the essay question out loud while recording the answer and then transcribe the result. This will yield a more vivid and passionate response. Most people speak much faster than they can write or type, so the act of writing interferes with the flow of thought. Tell a story in your essays, giving specific examples. Weave a tapestry that combines threads from your past, present and future to show your path.
- Proofread your application. Your application will succeed or fail based on the words you write. Spelling and grammar errors will give a bad impression. Ask a parent and a teacher to proofread your application. Print out the essay so that it looks different than it does on your computer screen. This will make it easier to detect problems. Do not rely on the spelling and grammar correction tools built into your word processing software, as they often miss valid-word spelling errors, such as it’s/its, friend/fried and their/there/they’re.
- Google yourself. College admissions offices are increasingly checking out the social media presence of applicants to look for red flags and to learn more about them. Clean up your Facebook and Twitter accounts, deleting inappropriate posts. Use a professional email address based on your name, not an offensive meme.
- Don’t give up if you are waitlisted. There’s still a chance you can be admitted off of the waitlist. Make sure the college knows that you are still very much interested in enrolling. Update them with significant new developments.