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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.