Top 10 Tips to Get into College

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    1. Start early

    Applying to college is a long and involved process. This is especially true if you're applying to many schools. Make it easy on yourself and start early. Call the admissions offices around July and have them put you on their mailing lists. Also check the school's website. Many have downloadable applications.

    2. SAT or ACT?

    Until recently, the ACT was required by colleges in the Midwest, while the SAT was the test of choice for schools in the Northeast and on both coasts. Now, however, most schools accept both. This increased acceptance of both exams gives you a strategic advantage. The ACT is a content-based test, whereas the SAT tests critical thinking and problem solving skills. Depending on your particular strengths and weaknesses, you may perform significantly better on one test than the other. Regardless, you should check with each of your target schools before taking either exam.

    3. Don't forget about financial aid

    In addition to getting into college, you also have to plan on how you're going to pay for it. Don't wait until after you've finished applying to schools before applying for financial aid. Check out our section on Federal and state GI Bill benefits or search for over $300 million in scholarships.

    4. Don't apply to too many schools

    Sometimes a college search can get a little out of hand. Especially, when you start thinking things like: "How cool would it be to go to school in Hawaii or what about Alaska!" or "I'm interested in colleges with lots of ivy-covered brick buildings." Give yourself a reality check. College applications cost time and money! Cut down your list to only the colleges in which you're really interested. Your list should include at least one safety, one reach, and one possible.

    5. Show the Real You

    Especially for active duty and veterans, you might feel like your GPA and SAT or ACT score don't tell the whole story. That's what your essays are for. Be yourself (but ''yourself'' with good grammar and perfect spelling). The cliche ''Write about what you know'' has never been more true.

    6. Essay Writing

    Unless you're a great writer, you should consider getting help writing your essay. If you have the time, take a writing class. Or ask a friend who is a good writer to help you — and promise to return the favor!

    7. The Interview

    The interview, though often not required, is another chance to show the real you. Try to schedule your interview for a Monday or a Friday, and spend the weekend on campus. If you don't know anyone at that school, call the admissions office. Most schools sponsor an overnight program for prospective students.

    As for the interview itself, the most important thing you can do is to RELAX. Remember, you're there to find out more about the school just as much as to make an impression. Dress appropriately, go in armed with some questions that you genuinely want to ask, and you'll do fine. If you're extraordinarily nervous about the interviewing process, rehearse with your guidance counselor or a friend.

    8. You don't have to look well-rounded

    It is a MYTH that admissions committees seek to recruit well-rounded students. This is not necessarily true. What they're usually looking for is a well-rounded student body comprised of students with various interests and skills. This is good news. It means you don't need a ten-page list of activities stuffed with entries like the Trampoline Club and the Polka Band (unless, of course, you truly enjoy participating in the Polka Band).

    But don't cut down on your activities for fear of appearing unfocused. Believe it or not, admissions committees can differentiate between those who are trying to load up their activities sheet and those who have a sincere interest in their extracurriculars. Don't worry about joining clubs you think colleges want to see on your resume. Do what you're really interested in.

    9. Proofread

    Proofread every part of your application before sending it out. And be sure to have a friend who knows grammar or an editor look it over. Nothing will make admissions officers dump your application in the reject pile faster than a sloppy, illegible or error-ridden application.

    10. Ask for advice

    Applying to college can be complicated, and there are a lot of choices to make. Be sure to seek assistance and ask for advice, even if you think you have everything under control. Try friends and others who have been through the process recently. If you're in high school, start with your guidance counselor.