High School is a Tool to get into your Dream College

On popular demand from the children of my older cousins, I am going to be putting up several posts dealing with college admissions. I hope this helps some of you plan for your own applications or those of your kids. These posts especially apply to those students applying to US colleges and universities.

To start, here are a few tips to use the entire four years of your high school to prepare for admissions into a great college.

  1. Maintain your GPA so that you get mainly As and Bs in your grades till you graduate high school. If you get a lower grade, make sure you have a good excuse to explain it away in your college application, and teachers who will back up your story in their recommendation letters.
  2. Be active in extracurricular activities. You do not need to be the social king or queen who is involved in everything that happens at the school. You just need one activity that shows consistent commitment from you.  For instance, you took violin lessons since you were a kid, and then joined the high school orchestra. Or you have been involved in theatre productions throughout the 4 years of high school. Most colleges are looking for smart, well-rounded students, who have a life outside their textbooks.
  3. Start researching colleges, so that you can shortlist which colleges you would like to apply to by the start of your senior year, or earlier. Remember every college has a different atmosphere, a different demographic of students who go there. If there is a specific company you would like to work for in the future, research to see which colleges it picks its employees from.
  4. Connect with your teachers, in class and outside. Most teachers will write a recommendation letter for you just based on your grade in their class. However, the recommendation letter that really makes an impact is from a teacher who knows you well.
  5. Give your SATs in the junior year of high school. That way, if you get a bad score, you still have time to retake the tests during the start of your senior year. Most colleges only consider your highest score in the tests, not how many times you have taken it. It is also a good idea to have a general idea about your shortlisted colleges by now, so you know which colleges require which subject tests in the SAT.
  6. In the summer before your senior year, finalize your list of colleges, so you can address any shortages on your side. Every college will have its own application requirements, with 2-3 recommendations, its specific SAT subject tests, 2-3 essays, etc. Giving yourself ample time before the application deadlines will mean that you do not confuse requirements between colleges and you do not miss anything that was needed. At this time, also make a calendar of application deadlines, making sure to include early admission deadlines of the college you really want to go to. Making this calendar during the summer will allow you to plan ahead of time for those weeks which will be high-pressure for you.

Do any of you older, wiser readers have more tips to add?

In the coming weeks, I will also provide detailed tips on recommendation letters, college essays and other admission roadblocks. Join me back here in a few days for those.

This entry was published on June 20, 2012 at 11:44 am. It’s filed under College, Education, High School and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

7 thoughts on “High School is a Tool to get into your Dream College

  1. "Asian American Admission Officer" on said:

    I love that you’re writing these to help your family! Check out my admissions posts – I used to work as an admission officer for university/colleges:)

  2. Thanks. It seems great minds think alike. Your post is very resonant of the one I am putting up tomorrow. I wrote these posts for another website a few years back, and then pulled them out when the website went bust. At the moment I am just updating them and then reposting.
    I was a high school counselor for a short stint of time, between jobs, but I worked at my university’s admission office for 2-3 years while I was a student.

  3. This is really great! I am actually helping high school seniors with essays and scholarships as they apply to colleges. I just wish I knew some of this stuff; it was mainly my fault for not hunting for them.

    I’m neither older nor wiser, but I will add a few things here. I think it’s essential to visit at least five colleges (the top five of the student’s choice) before making a final decision. No matter how good the college looks on brochures or how much the students brag about it, you never know until you set foot on campus, and preferably stay on campus overnight. Also, it’s important to have safety colleges. Admission at most selective colleges is not guaranteed. So, always a great thing to have realistic safety options.

    Anyways, if you are interested in letting the students know about scholarships, I know about quite a few, most prominently the Gates Millennium Scholarship and QuestBridge. Both are incredible opportunities.

    Also, is there any chances you could perhaps do something similar for college students (undergraduates, and specifically, freshmen). I will be freshman in the fall, and some advice would be beyond helpful!

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Thanks for all the additional advice. I will add this in on the piece I write on selecting the right college.

      By the way, I have been thinking of writing a post on surviving college. Another wordpress blogger was having a hard time, and I left a comment for him and then I realized it could be useful. Come back in the next few days and I should have something.

  4. You’re welcome.

    Also, thanks a lot in advance! 🙂

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