1. Show Interest!
If you have the grades, test scores, and other qualifications for admission, sometimes the thing that pushes your application over the edge is your interest in the school. Colleges are ranked in part based on how many admitted applicants actually enroll, so if you’re well qualified but you haven’t demonstrated a lot of interest in attending the college, you might get passed over for an applicant who seems more interested. How can you show interest? Apply through early action programs (be careful of early decision, which is binding), go on an official campus tour, or include a brief addendum to your application stating your sincere interest in attending the school. Even small acts like following the school on social media can help to indicate a greater degree of interest.
2. Be careful when applying through Early Decision programs.
Unlike Early Action programs, Early Decision programs are binding. If you get into the school, you have to go (with the exception of an inadequate financial aid package). Once your application is submitted through an Early Decision program, the entire decision making process is out of your hands. If you have second thoughts in the spring, it’s already too late. Early Decision programs should only be used by those students who are absolutely 100% certain that this is the school they want to attend.
3. Keep finances in mind.
The college admission process ought to be entirely about merit and achieving one’s dreams, but colleges come with very real price tags. Many students are blinded by the appeal of their dream school, but they are often brought crashing back down to earth when financial aid offers arrive. There’s nothing wrong with applying to dream schools that might be a financial stretch, but it’s important to have some financial backups in line as well.
4. Be open minded.
Try not to pin all of your hopes on one school. Especially at top-ranked schools, competition is fierce, and even the most qualified applicants might not always get in. Visit and apply to a range of schools – you might find out that a school you’ve never heard of is the perfect school for you.
5. Don’t limit yourself by numbers.
If there are some schools that you love but that are a bit out of reach based on your test scores or GPA, consider applying anyway. Test scores and grades are certainly incredibly important, but you are more than just your numbers. Most colleges utilize a holistic admission process that just might recognize that something extra that makes you a perfect potential student for their school, so keep a handful of reach schools on your list.