Jun 7, 2022 |

8 Tips for Getting into Your First-Choice College

By Gravitas

Choosing a college

If you want to increase the likelihood of getting accepted to your first-choice college, it’s never too early to start. While each school has its own admissions requirements, there are some steps you can take now to strengthen your future application.

1. Start Early

Regardless of your grade level, it’s never too early to have a few target colleges in mind. Maybe you have visited a sibling or friend at their college. Or perhaps your parents have close ties to their alma maters. Those familiar places are a good place to start and can also serve as inspiration to other institutions. Start thinking now. Where might you want to attend?

2. Consider Your High School

Take a hard look at the high school you are likely to attend. Colleges look for well-rounded students who excel in rigorous courses. Will your high school provide you with what you need? A high-quality educational institution that offers you a rigorous curriculum and the ability to pursue extra-curricular activities can be a true differentiator. Look for a school with a stellar reputation, a passionate faculty, and a mission to help you develop into the best student and person you can be.

3. Prioritize Your Grades

The courses you take and how well you perform are indicators to admissions teams of how you might fare in college. Whatever your long-term goal, now is the time to prepare. That means taking honors and advanced classes across a range of subjects and doing the best you can. Pay attention to your GPA and look for opportunities to improve your overall performance in individual classes. Don’t understand a topic? Get clarification. Perform poorly on an exam? Reach out to your teacher to see where you went wrong so it doesn’t happen again. Your job right now is school. Do it well and it could pave the way to a bright future.

4. Do Your Research

Compile a list of your top-choice colleges and look at their admission requirements early on. Investigate their brands, culture, majors, student body, and other aspects that make them unique. This research can help you decide if a school deserves to be a top choice for you and will also give you more insight into what they look for in applicants. Once you become familiar with the institutions at the top of your list, reach out to admissions offices and ask any questions that couldn’t be answered through your own research. You can also attend campus visits and other college events to learn first-hand about the school and to get on its radar from an admission perspective.

5. Engage in Extracurricular Activities

Whether it’s sports, music, art, or public service, spend time on activities outside the classroom. Extracurricular activities show colleges that you are well-rounded with varied interests. Colleges want a diverse student body made up of people who bring their best selves to every endeavor. Show a school that you have beliefs, passion, and follow-through, and they’ll look to you with favor. Extracurricular activities can demonstrate dedication and commitment and set you apart from other applicants at your top choice school.

6. Leverage Your Network

Most college applications require letters of recommendation. You should have a group of 3-5 adults from a range of backgrounds who know you well enough to provide a glowing recommendation. If you don’t already have a network, start cultivating yours now. But don’t think of these relationships as a means to an end. Instead, consider people you really want to get to know. Choose people with whom you already have something in common. These core subject teachers, advisors/adult friends and mentors may be able to provide advice and insight about college and a life’s path. Your interest in what they do and who they are may be a welcome acknowledgement that they chose their own right path. And if any of these contacts happen to be alumni from a first-choice school, all the better.

7. Prepare for Entrance Exams

Though many colleges have gone “test-optional, some still require standardized test scores, and the most selective of these testing-require institutions will only consider applicants who score in the highest percentile. If you need extra help with writing, math, or your verbal skills, test prep sources can help. Standardized tests are also administered under strict time and location formats, so the more you can practice under these conditions, the easier time you’ll have come test day. Once you’ve taken any pre-exams, like the PSAT or PreACT, you can use your performance to tailor your preparation plan and areas to improve for when you take the actual tests in high school.

8. Apply Early

One way to stand out on a college application is to apply early. Early Action and Early Decision early decision applications demonstrate a desire to attend a particular school. If, after reviewing each school’s policies and talking with your parents, you decide to apply under one or both of these decision plan, be sure to start early Gather all of your materials within plenty of time to meet these deadlines. It can make the process less stressful and also put you in a place to be reviewed within a smaller, early applicant pool.

To begin your journey to college, be sure to select the right high school. Gravitas is the online extension of the prestigious Stony Brook School on Long Island in New York. We provide you with academic excellence coupled with the convenience of the virtual classroom. Learn more today.

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