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College Resources

Apply Yourself: Tips for Getting In

Because more young people are applying to college than ever before, this may be one of the toughest periods in American history to get into the school you want. So make your application count.


Start early. When we say early, we mean early. Colleges consider your entire high school transcript, beginning with your ninth grade or freshman year. It's important that you keep your grades up for four years.

Use your wits. Develop a tactical application approach; apply to three "reach" schools—schools that might be long shots getting into, three mid-range colleges—institutions with a respectable chance of accepting you, and two safety schools—where you know you'll get in. (Tip: Only apply to schools that you really might want to attend.)


Study for standardized tests. Although standardized tests like the ACT and SAT bear little relationship to how you'll perform in college, schools take them seriously when making admission decisions. You can prepare for these exams by doing practice tests—usually available at your local bookstore—or by taking special classes. Practice helps alleviate test anxiety and familiarizes you with the type of questions you'll encounter on these exams.


Get killer recommendations. Your best recommendations may not come from the highest placed source. Choose people—teachers or community leaders—who know you well, as a person and a scholar. These are the people who can write detailed testimonials about your virtues.


Demonstrate thoughtful leadership. More and more colleges are looking for people who are not only good students but who are also well-rounded people. You don't have to be class president to be considered a leader. Feature activities on your application where you demonstrated leadership skills or went above and beyond the call of duty. Things to consider: church activities, after-school jobs, political action, and artistic or athletic achievements.


Write a dazzling essay. Your college application essays should reflect who you are. Write passionately and use concrete examples from your life.


Quality matters. Your college application is not a time for typos. Have someone you trust edit your application and proofread it for mistakes. Two or three pairs of eyes are better than one!


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