By Malcolm Rivera for South Kern Sol
Are you a high school student applying for colleges? If so, I am here to offer you 6 simple points of advice on how to get into your dream school, which I learned while applying for, and getting accepted into the colleges of my dreams.
1. Be Different.
Your grade-point average (GPA) isn’t everything. Sure you may be a 4.00 GPA student, but what else can you do? One of the key things admissions officers look for in college applications is diversity. Admissions officers are constantly looking for applicants who can bring something special to their school, not just students who study all the time.
For example, even though I had a 3.68 GPA, I still managed to get into every school I applied to, including UC Berkeley. But the reason why I was accepted wasn’t because of my grades, it was because I made myself stand out with my extracurricular activities. Eagle Scout, Tennis, Academic Decathlon and “We The People.” There are plenty of good students, but not many who are well rounded.
2. List all of your achievements. Yes, all of them.
Of course, I don’t mean you need to list things you accomplished when you were eight. Make a list of all awards you received while in high school. Even though your fourth place finish at a competition may not seem like much to you, awards can mean the world to admissions officers.
3. Write a compelling essay.
One of the main reasons I received my acceptance letters was because I included solid essays with my applications. The writing prompts generally ask you to describe a life event that affected you, or maybe to discuss your career aspirations. It is best to do three things for this part:
First, you need to ask yourself, “Does what I wrote answer the question they’re asking?” Very often, students will think they answered the question they were asked, when they really didn’t. Even if you wrote a piece that was novel-worthy about apples, it wouldn’t do you any good if the question asked was about bananas.
Second, use your teachers. Believe it or not, your teachers are there to help you. When it comes to writing college essays, ask an English teacher to read what you’ve written. They will make suggestions that will improve your application, and improve your chances of admission.
Third, remember, you have the best/happiest/saddest story in the world. Often times, students will play down their situation for fear of looking weak or conceited. And that is what prevents them from gaining admission. You need to have passion when you write. If you are bored when you write about yourself, then what makes you think a stranger will react any differently when they read it? Try writing less with your head and more with you heart. Don’t worry about how it will turn out, because you can always have a teacher proofread your work.
4. Challenge yourself.
Your junior and senior years are extremely important to admissions officers. They want to see that your work-load increased over the years rather than decreased, or remained constant. If you don’t consider yourself an advanced-placement (AP) or honors student, then you need to start considering taking
AP classes now. Junior year, I took two AP classes and one honors. Senior year, I took four AP classes and one honors. I’m not saying that you need to make such a dramatic jump from one year to the next, but having AP/honors courses helps you more than you might realize. Getting a “B” in an AP/honors class is almost always better than getting an “A” in a college preparatory class.
Keep in mind that you will probably not be able to list grades for your senior classes, so all the college will be able to see when you submit your application is your work load. If a college sees that you are taking three AP classes for senior year, they won’t even know your grade for those classes. That is the general case, however, once in a blue moon colleges will request your senior grades. But again, that is once in a blue moon.
5. Community service is everything.
In my four years in high school, I managed to accumulate over 500 hours of community service through the Boy Scouts. Now, I know that number is inordinate, but I strongly believe my community service experience is what pushed my application over the edge and into the acceptance letter pool, in many instances. Join a non-profit organization while you still have time, so you can get those community service hours. Schools like it when they see students with lots of community service experience, because to them that means you will be more likely to help out their community when you get to their school.
6. Dream big.
Don’t sell yourself short. Wherever you go, you will most likely be there for the next four years, so choose the college you really want. You might find yourself really wanting to go to a certain school, but being held back because you think you won’t get in. Put those thoughts out of your mind. There is always the possibility of being accepted, so don’t be afraid to apply to your dream school.