Start Planning EARLY – 7th or 8th grade (age 12 or 13) really is a good time to start seriously thinking about this – even earlier if you have middle school or junior high school “honors” classes that are the prerequisites for the high school “honors” or “advanced placement” courses.
NOTE: These suggestions also “apply” (no pun intended) for applications to private secondary (high schools, prep schools) in the U.S., and even elementary schools.
What do you think colleges are looking for, besides good grades?
- What do colleges look for?
- What do the government, your parents, your teachers tell you?
- What do you believe?
1. Extracurricular Activities – “Extra” means “outside,” or “in addition to.” The “curriculum” of a school is its academic instruction (e.g. language, math, science, history)
2. Recommendations – Your school teachers’, friends, and bosses’ opinion of you.
3. Your personal statements that reveal your attitudes, aptitudes, and ambitions.
Schools want to know what you do when you’re not in class or doing homework.
College is more rigorous than high school, so if you’ve had to spend all your time to get good grades in high school, your college grades may not be as good.
Also, “All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy.” Colleges need athletes, band members, artists, actors, and so on, to contribute to campus life, to make them interesting places to go to school.
People who have interesting hobbies may learn things better in class, and come up with original ideas. People who are in better physical shape often learn better. Colleges want their graduates to go on to be creative, inventive, successful people – it makes them look better, and wealthy alumni donate more money.
Sports – any organized sports shows exercise and discipline (you have to practice regularly)
Clubs – Shows discipline and outside interests. E.g. Scouts
Volunteer Work – Shows concern for others and education.
Paid Work – Shows discipline, willingness to help family; “up from adversity.”
Education Outside of School – shows the kind of intellectual curiosity any university would want in its students.
Other Hobbies – Music outside organized band shows practice, discipline, and initiative, all things elite colleges and universities seek.
Finally, they want to make sure you’re not a “gunner” – someone who may go crazy from studying, maybe even literally shoot at people! You might end up like Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson’s character) in “The Shining.” (See below...)
No college or university is going to take your word alone as evidence that you’re a good student. They verify your grades with official transcripts; they need to see official SAT, ACT, or other standardized test results. All of these things have to be mailed to them directly from the school or test agency.
What do we do about PERSONAL factors? A test can’t tell a college if you’re nice, sincere, and generous, or mean, insincere, and stingy. Are you a willing worker, and intellectually curious, or do you tend to do the bare minimum to get the grade you want in a class, without ever asking any questions? Only other people can judge your attitude.
So develop relationships with your teachers, supervisors, and friends who would be able to express themselves clearly and appropriately. Keep in touch with former instructors and work supervisors. It’s much easier to get good recommendations when you have an ongoing relationships with such people.
One part of a college application is the essay or “personal statement.” Colleges use that, in addition to your grades, test scores, and your list of awards and extracurricular activities, to determine if they should admit you or not.
Most “good” (i.e., prestigious and academically rigorous) colleges and universities are non-profit and run by people who value social progress and good over individual good and progress – they’re usually called “liberals” in the U.S. That means it’s NOT a great idea to say “I want to attend Harvard/Stanford/MIT/Caltech because I want to make tons of money, live in a mansion, drive a really flashy car, and have a really beautiful wife.” Everyone knows you want that; most people want that, but it’s important to show you care about other people.
Even a hard-core capitalist can argue – “I want to bring progress to the world, including poor people, by stimulating the economy through the free market. If I develop better products and services, wealthy people will buy them, and I will have to hire poor people to work for me. Then poor people will have money. A rising tide raises all boats.”
BE YOURSELF. If you’re a super-capitalist, don’t pretend you’re a liberal socialist. If you’re not a Christian, don’t go on about how much you “love Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” It will be very embarrassing if you’ve presented yourself as something you aren’t, and a college interview or a recommendation from one of your teachers completely destroys that image. Hey, even something on your social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc.) accounts could easily contradict something you put on your application or said to an interviewer. While you definitely should be careful about what you put on your social media accounts, personal websites, in your text messages, etc., as I’ll discuss in a future blog entry, the easiest way not to get caught trying to fool admissions officers
A college may ask you to participate in an interview (i.e., meet someone from the college in person). Some may even use SKYPE or similar video chat for international students or students who live far from anyone who could interview them.
Some colleges use personal interviews as part of the application process. Others just use interviews to provide applicants or potential applicants with information. Usually the application interviews are done by college officials, whereas “informational” interviews are often done by alumni. Either way, you want to make a good impression on the interviewer. The admissions officer has at least some control over your admission to the college. The alumni interviewer may have NO contact with the admissions office about your application, but he or she might have substantial contact with the admissions office. You may not know until it’s much too late, so be cautious and assume that everything you say will reach the admissions office.
· Get a good night’s sleep the night before. No partying, no all-night studying!
· Dress like you’re going to an office job or somewhere else important – church, a courtroom, etc. Interviewers want you to treat them as important people. In other words, dress conservatively – don’t use tons of jewelry or makeup. Don’t wear flashy clothing, but DO wear conservative business clothing.
· Listen to each question carefully, and ASK if you don’t understand any part of the question. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask the interviewer to repeat himself or herself.
Once you’re done with the application and interview process, RELAX. If you’ve been honest with the colleges about who you are, and honest with yourself about what you’d like to study, and you’ve worked as hard as you could, you’ll get into the college that’s right for you. You’ll be fine.
I hope these college admissions tips help you in the future – let me know if you have any questions!
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.