Navigating the College Admissions Process: Tips and Tricks

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By sadia

Navigating the College Admissions Process

Getting ready to apply for college is something that students are preparing for earlier and earlier every year. Some parents start preparing their children for college even before high school begins, but that is not necessary. If you are already in high school and are starting to think about it, then you are right on track. The college admissions process starts long before you start paying admission fees and sending in your applications, so read through these tips and tricks to help you navigate the college admissions process.

Start Early

Some students decide which college they want to go to when they are young, whether it’s because it’s where their parents went or because it’s home to their favorite sports team. Some students decide on a college because it offers a specific academic program that will lead them to their dream career or because it is close to home, (or as far from it as possible). No matter the reasons for choosing a college, you should start doing research on different colleges and making a list of the ones you are interested in around sophomore year.

As you do research, you can also start to set up a timeline of how long you have to achieve your ideal GPA or grade point average, plan for standardized tests, and make application deadlines. Planning for standardized tests is one of the most important pieces in the puzzle that is college admissions because if you do not achieve your desired score, you will have to take it again the next year. By starting early, you are ensuring that you are leaving room for error, even if you don’t end up needing it in the end.

Take Advice from Others

The great thing about the college application process is that it has been around for a long time and you definitely know someone in your life who has been through it before. Do not be afraid to ask friends and family about their experience with the process and ask for advice. Other sources of information on college admissions are blogs and advice websites. Check out websites like a College Blog where real people talk about their college experiences and how they dealt with certain issues related to college admissions. Most questions you have can likely be answered in these kinds of blogs.

Understand Standardized Tests

The two important standardized tests that all high school students must take to get into college are the SAT and the ACT. Preparing for these tests can be done in many different ways, but many students choose to take test prep courses outside of school or get tutors in the months leading up to the exams. Other exam preparation methods include buying practice exams, making study guides, and dedicating a few hours a week to studying the general information that could be on the exams. Students who take the time to prepare and understand the formatting of these exams generally perform better on testing day.

The safest course of action for these exams is to plan to take them for the first time in the spring of your junior year. This way, if you do not get the score you want, you will have another year to study more and hopefully get a better score your senior year. When planning for these exams, it is important to remember that they cost money each time. Some students may need to save up some money to make sure they can afford to take the exams if their parents cannot afford to help them out.

The ACT exam takes just under three hours and the SAT exam takes around two and a quarter hours to complete. For the ACT exam, you can take an additional forty hours to do an optional essay section to further show off your abilities. These exams can be very stressful but are necessary for college admission.

Choose Your High School Courses Wisely

Starting as early as sophomore year, start taking advanced courses like AP or Advanced Placement and IB or International Baccalaureate classes. If you take these classes and you do well, they will look great on your college application and they can help you bypass many prerequisite classes that everyone has to take during their freshman year of college. Taking on harder courses in high school can help you have more choices in your college years.

Maintain Your Grades

Keeping good grades throughout high school is key to being accepted into your dream school. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is the standard requirement for most colleges, but having at least a 3.5 or more is required for some of the top universities in the country. Taking courses like the ones mentioned above is a great way to boost a GPA score because they are worth more than regular high school classes. Even if you start high school with lower grades, there is time to redeem yourself if you turn your academics around early enough.

Participate in Extracurricular Activities

Having perfect grades is great, but colleges are more interested in more well-rounded students. A person who has good grades but participates in sports and the arts may have a better chance of getting into a good college than someone who has great grades but no extracurricular activities to speak of. Starting at the beginning of high school, try to get involved with a sport, even if it is just for fun and not to be competitive. Being a teammate on a sports team helps young people to develop interpersonal and communication skills.

If sports are not your thing, try joining the drama club. Participating in a play or musical gives students the opportunity to understand the hard work that is put into making a big production and encourages teamwork while all participants work hard to pull everything together. Having experiences like these will prove to admissions officers that a student has had life experience besides studying, making them more prepared to jump into college life where there are even more extracurricular opportunities. 

Every student is different and their college admissions processes are not linear. There may be setbacks and rejections but they will all lead you to an acceptance letter from the college that you are meant to be at. Good luck and remember to put your best foot forward.