Tips to Help You Beat The Admissions Odds

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Flickr user Aaron Brown

With the number of college applications far outnumbering the number of places available every year, colleges can afford to be super picky during the selection process. They set the benchmark very high so only the best of the best meet their stringent criteria. While getting accepted into the college of your choice may seem like a daunting prospect, the good news is it is not impossible. There are a few things you can do to increase your admission chances.

Start Your College Search Early

Starting your search early allows you to conduct extensive research on different universities so you can narrow down the list from thousands to a more reasonable number.

Once you’ve got your narrowed-down list, you will have a better idea of what your preferred colleges are looking for in their students. Accordingly, you can develop a plan to work towards meeting their eligibility criteria. That means taking extra classes to improve your grades, participating in specific extracurricular activities, polishing your leadership skills, or working on a portfolio that showcases your skills.

Starting your search early gives you plenty of time to get to know more about the colleges you are interested in. The more you know about an institution, the better you will be able to demonstrate that you are an excellent fit.

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Work Hard On Your Grades in High School

There’s no getting away from this. Academic grades may not be the only criteria that colleges use to evaluate potential candidates but they are the first obstacle that you have to pass. If your grades are good, only then will the admissions authorities even bother to read further. Bad grades can make it much more difficult to get your foot in the door.

Regardless of which college you wish to apply to, good grades are paramount so don’t slack off on your academics in high school. You need those high grades to clear the first hurdle in the race for admissions.

Start Putting Together Your Application Early

Many students wait too long to start putting together their application and then rush to complete it at the last minute. This strategy may get you admission to some college but the chances of getting into the top colleges on your list are very low.

There’s a lot that can go wrong when you are rushing to put together your application. You will not have enough time to work on or review your personal essay. The best person to write your letter of recommendation may not be available. You could miss out on some excellent early application opportunities. There’s not enough time to explore the different financial aid programs, which may force you to either forego an opportunity because it is too expensive or take a large private loan leaving you in huge debt.

When you start putting together your application early, you have ample time to work on each element meticulously and create a compelling package that is sure to increase your admissions odds.

Take the Time to Compose a Killer Personal Essay

It’s a mistake to underestimate the importance of the personal essay. A weak personal essay will counter all the other points you may have earned for a great transcript, high test scores, and impressive extracurricular activities.

Admissions authorities pore over personal essays thoroughly in an effort to get to know you better, outside of your measurable achievements. They want to know what it is that drives you. Do you have the necessary communication and leadership skills? Are you a good fit for their institution? A good personal essay is one that opens a window into your personality and highlights your fit for each college.

Plan your personal essay carefully. Work on the first draft and keep it aside for a few days before reading through it again. Does it sound interesting, compelling and most importantly, genuine? Did you portray yourself in a positive manner? Does it showcase those skills and attributes that make you a good fit for that school?

Edit and revise the essay as many times as necessary until you are happy with the way it sounds. Once you’re satisfied with the way the essay has shaped up, it’s time to proofread it for typos and grammatical errors.

After reading your own essay so many times it is easy to overlook some glaring errors so give it to a teacher or a family member to go over the essay and give you their feedback.

Use the Internet to Your Advantage

More and more colleges are using the internet to find out more about prospective students. You can use this to your advantage. Start by cleaning up your social networking sites. Remove all inappropriate images, offensive comments (even if you were just fooling around with friends) and other unsavory references. Then, slowly work towards creating a positive online image, one that in line with your application persona.

Post pictures of yourself engaged in activities that will strengthen your application. Attended a leadership camp? Volunteered with an aid organization? Did an apprenticeship in your interested field? Spent time in a medical placement in a third world country? Whatever you accomplish, however big or small, post photographs of your participation. Write about your experience and what you learned from it. Use your posts and photographs to open a window into your personality. Let anybody checking your profile know that you care and are committed.

Take this one step further by liking the college on Facebook and following them on Twitter. Interact with students and faculty of the college on their social networking pages. This interaction will also give you valuable insight that you can use to your advantage when answering questions during your interview.

Most Importantly, Stay Organized

As you read through the websites of different colleges, everything will start to become one big blur of information, details, and dates. Every college has a different set of requirements and different deadlines. Some colleges ask for just one letter of recommendation while others may ask for more. Some colleges even specify who they want the recommendation letter from.

If you are not organized, you could easily miss out on an important detail or date that could cost you your admission. Creating a simple spreadsheet will help you stay organized, which is so crucial to submitting a successful application.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!

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