Teacher and counselor recommendations. Colleges typically ask for one to two teacher recommendations and one recommendation from your counselor. Build solid relationships early, and learn how to line up letters of recommendation .
Your class rank. Public universities place great importance on how you compare to other students in your graduating class.
Outside interests and community service activities. College admissions officers want well-rounded students, so get involved and be active now!
Jobs, internships and volunteer work. Show your desire to learn and grow beyond school, and demonstrate your financial responsibility and time-management skills. Keep track of your experiences with what we like to call your pre-college Brag File .
Your social media presence. Yes, admissions officers do check Facebook. Be mindful of how you present yourself online. Learn more below.
In this digital day and age, it's crucial to take notice of what you publish socially and how you represent yourself online, because it does play a role in college admission.
In a recent study, 31% of college admissions officers said they logged onto Facebook to view profiles of applicants.
Of those, 46% found something they felt negatively impacted the application.*
Social media is also used for recruiting. 76% of colleges use Twitter to recruit applicants
Find the right school with the College Match Tool. We partnered with Student Advisor to help you sift through a list of colleges based on tuition, major and test scores to match you with the best-suited college. This tool also allows you to compare up to five colleges side-by-side and read college reviews from students and alumni.
Log into your high school's recommended college admissions tool (e.g. Naviance), and begin researching the types of colleges you prefer.
Create a College Fact Chart. Keep a detailed College Fact Chart of your target schools to help you compare and contrast each college. You can also determine what characteristics describe your ideal college completing this quick Selecting Your Target Colleges assessment.
Cast a broad net. Have a good mix of dream, target and safety colleges on your target list. Keep your options and opportunities open.
Visit websites of potential colleges for admissions guidance:
Admissions test accepted (SAT/ACT)
Average test scores accepted
Acceptance of the Common Application
Tuition, room and board costs
Deadlines for applications, including financial and grant aid
Attend college fairs. Check out this College Fair Checklist to prepare for the fair and learn what next steps to take afterwards.
Visit as many colleges as possible. Use this Campus Visit Checklist to help you prepare, ask the right questions, and help stay organized.
Meet with current students or alumni. Many colleges encourage you to meet with their students. Take advantage by thinking of questions ahead of time you can ask about their experience.
When you have lined up your college target list, it's time to apply. Here are some useful tools and College Application Tips to help you get started.
The Wait List
You've been wait-listed. What does this mean for you? These candidates are not yet accepted, but are still being considered. This allows colleges to manage their enrollment process and to take their time carefully selecting from the wait list.
To better understand your options, search online to learn the wait list acceptance rate of a given college.
Better yet, take matters into your own hands!
Make sure a college knows it is your first choice.
Continue to submit and update test scores with your latest grades and accomplishments.
Be sure to stay connected with the Admissions Office.
Find out whom you should be in contact with and check in often with emails and phone calls.
Of course, be sure to have an alternative college option if your efforts are not successful with your first choice.
Acceptance & Decision Time
Congratulations, you're in! Now comes the most important part of the application process – choosing a school. The strategies that worked for you during the first part of your school selection process can be helpful again now:
Revisit your College Fact Chart to review the list of factors you were considering when you decided where you would apply for admission.
Take another trip to the college, stay overnight in the residence hall, eat in the dining hall, talk with students and faculty, visit a class, read the bulletin boards.
Resist the temptation to make a hasty decision until all of your options are known to you.
Colleges aren't going to wait passively while you decide. They are going to inundate you with invitations to teas, receptions, campus "admission days," and other events designed with one purpose in mind - to convince you to accept their offer of admission…Learn more .
Now we're getting into unchartered territory, so here's a list of next steps to make the transition from high school to college smooth and exciting:
First: Keep studying. Remember, your acceptance to college is conditional upon good final grades!
Notify the other colleges that have accepted you that you've enrolled elsewhere, and thank them for their consideration.
Make sure that your high school sends your final transcript to your college.
Send the tuition deposit to reserve your place in the incoming class.
Fill out all of the housing forms, including the freshman questionnaire, so that the residential life office can match you with a roommate.
Connect with alumni and other students who have been accepted to start connecting to the college community. Often times, there are social networks created by your college that you can join even before you start.
Get your free college planner and stay ahead of the curve.
KapMap 2015–2016 is a month-by-month breakdown of everything you need to know about getting into college. You'll also receive monthly emails with valuable tips so you can stay focused and prepared.
Write an Amazing College Application Essay
The essay is not as scary as it seems. In fact, it’s one portion of the application that the student controls completely. This is your chance to provide the admissions board a side of your personality beyond test scores, GPA, teacher recommendations, or activities.
College Application Essay Topics
Typically colleges offer a number of topics on which students may write. These topics usually give a focus to the essay and almost always encourage introspection. Even when you write about a current event, the approach should be personal.
Each year certain social and political themes are common to a large percentage of the essays. It's fine to choose one of these so long as your perspective is distinctive. Admissions people don't care about what you believe but why you believe it. Again, it’s a glimpse into who you are as a person and how you think.
5 College Application Essay Do's and Don'ts:
DO be concise, specific, personal, and honest. Surprise the reader, and take chances that go beyond the obvious. DO use wit and imagination, but don't try to be funny if that's not your personality. Forcing humor can backfire and comes across as just plain silly. DO proofread and then ask someone else to proofread for you. Careless mistakes will drive the admissions board crazy. DON’T be cynical, trite, pretentious, or maudlin. DON’T repeat what is included in other parts of the application by essentially writing out your resume. Go behind the details they already know.
Lastly, review your essay with several people you trust—your counselor, family or your English teacher—and have them provide detailed feedback.
Line Up Letters of Recommendation
Admissions officers love to know what makes a student tick academically, and those in the best position to shed some light are the teachers.
That’s why most colleges require letters of recommendations, through which they learn about your personality, strengths, attitude, character, level of maturity, and special interests.
These letters have a very powerful influence on admissions officers’ decisions, so it’s important you choose a teacher who knows you well and views you favorably.
4 Guidelines for Choosing Recommenders for College Applications:
Approach teachers who know you well. If none come to mind, you should start to build these relationships immediately.
Select teachers from your junior or senior year. Colleges like a recent impression of the student.
Consider asking teachers whose subject may relate to a future area of study. For example, students who plan on studying engineering should ask a math or physical science teacher. A student interested in communications should ask an English teacher.
Choose teachers who can comment upon your growth and willingness to work and improve. Colleges are more interested in a student’s work ethic than natural ability.
Start the Recommendation Process Early
Approach teachers early, at least two months before the deadline. Many senior year teachers are flooded with requests for recommendations. Students who procrastinate may find these teachers are already overcommitted or unable to get the recommendations written on time.
Be clear about how the letter will be sent to the colleges. At some high schools, teachers file their letters in the guidance office and they are sent to the colleges along with school records. If your school does not do this, provide the teacher with a stamped, addressed envelope for each college.
Colleges May Require Additional Recommendations
Some schools ask applicants to provide supplemental references, such as a peer or an employer. The key is to select someone who you are close to that can offer a unique perspective about you that is not covered elsewhere. It is also important to pick someone who you know can write well. Be sure to let them know why you are asking, and give them an idea about what you expect from the recommendation.
10 Ways to Manage Your Social Media Footprint
In working with hundreds of thousands of college and graduate school applicants each year, Kaplan Test Prep seeks to help students put their best foot forward during every part of the admissions process…even in areas that they didn't know play a role in the admissions process.
Insights from our annual surveys of college, business school, graduate school, law school and medical school admissions officers found that what you post online can hurt (and sometimes help) your admissions chances.
Here are ten ways you can be managing your online profile:
Check your digital trail and keep it clean. In Kaplan's 2012 Survey of College Admissions Officers*, 26% said they have visited applicants' social networking pages, while 27% Googled them to learn more – and 35% said what they found negatively impacted their admissions chances.
Search yourself on Google, Yahoo and other search engines, and clean up anything that doesn't put you in a positive light.
Limit your profile searchability. Facebook's default settings allow anyone to find your profile online. You can disable this so that search engines won't link to your profile:
Go to Account - Privacy Settings - Apps and Websites - Public Search (Edit Settings) and uncheck "Enable Public Search".
Or, if you just want to limit parts of your profile, go to Edit Profile and select the privacy level (Public, Friends, Only Me, Custom) for each profile data point using the dropdown boxes to the right.
Keep your profile photo appropriate. Be aware that even if you set your privacy settings so only friends can see your posts and pictures, your name and profile photo are still visible. If so, make sure your photo is what you want to present if someone pulls up your profile.
Control who can contact you on Facebook. By default, anyone on Facebook can send you a message. You can change this setting to "friends of friends," so only people who have a mutual friend can contact you:
Click Account - Privacy Settings - How You Connect. For greater control, the "friends only" setting will allow only people in your network to contact you.
Remove your past posts from public view. A recently added privacy setting, "Limit The Audience For Past Posts" will change content that may previously have been publicly posted to be only viewable by Friends in your network.
Take control of tagging on your profile. Facebook's default settings allow friends to tag you in their photos, profile posts, and even check you into places – which can be public without your knowledge. Change these settings so only friends can see these posts:
Go to "How Tags Work" under Privacy settings and opt out.
You can also choose to review all tags before they are linked to your profile so that your friends don't have the chance to link embarrassing party photos without your permission.
Filter your Friends network. In Kaplan's survey, some college admissions officers said they only visited an applicant's Facebook profile when tipped off anonymously. Unless you trust every single one of your Facebook friends 100%, set up different lists with different privacy settings:
Click on "Lists" - "Create a List" and select which friends go into which list.
Make your Twitter account permission-only. If you have a Twitter account, by default, anybody can view your tweets and follow you:
Go to Settings - Accounts – and then check "Protect my tweets."
That way people can only follow you and see your tweets if you've given them permission to do so.
Or, change your Twitter name. If you want to make your Twitter account public but not associated with your name, create a different name for yourself:
Click on "Settings" on the drop down menu at the top right corner of your profile page (click on the upside-down triangle). Go to the "Accounts" tab and the first listing is "Name".
Be smart and think about everything you post online before you do it. The Internet has a LONG memory. After all your hard work, the last thing you want to keep you out of your top school or program choices is an inappropriate Facebook photo or offensive tweet. Posting that a school is your "safety" school can come back to bite you. (And according to Kaplan's research, it has!)
*Kaplan will be releasing results from its graduate-level admissions officers surveys later this fall.
Keep in mind that these events are carefully orchestrated to make the most positive impression possible on you and your parents. But if you look beneath the hype, these events can give you valuable insight into exactly what the campus culture and opportunities are like.
Make the Best Choice for You
Whatever criteria you use to distinguish offers, the decision ultimately comes down to you. Take it seriously and weigh your offers carefully. A lot of money-not to mention four or more years of your life—is involved here. A final thought...you're probably sick and tired of everyone telling you that college is an investment. Well, it's true.
But think of it this way: As an investment, you should expect it to provide returns for you. The bigger the returns (in academics, career prospects, lifestyle, etc), the better the chances are that it's the right school for you.
AP®, Advanced Placement Program® or Pre-AP® is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product. SAT® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product. ACT® is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc. PSAT/NMSQT® is a registered trademark of the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation which were not involved in the production of, and do not endorse, this product. *95% claim based on thousands of responses each year to an annual survey about Kaplan students who were admitted to college as of May 2012, May 2013 and May 2014. Prior results are not a guarantee of admission outcomes for future students or for any individual student.
Kaplan Test Prep and ACCET
Kaplan Test Prep is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training or ACCET, a US Department of Education nationally recognized agency. ACCET promotes quality-oriented education and training through establishment of standards for its members and an accreditation process focused on integrity. Kaplan's programs are accredited by ACCET ensuring reliable and quality training at all locations. For more information about ACCET, visit www.accet.org.
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