College admissions are the first step you take towards your future after high school and it should be well planned so you can charter the course of your future. But these days, students tend to get into a feverish frenzy about college admissions. And naturally so since getting accepted can be challenging. E.g., the number of applicants at Harvard University was 43,330 in 2019 of which just 2,009 were admitted.
So, here are 8 things you should know about college admissions that may ease your journey:
1. Select the right high school
College admissions cannot begin a year or two year before you plan to venture out. You should ideally begin planning four years before you actually send out college admissions.
Get down to serious business from the word go.Select the right high school, as what curriculum is taught at high school is an important factor that the college admissions offices consider. Taking IB classes is a good idea as it will stretch you to your limits and prepare you well for studying abroad and showcase your potential to the college admissions office.
2. GPA matters
Perform well in all your high school years and not just in the last two years. You cannot undo these grades and it will be out there for all to see in your transcripts. There’s no way you can fudge transcripts.
If you underperform in the first year, be sure to do progressively well in the following years as colleges want assurance of your commitment to strive and do well. Consistent improvement in performance is what the college admissions offices look for.
3. Choose the college you want to study at
Based on your inclinations as well as your aptitude, you will have a fair idea of what higher studies you want to pursue. Discuss your options with your family, teachers, and counselor and then begin perusing the colleges you may want to study at. Doing this research is vital, as you must have a list of 8-10 colleges that you will finally send college admissions to and know what their test score requirements are in advance.
Your list should comprise:
- Dream colleges where your academic scores may not match the required average range
- Match colleges where your academic scores will match the required average range
- Safety colleges where your academic scores will be way above the required average range
Besides addressing your academic credentials while choosing the colleges, be sure to ensure that each of these colleges feels like you will fit in well there and that the college offers what you are looking for.
4. Your SAT/ACT scores are important
While your GPA is important for college admissions, your SAT/ACT scores are even more so. Prepare hard for the exam and take as many practice tests as possible so you have an idea of your progress and have the chance to improve and get the best possible scores when you take the exam. But be aware that only good SAT/ACT scores cannot guarantee you getting college admissions. One advantage of having good scores is that it can help you in getting financial aid if you will be applying for it.
5. Extracurricular activities are a must
How you spend your spare time is a reflection of your personality. So the college admissions offices look hard at your extracurricular activities. Quantity is not key here but how you utilize your time and on what is. It could be sports, music, a hobby or doing community work but pursuing it with passion will reflect your intent.
Working during your summer holidays is positively an asset. It will take your application a few notches higher up in the competitive race for college admissions.
6. Preparing college applications
You will have the choice of applying early or meeting the regular deadline. Once you’ve decided on which deadline you will meet, make a file for each college that you will be applying to and list out the required admission documents in each file.
Usually, most college application requirements are:
- High school transcripts
You will have to earmark a month for procuring this as your high school has to prepare it. Since this will have to be handed over to you in a tamperproof envelope, your school admin office may take even longer to give it. And if you have studied in multiple high schools, then you will have to procure transcripts from each school.
- Score reports
Peruse the requirements for college admissions as colleges tend to have varying requirements – it could be SAT subject tests or the SAT/ACT essay. You will have to take the TOEFL exam too.
- Letters of recommendation
Carefully select who you will request for a letter of recommendation – you will need 2-3 such letters. Be sure to include the exact number of letters of recommendation requested – nothing more or less. It is best to get your Class 11 and Class 12 teachers and perhaps your counselor or high school supervisor, all of whom know you well and will be able to write out a detailed account about you and help the college admissions office get an insight into you as a student from a teacher’s point of view. All college admissions offices depend on the letters of recommendation to give them an insight about you so it is pointless to seek this letter from a non-academic person who will be in no position to recommend your academic credentials.
- Application essay
Most college admissions request for an essay where they give you open-ended statements and ask you to choose any one of them and write around 650-700 words. Use the essay as a door to open up about yourself to allow the college admissions office the opportunity to understand what has shaped you into who you are and how you have dealt with situations. Ideally use one situation or many life events to make your point relevant and real. Write with passion rather than being factual and drab so the college admissions office can sense your personality and passion while reading it.
A resume comes in handy for college admissions offices since they can peruse your profile at a glance. Ensure that you include information about yourself that is not there in your transcripts or essay. Limit it to a single pager if possible.
7. Seeking financial aid
Studying abroad is an expensive proposition so while you are selecting colleges, check the financial aid offered to international students and when the applications for aid have to be made. Mostly financial aid applications are part of the college admissions and you could miss the bus if you don’t apply for it when you send in your college application.
8.Choosing a college
Once you’ve completed climbing the first mountain and reach the peak with acceptance letters pouring in from the colleges you applied to, it’s time to celebrate with all who helped you in the process and further seek their advice in choosing a college. Before choosing a college, learn more about the college, interact with students studying there, be aware of their financial aid packages, check how you feel about fitting in there and most importantly how well the college will help you realize your career goals.
College admissions are just the beginning of the long road ahead of studying hard and doing well at college and then pursuing your dream job. All that follows college admissions are pivoted on it. So give it all you have and there will be no looking back.
Watch this video about what college admissions office look for: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0c8WnxLsH0
Watch this video about how a college admissions office takes decisions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-OLlJUXwKU