1) Apply to 6 to 8 colleges, minimum.
One of the things that we have found is that it does no good to apply to so few colleges that you don’t get admitted anywhere or admitted to only 1 or 2.
You don’t need to apply to 30 different colleges, and in fact, it can actually hurt you in the long run. But, the ideal amount is to apply to 6 to 8 colleges.
These are things you should look for in colleges that you apply to:
1. Colleges that you have a fairly good shot of getting into;
2. Colleges that have financial aid to give, or are affordable even if you don’t get
3. Colleges that you would be really happy to attend.
2) Visit the Colleges.
Please be sure to visit each of the colleges WHEN THE COLLEGE IS IN SESSION. It does you absolutely no good to visit colleges during summer when no one is around except for the janitor.
You definitely want to visit college when it is in session, even it means you miss a day or two of high school. Also, as part of the visit, take their formal tour, but more importantly, walk around– and at some point lose your parents if they have tagged along– and make sure you get a chance to stick your head in a couple of different classrooms, pretending that you are lost while class is in session, so that you can see what actually happens.
It is also important to stop and get a cup of coffee or a soda somewhere on campus at one of the refreshment facilities so you can also get a feel for what the students are like there. Different colleges will attract totally different students. Remember, these are the students that you will be making friends with, dating, studying with, and possibly bringing home to mom and dad one day; so, you want to hang out with people that you are going to enjoy hanging out with.
Also, if you feel like asking questions, probably the single best question that you could ask is:
“What sort of help will you give me once I have graduated from your college?”
A good college will go into great detail explaining the different alumni programs they have put together, as well as different ways they have of taking care of you-like helping you find a job or get into graduate college– which is a much better answer than a blank stare.
3) How to Get Accepted
In talking to admissions officers, there are several distinct things that you can do to make yourself more desirable to them.
I am going to list these on the points that follow, because you don’t want to have your application rejected because you missed a deadline or you didn’t really impress them:
Apply Early, But Not Early Admission.
Apply early, no later than October 31st of the year before you wish to go to college. Why do we suggest this?
Well, the reason is real simple; everyone loves to procrastinate myself included. You probably are like this too. We love to wait to the last minute on things.
When you are an adult and you are paying your taxes, as long as they are paid by the deadline, it’s no big deal and no benefit to you to get them there early, however, this is different.
The reason is because everybody waits until the last possible second, and then the admissions office gets flooded with applications. They are overworked, cranky, tired, and just want to get through it– so they sometimes don’t give the full amount of attention that they should to each application.
On the other hand, if you get your application in 4 to 6 weeks before the deadline (and by having everything turned in by October 31st, you’ll do just that), you’re going to get them when they are in a much better mood and they have more time to go through your application.
They have actually admitted that this does make a difference particularly because they have a certain number of students that they have to accept each year.
So, if they can get your application approved, that is one less that they have to worry about later and they get to go home earlier so definitely have it in early.
Write a Killer Essay.
An essay is one of the ways that you can really stand out and make yourself appear as an individual, different from all of the other students.
There are two books that almost every admissions officer that we have ever talked to has recommended to us:
The first book is “On Writing the College Application Essay” by Bauld. Be sure to check out his photo on the back once you get the book– you’ll see why– Ha, ha! This is a step by step instruction of how exactly how to write your college essay. He’ll walk you through all of the steps needed and he’ll show you how to do it very, very fast.The second book is “100 Successful College Application Essays” by Christopher Georges. Guess what’s inside? That’s right, 100 successful essays, or in other words, essays that actually got those kids into the college that they were looking at.
You don’t have to actually read this book– unless you need to; and here’s when you would need to– if you get stuck, there is no point in sitting staring at a blank computer screen or a blank sheet of paper for hours. Instead, the minute you find yourself getting writer’s block, pick this book up, find the section that contains the essays that most closely resemble what you are trying to write, and start reading.
You’ll get to see what other kids have written that has gotten them into college. Also, each essay has a note from someone on Harvard’s Staff saying why they liked this essay and why they thought it worked; so you can go through and get some ideas; which will hopefully unblock your brain so you can get back to work writing a great essay–and getting it over with.
Get an Internship or Job in the Area You are Interested
Now this is a touchy area, because it’s going to take some time, but hear me out on this; for a lot of you, you’re looking at possibly pursuing a career in something that you’ve probably never seen first hand before; and the reality is often a lot different than what you’d expect.
In other words, if you watch The Practice or Ally McBeal and see what it looks like lawyers do all day long, that’s not what they really do. You need to see first hand for yourself what the reality of the job is.
So, if you have a career that you’re thinking about pursuing why not getting an internship in that field? Now, here is how you set it up: simply call 3 or 4 firms in that profession and ask.
In other words, if you want to be a lawyer, call 3 or 4 law offices and tell them that you’ll be their unpaid slave for x number of hours per week. In return, you want to see first hand what they do all day long and you expect a good letter of recommendation that you could use later (for college, or a job interview) if you do a good job for them.
Be sure to treat it just like you would a real job that you were getting paid for– show up on time, work your butt off, and stay late if you need to.
This is going to do a couple of things:
1. It will give you some real experience on what the job is really like, so you can see if it’s something worth going to college for. If you love it, great! You’ll have an edge over everybody else both when you apply to college, and even when you get out of college, you’ll be able to tell future employers that “Hey, I’ve been working in this field for 7 years as an intern”, versus everybody else whose barely getting started, so that gives you an added edge.
2. More importantly, if you hate it, we need to find that out now before you end up in college studying for something that you have absolutely no interest in actually doing. If that’s the case, let us know, and we’ll help you research some other careers.
Do well on your SAT’s.
This is also really critical. If I hear one complaint all of the time, it’s that nobody is doing as well as they wish on their SAT’s. If you’d like some help on this, please see us about this, we can recommend some excellent SAT prep courses.
One thing to keep in mind is that the SAT’s aren’t as important as they used to be– so if you do bomb them, don’t stress yourself out. However, we would like to see you do as good as you possibly can– it never hurts and always will help.
That’s what you should be concerned with for now. These are the main items that we’ll be discussing with you and your parents, in addition to doing your college search and career profile. If there is anything else that we can help with, please let us know.