Careers & Education

Tips for applying to college

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Schedule tours and interviews to get a feeling for the college campus.
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Feeling lost or overwhelmed by the whole college application process?

Applying to college takes time, effort, patience, and a great deal organization.  If you are feeling lost or overwhelmed by the whole application process, here are some helpful tips for applying to college; from exploring educational options, making your college list, to asking the important questions during college interviews.

If you are a high school student, you will hear plenty of stories, opinions and information about what you should do with your life or where you should go to college. Your neighbor might want you to go to Boston University because that's where she went. Your teacher will want to tell you stories about her college days at Oberlin. Your friends will tell you about all the different colleges they are applying to and your head will be left spinning. 

The secret to getting through this college application information overload is to begin by making your college list on your own. Once you have made your list, share it and revise it with your family members or other special people in your life. While it is certainly important to do background research on the colleges you are interested in, you don't need to obtain college advice from everyone. Making your own decision and following your own heart is one of the most important tips for applying to college.  After all, it's your education at stake.

It is important to carefully evaluate a potential school based on your academic interests and priorities, and by factors such as the range of academic majors offered, extra-curricular activities, campus life, retention and graduation rates, location, and cost.

Once you have narrowed down your college list, make a point to visit at least the top colleges on your list. Participate in a campus tour, sit in on some classes related to your major, eat in the campus dining hall, visit the campus dorms, talk to the professors and students, and take some time to explore the campus on your own. Visiting a college campus in person is another one of the key tips for applying to college. A planned visit will give you a much better feel for the school than reading about it in a brochure.

Be prepared when it comes to submitting your college application. Ask your teachers, coaches or employers for letters of reference well in advance of the application deadline. Obtain all the necessary forms, information and paperwork. Gathering all the information pertaining to your college application package, and keeping these materials organized in a file is certainly one of the wisest tips for applying to college. You may also wish to create a college application check list, to help you stay organized. Be sure to mark your calendar with the dates and deadlines for mailing your application.

Many college counselors advise that beginning an application essay over the summer is one of the key tips for applying to college and staying ahead of those stressful deadlines. Getting a head start on an essay over the summer ensures that students will have plenty of time to write and revise a thoughtful, polished piece.

Although all colleges do not require interviews, it can't hurt to schedule a 30-60 minute interview with an admissions officer at any college that is high on your list of choices. This is an ideal opportunity to ask any questions you may have about a particular college. It is also a chance to promote yourself, and discuss any special or unique circumstances. 

Arrive early for your college interview. Don't wear jeans or t-shirts; instead dress professionally.  Take the time to prepare for an interview by engaging in practice interviews, or making notes about key questions and points of discussion. Get a good night's sleep before your college interview and make time for a healthy breakfast. 

There is no magic formula for getting in to college, although one of the most critical tips for applying to college is starting early. Begin college applications, visits and interviews over the summer. Another important piece of advice is to avoid panicking or placing undue stress on yourself. While you might not get into your first or second choice school, you will eventually find the college that is right for you. Ultimately, a college experience is what you make it.  You will get out of it everything you put in. 

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