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Getting into college can seem like a contact sport, especially when students are competing for limited spaces at prestigious institutions. There are a few steps that a student can take to increase his or her chances at getting into a college of choice. It is important to remember that the college admissions process is extremely complex, and that not getting into college is not a reflection on personal character. Many schools must turn away talented, qualified potential students because of the sheer volume of applications they receive.
Picking the right college is an important step in getting into college. Students should have realistic expectations about where they will be able to go to college, and it is an excellent idea to create a ranked list of schools. While pursuing dream schools such as Ivy League colleges, students can also look at equally excellent colleges with a less well-known reputation. These smaller colleges often offer a comparable education and a great student life experience, and they have higher acceptance rates. There is nothing shameful about applying to a “safety school.”
Students sometimes feel like getting into college starts with grammar school. While it is true that going to high quality grammar and elementary schools will improve a student's chances at getting into college by providing a quality education, high school is the time when it really starts to matter. Students should look at admissions requirements for colleges they are interested in as freshmen, so that they can lay out a schedule which will meet those requirements.
Meeting the requirements, however, is only the first step. Most colleges encourage a diverse education, rich with extracurricular activities and community participation. Students are strongly encouraged to take at least one language in high school, along with music, drama, or another one of the fine arts. Participating in school sports and clubs will also create a well rounded student who has a better chance of getting into college. Also, students should be active in their communities, as employees and volunteers, demonstrating a work ethic and a commitment to community well being.
Testing is a large part of getting into college for many schools. Studying for academic tests should not overwhelm a student, however. Focusing on writing a strong essay and obtaining excellent letters of recommendation may be more important. If a college has minimum test scores, it suggests that testing is a heavily weighted part of the application, meaning that the student should work hard to perform well on exams. Tutoring may help a student do better on standardized tests required by many colleges. However, most colleges have balanced applications, which include an assessment of the essay or essays a student is asked to write, along with letters obtained to recommend the student.
A college essay should be written entirely by the student who is trying to get into college, although a unbiased instructor may look it over for spelling and grammar errors. It should convey the student's character in an interesting and concise way, as well as specifically answering the essay prompt. Given that the essay may be one of the most important things a student writes, the student should take time to do it well. Letters of recommendation are also important, and they should be diverse. Students should try to get letters from teachers, employers, members of the community, and coaches, suggesting a balanced education and lifestyle. Students should also remember that many teachers are asked for letters of recommendation from large numbers of students, and getting the requests in early is highly beneficial, as is providing all the materials a teacher needs.
Some schools also require an interview. If asked to interview, a student should view it as a positive sign, and an opportunity to further impress the college. Students will greatly increase their chances of getting into college by dressing neatly during the interview, as well as showing up on time and asking intelligent, thoughtful questions about the college. An interview is a conversation, and a great opportunity for students to learn more about the college while the college learns more about them.
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