However, people who think they know everything there is to know about getting into college may not really know as much as they think.
- NOT A JOKE: Well-rounded kids are not who colleges are looking for.
Colleges want students who excel at something. Why? Because colleges want a well-rounded class and it’s easier to put one together by choosing kids who are easy to identify: athletes, artists, musicians, mathematicians, leaders, activists, etc. In one word, they want passion. To demonstrate passion, a student needs to show commitment. They’d rather see a student with one or two activities they’re dedicated to and in which they’ve achieved a leadership position than a laundry list of activities. Other factors that round out a class include geographic, racial, ethnic and economic diversity.
- NOT A JOKE: Essays do count.
The essay is what makes a student unique. Grades and GPAs are numbers that help colleges sort students into groups. The resume gives the college an idea of what a student’s interests are, and if they were able to stick with activities and succeed in them. The essay is an incredible opportunity for students to stand out and make themselves memorable. Make sure it is well thought out, coherent, captivating, and positive. The essay is an opportunity for a student to show a different side of him or herself and tell why a college should pick him or her.
- NOT A JOKE: It’s a buyer’s market
Don’t believe it when the media says it’s harder than ever to get into college. Highly competitive schools may not accept a high percentage of the students who apply, but there are hundreds of colleges out there. Many colleges are actually worried about getting enough enrollments, including many excellent and well-regarded schools. Students can use the situation to their advantage. Families who look beyond the most selective colleges may also find more options for financial aid
- NOT A JOKE: Admission officers may check a student’s social media.
Admissions offices are checking out applicants’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts. This is especially true if a student is being seriously considered for prestigious scholarship awards at a school. All inappropriate pictures, objectionable comments, or mean posts should be deleted.
- NOT A JOKE: Even competitive private colleges may be cheaper than you think.
Families should not get discouraged by the high sticker prices at colleges. This is a big mistake because many colleges with the highest sticker prices offer the lowest net prices to certain students, like those who do not have a lot of money. The sticker price is the total yearly cost of a college education. This price includes the total cost of yearly tuition, books, room and board, and any fees the campus might charge like a parking permit or library card fee. The net price is the sticker price minus a student’s financial need, scholarships, grants, and other forms of aid from the total. The net price is what a student will actually pay to attend a college. This truth even applies to the Ivy League schools. Look at the net price calculator on a school’s website. Students can use this tool to estimate their net price to attend a particular college or university.
- NOT A JOKE: The application process starts in freshman year.
The sooner a student starts preparing for the application process the better. In ninth grade everything starts to count, from extracurricular activities to summers. Students need to create a four-year plan with their goals in mind. This includes planning the right academic coursework, meaningful summer activities, extracurriculars and more. All four years of high school are needed in order to become a competitive applicant. Keep in mind, even ninth grade grades count in calculating a GPA. It’s also never too early to start to meet, become friends, and make a good impression on teachers. When applying to college, letters of recommendation are usually required.
- NOT A JOKE: Colleges want to hear from students.
More and more colleges are tracking the number of times a student has contacted them. Contact points include attending a college fair and filling out a form to receive more information, meeting with the college representative, or attending a campus visit. When a student shows interest, the college believes the student is more likely to attend. In general, colleges accept a certain number of students knowing that only some of them will actually attend. However, the more students who attend a college after being accepted, the better it looks for that college’s rankings. Students who show interest in a school, gain extra points in the admissions process.