Applying this Fall? 6 Tips to Get You Ahead of the Game
Okay, future college applicants. We are over a month into the New Year and most of us have fallen off the wagon in terms of our New Year’s resolutions. We’re still getting to bed too late, and we still can’t find our new workout clothes underneath those pizza boxes.
So what? Nobody follows those resolutions anyway!
But, if there is one place where you should follow through and get an early start: it’s with your college planning.
While you can start running those miles this summer after realizing your swimsuit is a little too tight, if you want to be most competitive for the fall, there are a few things you should start early. Like now…
I can’t push the cake away from you (and wouldn’t dare – you deserve it), but here are a few things I will push towards you to start if you’re applying to college this fall.
1. Keep your grades high and take challenging classes
Nothing can torpedo your college admissions chances than not doing well academically in your last full year. Yes, this is your last full year because you will be applying this winter and have only one semester of your senior year. So stay focused, especially in any honors classes.
Remember how you used to ride bikes and try to avoid hills going up so that you can find the ones going down? Well, admissions officers are the opposite: They love upward trends and avoid rapid descents. So continue to push yourself with your grades and studying. Drake’s “Started at the bottom, now we’re here” will only work if the here is much higher than the bottom. Yes, that was the obligatory pop-culture reference.
2. Take your SAT/ACT now and get the score you need
Hopefully, your school has you doing this already, but if you’re old enough to drive, date, and grow facial hair, and then you’re old enough to take responsibility for this one. Take your SAT or ACT (or both if you’re the super Type A) now and do well. Don’t wait until your senior year to cram it in because nothing dampens the year of lasts (“Last September party”, “Last party with the soccer team”, “Last Columbus Weekend Party”) like needing to wake up that Saturday in your senior year to take that darn SAT.
Give yourself a chance to enjoy your senior year a bit. Take the SAT now.
3. Take leadership in your activities
It’s time to start acting like a boss in those hallways! Seriously – if you’ve been a member of some school clubs and never taken a leadership role (sports, band, government, science club, math Olympiad for those of you/us who are more geekier), this is the time. Carpe Diem…sorry YOLO!
Admissions officers like to see progression in responsibility. Don’t think that you’ve done your part by just being a member of a club and coasting until you graduate. You cannot. Run for a position, volunteer to lead a project or activity your club has never done before, and follow through. You will likely have a bit more freedom and fun, anyway: you roll around school like Rick Ross with the matching Louis Vuitton glasses. Don’t wear the gold chains – it’s a bit too much.
4. Build relationship with your recommenders – you will need them soon
Ever compare a steak seasoned in 5 minutes with one seasoned overnight? If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll just have to trust me that the overnight tastes much, much better. It’s the same with a relationship. Invest in your potential recommender targets now. Tell them your plans, volunteer to help them in your class or activity and take their class seriously–you’ll see the benefits!
I had a teacher in high school whose class I did well in, but who I basically ignored my whole junior year. I knew that he enjoyed interacting with students who showed interest in chemistry, but I really couldn’t be bothered: too many parties, too much hanging out and no time to talk to him after class about isotopes and chemical equations. Guess who couldn’t be bothered when I asked him for a recommendation a few months later? Shocked can’t begin to describe how I felt.
Be a better planner than I was. Start seasoning that steak early and you will reap the delicious results.
5. Establish a network of peers to help you through the process
Your teachers, parents, and advisor mean well, but nobody knows what it’s like for you to balance everything (class, sports, fun, pressure) like your classmates and peers. Don’t let the cheesy competition rhetoric ruin potential friendships and alliances. Yes, you may be applying to similar schools, but you likely won’t be targeting all of the same ones. And frankly, even if you are, there are still enough spots. Take the time to develop a network of friends who are either applying to similar schools or who have similar interests. And find students at those schools too if you can.
On Admit.me, you can find these allies online based on your interests and goals. It’s a social networking platform for college and graduate school applicants. You really shouldn’t ever apply alone, and now’s the time to make sure it doesn’t happen.
6. Visit more schools early on
Senior year goes by in a whirl as you’re trying to pack in the memories, pack in your classes and activities, and try to hang out with folks while you still remember their names. What often becomes a nuisance to fit in are those college visits to your dream schools as well as the ones that you’re just not sure about.
So, do yourself a favor and visit in the spring of your junior year. You will likely have a bit more fun as you don’t feel the senior year pressure and the college students will be a bit more relaxed and giving of their time as the weather warms and summer is on the horizon. The parties are better. Seriously.
You also have the chance to build a relationship with current college students who may be able to put in good word for you if you need it (i.e. if you’re waitlisted, etc…).
Are you ready?
So there’s always next year for just about every resolution on your list, except for the prep time for college. Lay the groundwork now to have an epic senior year while still getting ready for the best years of your life at the college of your dreams.
Never Apply Alone,
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