A few years back I published this article on my website. It is still relevant today, so I am publishing it again for my current readers. Enjoy!
Getting an early jump on college prep is the key to getting ahead in the competitive field of college applications. Each year, the number of applications at a wide range of institutions have increased over the previous year and the acceptance rate has dropped.
The stiff competition can be blamed in part on the popularity of the Common Application, which is currently available for use by more than 600 colleges. This makes it easier for students to apply to multiple colleges swelling the application pool.
- Plan way ahead: Start designing your academic route early, even before high school.
In order to plan appropriate high school course selection, you need to determine the level of difficulty required to enter a selective college. Students interested in math or engineering need to complete calculus senior year. In order to do that, students need to be ready for geometry or algebra II as a freshman.
If it is too late for that head start, you can get there by taking the classes needed in summer school. The key is showing a genuine interest in the areas of study you truly love.
At the same time, start thinking over your criteria for college. Getting a jump on the research allows students to build relationships with admissions counselors from colleges of interest who make recruiting visits to high schools or college fairs in your area.
- Weigh the early options choices carefully: Early admission programs, ranging from non-binding early action, which allows the student to defer acceptance until May 1, to binding early decision, which does compel you to attend, are more popular than ever.
Many schools report a huge increase in early applications over last year.
Early decision can allow colleges to secure more than half of their incoming freshmen before December 15, and give applicants an edge over those who apply in the regular round. Be aware that committing to a school in the fall means you won’t be able to compare financial aid offers, which are made in March.
When nudged, financial aid offices will estimate a package before a student applies early decision, and if the award does not meet the family’s need, colleges will release them from the commitment. However, it may be too late to apply to your next favorite choices. Make certain you are really determined to attend a particular college before applying early decision. Otherwise, hold off.
- Demonstrate your interest: The rising tide of applications has college admission counselors questioning a student’s desire to attend.
Sign up for an official campus tour and meet the regional director of admissions. Make your desire to attend known. She/he will be the first one to review your application and the last to defend it before decisions are final.
Follow up throughout the admission process to demonstrate continued interest. Like the college’s Facebook page and begin a dialogue with the regional director of admissions. If you receive recognition for something after you’ve sent in your application, let her/him know about it. This could be recognition that’s academic, athletic, artistic, or for some extracurricular activity.
If not, you will be forgotten.
If you have any other questions about selecting a college, or the admissions process, feel free to contact me through my website at www.Prep4CollegeNow.com or call me at 760.877.7200. I’d love to answer your questions!
Andrea K. Frimmer, M. Ed.
Prep 4 College Now, Inc.
Excerpted from “3 Ways to Make Your College Application a Winner” by Margaret Loftus