Best Way to Get Into The College of Your Choice

So you’ve researched different colleges. Maybe you visited some campuses. Bought some of the logo sweatshirts. Checked out the college guys.

And now . . . you have a winner! You have chosen a college you want to attend! With a couple of backup choices!

One minor detail—how do you get them to let you in?!

College is where you might be spending, oh, about four years of your life—which is a major commitment. Might as well try to be ac­cepted at one of the places you really want to go. Kelly Tanabe has a book called Get Into Any Col­lege: Secrets of Harvard Students. She unveils some of the mystery that surrounds the college admission process for you. Here’s her advice:

Get Into College Best Way to Get Into The College of Your Choice

Find the right match

In some ways, colleges are like people. They have their own reputations, personalities, and values. Compare UC Berkeley to theUniversityofVirginia, and you will immediately see and feel a difference in the character and composition of the student body. When college admission officers are looking at your application, one question they have in mind is this: “Will she fit in and be happy at our school?” This means that you need to do your research before you apply to and pick colleges that you feel fit you best. Consider their academic strengths, teaching methods, and campus life rather than just their high ranking in a news magazine. Try to visit the campus so you can sample the environment. Picking the schools that you truly want to attend is the first step to scoring points with the admission officer.

Get to know the college people

Take every opportunity to shmooze. To share information about their schools, admission officers frequently visit high schools and communities. Think of this as not only your opportunity to learn about the schools, but more importantly to score some brownie Points. When you attend, instead of hanging in the back of the room, make your presence known. If you’re brave enough, ask ques­tions during the meeting. Or, if not, speak with the admission offi­cer afterward. Make sure that the answers to your questions are not obvious. For example, the admission officers will definitely not be impressed if you ask, “Where is your college located?” Your point in asking questions is to not only learn about the college, but also to share something about yourself. The real secret is that the admis­sion officer you speak with may be the same person to eventually review your application. A brief personal meeting at one of these in­formational sessions can give you an extra boost.

This also works when you visit colleges. Make arrangements ahead of time to meet with professors or advisors in the department you want to enter. Ask informed questions about the department, classes, and research that the professors are doing. Share how you can see yourself contributing to the field. Not only will you get more information about the major, but the results of your meeting may travel to the admission office.

Focus on your academics

Academics are King. Your parents may not be right about whom you should date or what time your curfew should be, but they are right about one thing: You need to hit the books. When evaluating your application, an important question that college admission officers ask is this: Can you handle the academic coursework? You can be the most brilliant musician, talented artist, or philanthropic volunteer; but if you can’t handle college-level academics, you won’t be admitted.

Write a- strong- essay.

If academics are King, the essay is Queen. While academics are im­portant, the truth is that a lot of applicants meet the college’s aca­demic requirements. In fact, many applicants will have similar grades and test scores. So how does an admission officer choose be­tween two students with 3.5 GPAs? Often, the answer is the essay. For each application, you will write anywhere from one to three es­says about topics such as your favorite book, a class or other aca­demic experience, an influential person, or the topic of your choice.

This is your opportunity to share something about yourself with the admission officers. It is also the opportunity for you to make your application stand out from the rest. Remember that as you write your essay, you want to share with colleges who you are be­yond the facts in your application. The essay is not the time to write a resume or make a list of all of your extracurricular activities. The essay is your chance to impart what motivates you, what has made you who you are, and why you are different from every other appli­cant. The key is to write about something that is important to you. When it comes down to it, when you have applicants of equal aca­demic standing, the essay can determine who gets it.

Prepare for the tests

To apply to college, you will need to take no less than six hours of standardized tests. In general, these include the SAT I or ACT and three SAT II exams. One thing that college admission officers don’t like to see is SAT Tunnel Vision, or a preoccupation with test scores. Some students get so focused on test scores that they lose sight of everything else. This is not to say that test scores aren’t important; they are. And the best way that you can prepare for them is to use old exams for practice. These are available at and But don’t become obsessed with standard­ized tests.

Get Into College 1 Best Way to Get Into The College of Your Choice

Make your application error-free

Perfection counts. There are several pieces to college applications, including the forms where you list personal and academic informa­tion, teacher recommendations, essays, and transcripts. Your goal when completing your applications is to make them as perfect as possible. This means doing them well before the night before they are due and having someone else review them to check for spelling, grammar, or other mistakes. Putting time into your applications shows colleges that you are serious about being admitted.

Whew! If it seems like a ton of work, it is. But hey, you will be the one spending four or so years at this place. And when you are all settled in on the campus of your choice, it will all have been worthwhile!

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