100 Best Tips from College Admissions Counselors

Posted August 26, 2009

By Hannah Watson

If you’re interested in getting started on a college program, the first step is getting in. Of course, there are certain things you’ll need to take care of first. Read on, and you’ll find the best advice for getting into a college program from the admissions counselors themselves.

General Here you’ll find general tips for getting into your college of choice.

  1. Be an academic high achiever: As a high achiever, you can be recruited like a star athlete by some colleges.
  2. Work with your school counselor: Use your school counselor as an excellent resource for finding colleges and getting organized for acceptance.
  3. Don’t procrastinate: Avoid missing deadlines because of frozen computers, power outages, or mistakes from being in a rush.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make contact: Make personal contact to admissions officers to show interest.
  5. Deal with rejection and failure: Develop good coping skills that can help you get through the process.
  6. Follow up: Be sure to check on transcripts, scores, and recommendations that need to be sent in by others.
  7. Take classes at a community college: Take basic courses at a community college before attending a university online or during summer breaks.
  8. Don’t be scared off by sticker price: Look for colleges that offer merit money for academics and talents.
  9. Learn to handle rejection: Rejection letters may be in your future, so learn how to deal with rejection.
  10. Let your student take charge: Parents, get your child ready for college by allowing them to do the work to get into college.
  11. Watch out for scams: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is-do careful research.
  12. Ask for help: If you run into something you don’t understand, stop and ask for guidance.
  13. Know your deadlines: Stay on top of deadlines so you won’t miss any opportunities.
  14. Ask for recommendations early: Give your teachers plenty of time to write a letter for you by asking early.
  15. Decide whether you’ll accept the wait list or not: Think about the colleges that have accepted you, and if they are better than the ones who have put you on their wait list.
  16. Ask about other schools: If you know a school isn’t for you, ask the admissions counselor for recommendations that would work for you.
  17. Answer questions clearly: Be sure to answer questions clearly and completely.
  18. Have great recommendations: Build strong relationships with teachers and administrators so that you can have strong recommendation letters for college admissions.
  19. Use a professional email address: Avoid inappropriate email addresses-admissions counselors will reject on this detail alone.
  20. Be on time: Get your essential information in order in plenty of time so you can put your best foot forward.
  21. Enlist a proofreader: Get someone else to help you with spelling errors and questions.
  22. Pay attention to social media: Make sure that your Facebook and MySpace are presentable-admissions counselors may check them out.
  23. Stay organized: Meet with your school counselor to make sure your information is organized and on time.
  24. Keep your parents out of it: You should always be the person contacting the admissions department, so you present yourself professionally.
  25. Stay on top of email: Don’t miss important requests for information or acceptance-check your email often.

High School These are some of the things you can do to ensure acceptance while you’re still in high school.

  1. Challenge yourself: Be sure you take challenging courses your last year of high school.
  2. Attend a quality high school: If you want to make it into one of the Ivy League schools in Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Connecticut – go to a feeder high school that sends many students to Ivy League schools every year.
  3. Take AP or honors courses: Get prepared for college and show that you can work hard by taking advanced courses.
  4. Have a strong GPA: It seems like a no brainer, but having a good GPA will help you get in to your chosen school.
  5. Don’t join clubs to fill your resume: Although quality clubs and activities are important, avoid taking on too much in your final year just for your resume.
  6. Be well rounded: Be a good student, but also participate in a handful of clubs and activities, and have an officer position so you can really stand out.
  7. Get help with classes: If you’re having trouble achieving the GPA you want, get help from your parents, tutors, or study groups.
  8. Don’t slack off: Your colleges will see your final grades even after you’re accepted.
  9. Get into an organized competition: Become a part of a national academic quiz bowl, international science fair, or other events that can show how you stack up against students outside of your community.
  10. Test more than once: If you don’t get the score you’re looking for in the beginning, test over again until you get it.
  11. Take the PSAT: Prepare for the SAT by taking the SAT as a sophomore.

Choosing a School These are some tips for finding the right school for you.

  1. Look for a college with a wide variety of offerings: You may have plans for art school, but it’s best to stick with a college that has options just in case you change majors down the road.
  2. Find out the student/faculty ratio: If you want a more engaging college experience, find a school with a smaller ratio of students to faculty.
  3. Attend college fairs: Get a feel for colleges by attending college fairs.
  4. Consider whether the Ivy League is right for you: Don’t automatically shoot for the stars and try to get into an Ivy League school if it’s not the right fit for you.
  5. Start thinking about schools by the end of your junior year: Consider what kind of school you want in your junior year so you’ll have plenty of time to get ready.
  6. Check out college guides: The US News and World Report, Princeton Review, College Board and other sites can help you find the school for you.
  7. Check out the alcohol policy: Find out if your college is a party school or not by researching its alcohol policy.
  8. Consider the level of academic challenge: Think about whether you want to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond.
  9. Research the freshman retention rate: Find out how many people enjoyed their college experience enough to come back.
  10. Look up safety statistics: You can find out how safe your potential college campus is by looking up statistics for safety and security.
  11. Make your choice as an individual: Don’t make your decision based on your parents, or where your best friend is going-make the right choice for you.
  12. Find extracurricular activities: Find out what the most popular activities are on campus.

Essays These tips will help you write the perfect college admission essay.

  1. Don’t use the same essay: Using one essay for several applications may save you time, but it’s more effective to write each one from scratch, or at the very least, tailor each essay to the college.
  2. Consider your audience: Entertain the college admissions officers.
  3. Have an interesting opener: Catch the eye of the admissions counselor with a stunning introduction.
  4. Discuss what’s important to you: Discuss what’s most important to you in your essay.
  5. Put yourself as the focus: Even if your prompt is about someone else, always be sure to bring it back to you.
  6. Be brief: You don’t need a 10-page autobiography to be effective.
  7. Review your essay after a few days: Leave your first draft to sit, then pick it up again after some time.
  8. Tell a story: Consider the beginning, middle, and end of your story.
  9. Answer the question: Don’t just submit what you think colleges want to read, actually answer the question they have given you.
  10. Do not have your parents write your essay: Admissions advisors read lots of essays-it’s obvious when they are written by parents.
  11. Show your motivation: Demonstrate that you’re motivated to do well in college.
  12. Use your personal voice: Don’t take on a different voice in your writing for college essays-let yourself shine through.
  13. Don’t buy an essay on the Internet: College admission officers can spot an online essay a mile away.
  14. Go beyond the superficial: Communicate what you care about deeply.
  15. Don’t trust spell check: Watch for typos and grammar issues that spell check won’t catch.
  16. Ask others to read your essay: Have your parents, English teacher, and mentors read your essay.
  17. Be interesting: Counselors will read many applications each day-you want to be interesting enough to get passed around.
  18. Send the right essay to the right college: Avoid accidentally referring to another college in an essay that you send.
  19. Save time for editing: Be sure to edit your essay once you’ve written it, taking into consideration opinions from people who have read it and any fine tuning you’d like to do.

Interviews These tips will help you ace your college admissions interview.

  1. Be on time: It’s simple-show your responsibility by coming to the interview on time.
  2. Have a positive attitude: Bring a positive, friendly attitude to your interviews.
  3. Dress neatly: Avoid wearing anything that might be considered inappropriate.
  4. Show your personality: Let the admissions counselor know what you’re bringing by showing off your personality.
  5. Take business cards: Take the business cards of people you meet with so that you can follow up with a call or email if you have questions.
  6. Ask questions: The interview isn’t just a time for you to be assessed-get your essential questions answered, too.
  7. Be ready to talk about yourself: Keep in mind community service, activities, and other information your interviewer may want to know about.
  8. Avoid offending the interviewer: Stay away from swearing or expressing extreme beliefs.
  9. Don’t just answer yes or no: Offer thoughtful answers to questions.
  10. Show you’re interested: Make it clear that you want to be a part of the college you’re interviewing with.
  11. Prepare in advance: Get familiar with the college before your interview.
  12. Know why you’re visiting the college: You will probably be asked why you want to attend the college-so be prepared to answer this question.
  13. Send thank you notes: Stand out by sending a thank you note after you meet with an admissions counselor.
  14. Have documents ready: Show that you’re serious and ready by bringing your important documents with you.

College Visits These tips will help you make the most of visits to college campuses.

  1. Visit early: Before you make a decision about which college you’d like to attend, be sure to make a visit to the campus.
  2. Imagine yourself there: Think about yourself living at and experiencing college on the campus you visit.
  3. Visit and interview between September and November: The months of September-November tend to be the best time to go to colleges.
  4. Go to more than one campus: Get a good feel for the difference between college campuses by going to multiple schools.
  5. Ask thoughtful questions: Get as much information as you can in your college visit experience.
  6. Have lunch in the cafeteria: Find out what the food is like by checking out the cafeteria.
  7. Pick an upperclassman guide: Select a junior or a senior to show you around campus.
  8. Don’t wait until summer: Get a feel for the life of the college when students are in session.
  9. Read the school newspaper: Learn more about the school by reading the newspaper.
  10. Show up early: Arrive early for visits to give yourself time to review campus information.
  11. Wander: After your tour is over, be sure to stick around and check out other parts of campus that you didn’t see.
  12. Make a visit before you’re accepted: Visiting a campus can earn you points in the admissions process.
  13. Read bulletin boards: Find out what’s really going on in the campus community on bulletin boards.
  14. Make multiple visits: Get even more views from your prospective college by visiting two times or more.
  15. Stay up front: Get the opportunity to ask questions and hear small insights by walking near the front of the group.
  16. Take notes: If you’re taking tours at multiple schools, it may be difficult for you to remember every detail, so be sure and take notes as you go along.
  17. Approach students: Talk to students and ask them what they think of the school.
  18. Remember that tours are often scripted: Don’t trust your tour guide to show all of the downsides of your potential college.
  19. Go to information sessions: Get important details about the admissions process or financial aid from information sessions.

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