If you already have your heart set on a specific college, you may be nervous and unsure about how you will get in.
It may feel like just a dream, but it can become your reality with hard work, dedication, and the right advice.
If you are still unsure about your dream school, that’s perfectly fine. Learning how to get into your dream schools before applying will give you time to prepare.
College admissions counseling can help students and their parents understand what they should be doing to make themselves stand out and better their chances of receiving an acceptance letter.
If your dream college is a highly competitive, elite university, such as Harvard or Yale, they’ll want to know how you will change the world. They accept students that they believe will go on to inspire, educate, and make a positive difference in the world and lives of others during and after their schooling.
Fortunately, there are a lot of excellent schools out there, and it’s highly likely that if you choose a few that you love and dedicate yourself to, you’ll be accepted to at least one of them.
Good High School Grades Are Essential
Your grades and academics will be one of the first things a college sees.
It’s rare for students with a GPA that’s lower than the minimum accepted to get into competitive schools, but not impossible.
Most colleges, however, will want to see high school students with an excellent GPA and high test scores.
If you can take advanced placement classes, you should. They can help you earn collegiate credits and help you prepare for placement and admission tests. Good AP scores will also help applicants stand out.
It isn’t typically required to take both the ACT and SAT before applying to a college, but it can be beneficial. If you can show strong scores on both tests, the college will see your strengths, giving you a competitive advantage.
Universities usually want high-achieving students that will rise to a challenge.
Apply Early and Show Interest
Waiting last minute to do something is a bad habit, to say the least. It will hurt your chances of getting into the school of your dreams.
Admission rates are highly competitive as it is. Stand out among applicants by applying early, and hopefully lessen the risk of being waitlisted while increasing your chances of getting accepted.
Getting your high school transcripts and gathering other documents for the admissions process can take time. Starting early will help ease stress over application deadlines.
Applying early also shows a college that you are interested in their university, prepared, and enthusiastic about attending.
Another way to show your interest in a school is by visiting the campus, asking for a tour, and joining events.
If your dream school is your family’s alma mater, let the school know this. Include it in your personal statement and give yourself a legacy advantage.
Don’t Forget Letters of Recommendation
Many colleges will ask you to send in two to three letters of recommendation.
These letters will help them learn about your character traits and what you’ve accomplished, outside of achieving good grades.
You want to choose people who know you well, have seen you work hard, and can positively highlight your personality.
If your major is in science, it would make the most sense to ask one of your science teachers for a letter of recommendation, or someone who has seen you do something in this field.
Perhaps you did volunteer work or completed a project that shows your science skills or interest in the area. Ask the leader of that project to attest to your work and enthusiasm.
Write a Compelling Personal Statement
Your personal statement is your chance to sell yourself and stand out amongst the rest of the applicants.
While grades and test scores are often huge indicators of who will get into a school, colleges often show interest in students with intriguing and powerful personal statements.
Consider the following:
- What makes you “you”?
- What is your background?
- What extracurricular activities do you engage in?
- What distinguishes you from the other students?
- What failure did you overcome?
- What challenges did you face head-on and show leadership?
- What problem would you like to solve?
- What are you most passionate about?
- How does your background relate to your goals?
Don’t Limit Yourself
Sure, you may have one dream school that you would love to get into. But if you look hard enough, you’ll likely find a few more that you would be just as happy attending.
Pick a trio of dream schools to increase your chances of getting into a school you love.
Do your research, and don’t stop until you find a few schools that you would be excited to attend.
Even if the one you get into is not your first choice, you’ll be just as thrilled about your second or third choice if you can find schools that meet all of your wants, needs, and expectations.
First impressions are critical.
Once someone has an impression of you, it’s difficult, or even impossible, to change it.
College admissions officers often check potential students’ social media accounts before accepting them into their college.
Social media can be entertaining, fun, and harmless but can also damage your reputation.
Something as simple as a meme you thought was funny can make you look immature, biased, reckless, and jeopardize your chances of getting into your dream school.
When you Google yourself, you’ll see what others can see and can delete what makes you look bad. Perhaps you are not the same person you were years ago, and the younger version of yourself does not show your best qualities.
The bottom line—clean up your online presence.
Ask for Help
The college admissions process can be daunting and confusing.
There’s no need to face these challenges alone when support is out there. For high school students, your teachers, guidance counselors, and college planning specialists can help guide you in the right direction.
College admissions can be a nerve-wracking time in the life of soon-to-be high school graduates. But passion for your goals and future will make your dreams attainable.
When writing your personal statement, ask your parents, siblings, friends, and teachers for their opinions. They can help you find errors in your writing and advise you on what to change or add.
Don’t Get Discouraged
Finally — believe in yourself.
It’s cliché but the more you believe in yourself, the more others will believe in you and what you offer.
Even if you’re waitlisted at a particular school you want to go to, don’t give up hope.
It’s always possible that you’ll still be admitted. Keep up communication with the admissions officers and update them on any significant events, such as a new volunteer project, achievement, or other relevant extracurricular activities.