Today’s post is by Bob Patterson, Director of College Outreach at Chegg. Bob served as the Associate Dean/Director of Admission at Stanford University from September 2010 until May 2012, and formerly worked in admissions at UC Berkeley, UNC Chapel Hill, and the University of Pittsburgh.
1). Create a list of colleges you are interested in and try to visit the campus in person or online.
This can be the most influential part of your college search. Most students say, “There is just something I felt when I stepped onto campus and I knew I wanted to go there.”
2). When you visit campus you may want to schedule a campus tour, visit a class, meet with an admission officer and talk with currently enrolled students.
Make your presence felt on campus and let the admission office know you are visiting. I also always tell students to randomly ask someone on campus “Can you please tell me the time or direct me to the library?” Based on the answer you may find out what the campus community is like for people they don’t know.
Demonstrating interest can matter at different institutions and if you like them they may like you even more. This is also true in emailing admission officers and communicating with students in virtual events.
3). Keep a journal and update your Zinch profile of all of your visits and share your initial reactions with your friends.
Use your Zinch profile to help you remember your first impressions about the school and revisit your notes when you are ready to make your decision before May 1st. This will also help your friends know what you are thinking about in the search.
4). Make sure you do your research and apply only to those schools that you would love to attend if you were admitted.
Don’t trophy hunt! You should look for several foundation schools (likely to be admitted), several target schools (unsure but likely to be admitted) and several reach schools (your scores may be in range, but still a stretch to be admitted).
You don’t need to take the shotgun approach when applying to schools. Do your research and find the schools that best fit what you want. You should really try to limit your applications to 5-7 schools and take your time with those applications.
5). Read through the application directions very carefully and understand the conditions of applying.
Ask yourself: would you be committed to the school if you are admitted? Do you have other options even if you are admitted? Can you apply to other schools? These can be strategic decisions on your part and can even be the best way to maximize your chances. Many students don’t realize they are committing to a school in the early process and others don’t read directions for deadlines. This can be a critical mistake and one you don’t want to make.
6). When writing your essay, start early, be yourself, be honest, take a risk and keep focused.
Believe me, I have read so many generic essays that were well written but didn’t tell me anything about a student. Admission officers want to know you and what makes you unique. It is not necessarily about the experience but what your take away was when you returned. How did the person, event, or experience change or reinforce who you are as a person and how will you contribute to the campus?
7). Carefully consider whom you will ask to recommend you for admission.
Don’t just ask the teacher that you received an A in the course, but ask the one that can write about you in an academic setting. Colleges want to know how you will fit into the academic classroom on their campus and the teacher that truly knows you best will be the best one to ask.
8). Only submit additional letters of recommendation and supplemental information if they are going to add to the application.
Admission Officers are reading thousands of applications and you don’t want to dilute your application with a lot of fluff or unnecessary information. Only give them what they ask for and if you want an additional letter it should be from someone who can only add and not repeat what is already there. If you want to submit art portfolios, CDs, or other supplemental information, make sure they will be evaluated. You don’t want to put all of that time and effort into your work if it is not going to be reviewed.
9). Don’t focus so much on your test scores that it drives every decision you make in the application process.
As we say, you are more than a test score. Test scores do matter but not as much as you think. Hey, it is only a 4 hour test on one Saturday afternoon, and what you did in high school is so much more important. However, it is a factor for many schools so take your time and do your best.
10). Take time in this process to reflect on your high school experiences and where you want to be in the future.
Ask yourself where do you best see “yourself” and not where your parents, teachers or friends see you. This is about you so take a deep breath and enjoy the process. There are over 3,000 colleges in the US and many more internationally. Trust me, you will find the one that best fits you.
What steps did you take in your college admissions process? What worked? What didn’t? Share your story in a comment below.