There are many different ways of defining success in the college application process. For the majority of high school students (and their families), the two most common elements that characterize success are: (1) being accepted at your number one choice institution and (2) getting a “free-ride” at that number one choice college/university (….. how else can you beat this?). But, whatever your criterion for success in the college application is, one thing is clear – the student (the applicant) MUST put in a lot of “sweat hours.” For beginners, in order to be successful, you (the student) must invest some serious time in;
- making sure that you are getting very good classroom grades – especially in courses that are more difficult, such as AP, IB, Honors, dual credit, etc.;
- investing some time to achieve good standardized test scores (ACT or SAT or TOEFL, etc.);
- participating in quality school activities throughout your high school years;
- writing a great college essay or two;
- developing quality relationships with your teachers, school staff and your neighbors – this will make it easy for you to receive great letters of recommendation; and
- YES, applying for scholarships and other financial assistance!
Generally, the responsibility of initially laying out a clear college application plan (for the student) that includes elements discussed above lies with the parents first, and then the school counselors. This is because these discussions must be held at least once a year during the high school freshman and sophomore years, and then more frequently during the high school junior year.
Once again, this process requires the student to invest considerable time and energy in order to be competitive and successful. So, be mindful and considerate of (a) the demands of your schedule, (b) your energy level, (c) limits to the good will of your recommenders or referees, and (d) problems associated with procrastination!
Dr. Cleo Samudzi