Preparing For College

By: Henley Holland

Throughout life, people often find themselves having to face their fears. For many modern high schoolers, when their senior year creeps up, they are faced with one of their worst fears: Can I get into college?

You can’t get in if you don’t apply, and that process itself can be daunting. The most important thing to keep in mind when you are filling out applications is that a jack of all trades is a master of none. In other words, the best thing for your application is not to have as many random activities as possible, instead focus on making your application have a theme that ties into your passion. Make it demonstrate who you are and what you to do, quality over quantity is extremely important here. For example, a student wanting to go to school for business will be better off listing off awards and commendations from local and state competitions, rather than focusing on four different art clubs they were a part of. Tailor your application to show your interests and how they will translate into your intended major and future career. Try to cut down on the activities that are less directly related, they will distract from the main theme of your application.

The next thing to consider is how you have received your community service hours. Colleges like to see multiple hours, over an extended period of time with one organization or activity. For instance, spending 3 hours each week during the summer reading to children at a hospital will look better than 20 hours in 3 days at a soup kitchen over Thanksgiving break. Don’t get me wrong, both are important contributions, and if you can do both, you should, but colleges want to see some commitment and passion when it comes to community service. It demonstrates your responsibility and dependability more effectively than random one-time community service opportunities. Don’t forget to take initiative with these opportunities and search for ways to gain leadership experience. This will show not only dedication, but the ability to take control of the resources given to you and make the best of them.

When filling out an application, there are multiple opportunities for students to personalize and humanize themselves with essays, extracurriculars, and more. As you complete these sections, keep in mind your intended major, then select and highlight the activities that will best support your interest in this major. An aspiring marine biologist would want to emphasize their time volunteering at an aquarium, not the time they spent as a fashion intern. This can be a difficult process, but once a major theme is established, building the framework that showcases a student’s character and passion for their interests will make for a much more dynamic application.

Another important factor are entrance exams. Don’t forget to take both the ACT and SAT. Each test is different, and students should gives themselves the opportunity to determine which they are more comfortable with. Once they establish a preference for one test or the other, it’s a good idea to take it at least twice. More often than not, the score improves on the second test, as the student is more familiar with the test structure. As a bonus, many colleges superscore standardized tests. This means they take the highest score from each subsection of the test, regardless of when it was taken, and they will make a new, potentially higher composite score. This will benefits students greatly, just be sure to find out if the colleges you are applying to do not require all tests to be reported, as the first time around taking the test might not be the most accurate representation your potential.

Another factor, grades. Ideally, your grades should show an upward trend throughout high school, so do not slack your senior year! That is one of the most flagrant red flags for colleges, a student that does not put their best foot forward as often as possible will not be a good investment for their college. It shows not only a lack of responsibility, but also raises questions as to whether or not you will be prepared to attend their college and be successful. So don’t let senioritis take the wheel, as it will crash your college aspirations deep into a ditch.

There are so many factors to keep in mind when striving to get into college. But if you focus on some of the more important ones, the rest will fall into line. Consider these things when crafting your college application and the process will be less overwhelming for everyone involved. The easier you make it for college admissions to understand who you are as a person and student, the more likely you are to stand out from the hundreds of others of students applying.

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