Based on the current state of college admissions, we know that it’s more competitive than ever for students to get accepted at their dream schools. Strong grades, impressive course rigor, and top test scores are still key to getting those acceptances from top schools, but what else can students do to stand out? Take a look at the top ways to strengthen your college application from the experts at C2.
Explore All Your Options
It’s important to explore all your options. There are around 4,000 colleges in the U.S., so don’t limit yourself to just a handful of big-name schools. Keep an open mind because oftentimes, the school you end up falling in love with might be one you hadn’t even heard of until you started researching. And try to visit campuses. Visit big schools, small schools, urban schools, rural schools, schools you love, schools you’ve never heard of. This will help you to see what you really love or don’t particularly like about a school.
Include Safety Schools
Include safety schools on your college list. Super selective schools are reach schools for everyone, no matter how great your grades and test scores might be, so it’s important to hedge your bets. But remember: selectivity and quality aren’t the same thing. Just because a school might not be selective does not mean it isn’t a great school with awesome programs and engaged campuses. In fact, many safety schools are AMAZING schools.
Take the Test
At test optional schools, good test scores boost your chances for admission. And if you won’t be applying to college for a while yet, it’s best to assume that you might not have the option to skip testing at all of the schools on your list. Plan and prepare to take the SAT® and/or the ACT®. This is a key way to strengthen your college application.
Make the Right Course Choices
Early spring likely is when you’ll choose your classes for next school year. Give it a lot of thought and make purposeful choices. Take the most challenging courses that you can reasonably handle – don’t tank your GPA but make sure you’re challenging yourself. If your school doesn’t offer the course rigor you might hope for, look elsewhere. Lots of community colleges have dual enrollment agreements with local high schools or will welcome high school students into their classes. And as you choose your courses, be sure you’re developing your academic interests. If your goal is to be an engineering major, you’re better off taking electives in STEM subjects than, say, AP® Art History.
Maximize your GPA
Grades are perhaps the most important part of your application because without great grades, none of the other components of your application will get you through the admissions process.
- First, remember that what’s done is done. There’s no sense beating yourself up over last semester’s grades. All you can do is make sure you reach your goals going forward.
- Evaluate what’s working and what’s not. What classes are you doing well in? What are you doing differently that’s helping you succeed? Make yourself a realistic study schedule and get organized. One of the biggest enemies to your GPA probably isn’t your ability to do the work but your ability to get it done on time and without losing or overlooking anything.
- If you’re struggling, don’t wait to ask for help. The longer you struggle, the further behind you’ll fall, and the harder it will be for you to bring your grades back up.
Be Passionate About Your Interests
Your activities should reflect the things you’re interested in, so do what you love. Dive deep into your favorite extracurricular activities without worrying about “what colleges want to see.” What colleges really want to see is students who have explored and developed their interests so that they bring passion to campus. Showing your passion is a key way to strengthen your college application.
Craft Stellar Essays
Take the time to craft stellar essays. Remember that you’re not writing a doctoral thesis—you’re writing a compelling personal story. You should be yourself—be yourself with perfect grammar and spelling, but still be yourself. And get support in the process. Fellow students—hopefully ones who write well—teachers, tutors—these are all people who can give insight, feedback, and support.
Give Your Teachers the Tools You Need
To ensure great teacher recommendations, give your teachers the tools they need. Cultivate good relationships with your teachers so that you aren’t just another face in the crowd. Keep notes or write down interesting events from your classes. These kinds of records can help you write great brag sheets, which can make your teachers’ task far easier by reminding them of why you’re one of their best students.
Make Interviews Count
Make your interviews count. If you’re able to do an interview, do it.
- Prepare yourself ahead of time by researching the types of questions your interviewer might ask, asking previously admitted students about their interview experiences, and thoroughly researching the school so that you can demonstrate your commitment to attending.
- Know how to answer common interview questions like “what is your greatest weakness” – but don’t write yourself a script. After all, it’s important that you be yourself—the interview is a way for the school to get to know you better.
- Finally, remember that the person interviewing you is likely a dedicated alumni, staff member, or current student—they have passion for their school, and they will appreciate you more as an applicant if you share in that passion.
Interested in learning more ways to strengthen your college application? Watch this webinar!
C2 Education specializes in college counseling services. Our experts help students plan their academic journey with the ultimate goal of getting accepted to their dream school. Reach out to your local C2 Education center to get started today!