Tips for Applying to College

At any point in your high school career, you are preparing for college. Regardless if it is studying for a history exam, acting in the school play, or scoring the winning goal on the soccer team, each task you work on or complete throughout grades 9-12 make a difference in terms of which colleges you'll get into – and which one you'll attend.

Let's look at some steps you can take each year to solidify yourself for college admissions officers:

  • Get good grades – Sure, it's most important to work hard in math and English, but schools do consider your overall GPA. So make sure you don't slack off in Phys. Ed and be careful not to overcook your beef stroganoff in Cooking II.
  • Practice for the standardized tests – Most people say you can't study for the SAT/ACT. I agree. But, what you can do is become familiar with what they test. I definitely recommend either taking a class or getting a book on whichever test you need to take. This way, when it's time for the real thing, you'll know how they're formatted and the types of questions you'll be up against.
  • Take only the tests you need – I took the SAT IIs and ended up not needing them for the school I went to. Research your schools and don't waste your time (and money) with extraneous testing.
  • Extracurriculars are important – Do you enjoy volunteer work? Can you slam dunk? How about play the viola? Any of these skills should be practiced in your high school club scene. Join the band, basketball team, and Habitat for Humanity. Stick with them and attain leadership roles. Just don't let your grades suffer!
  • Utilize AP classes – The sole purpose of these classes is to prepare you for its respective AP exam. If you score a 4 or 5 (and sometimes a 3) you'll receive college credit for the class. Get enough credits, and graduate a semester early. Think about how much tuition and housing costs you'd save!
  • Research your financial aid options – Most likely, Mom and Dad won't have you entirely covered when it comes to paying for college. Therefore, make sure you know the 411 on potential student loans. Complete your FAFSA on January 1 of your senior year. Apply for any college scholarships you can find. File for as much in federal aid as you can. Still need more? That's where private student loans come in.

College admissions are a very tricky game. When you gravitate to more competitive colleges, there are no guarantees of getting in. However, abide by the above tips to improve your chances. Interested in more admissions help? Check out our college admissions and search site at HowToGetIn.com.

About the Author

Russ Ain is the Senior Editor for the Student Loan Network, which offers FAFSA, loan and consolidation tips and tricks. He lives in Cambridge, MA and likes spicy tuna.

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