how to get into college

How to Get Into Your Dream College

Getting into college takes a lot of work. Some even seek the help of admissions consulting firms because the process can be quite overwhelming, especially for high school seniors who are juggling multiple tasks at the same time. Without the correct mindset and necessary knowledge on how to get into college successfully, one will get stuck and lose the confidence to apply.

Student-tutor took the liberty of compiling the most proven strategies to help you get into your dream college. These practical tips will not only carve your path towards that coveted acceptance letter but will also teach you some crucial lessons that you can apply once you are already admitted.

Tips to get into your dream college

Important note: You can apply all of these tips as you prepare for college admissions, or you can just pick some that you think will work for you. It is okay to skip some of this advice because this doesn’t follow any chronological order or any type of arrangement.

Tip #1: Get good grades in high school

Yeah, we know this is cliche, and you might have heard this not only from your teachers but from your parents every day. But we’re going to repeat it just in case you haven’t had enough: you must get good grades in high school in order to make your college application relatively easy. Don’t believe us yet?

Well, maybe you’ll believe the result of the survey of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, which states that 81% of colleges consider grades as their top basis in accepting students. Look at the figure below for more details on how to get into college.

how to get to college

Tip #2: Do well on the SAT and ACT

Your SAT or ACT results also determine whether you will get accepted to your dream college or not. These two tests are created to measure your intellectual ability or basically what you have learned in school. There are several ways you can prepare for both of these tests to boost your chances of getting admitted to college. For instance, if you decide to take the SAT, the following tips may be useful:

  1. Search out help at school
  2. Get prep books and study independently
  3. Read a lot
  4. Download smartphone apps
  5. Practice mental math
  6. Go for mixed practice tests
  7. Don’t postpone reviewing for the exam
  8. Focus on your weakness
  9. Use your breaks to review
  10. Find a study buddy
  11. Schedule you review time
  12. Enroll in a paid SAT course
  13. Get a private tutor

If you are interested in reading a detailed discussion about these tips, head over to our blog on how to study for the SAT. Meanwhile, if you are torn which test to apply and you only want to take one, read this helpful comparison of the SAT and ACT:

SAT vs ACT

Here are other helpful articles by Student-tutor that can help you with how to get into a university.

  1. Tips to Improve your SAT Essay
  2. Cheat Sheet for the Night Before the SAT
  3. Top SAT Prep Tips and Tricks to Ace the Exam!
  4. 7 SAT Grammar Rules You Should Know
  5. 15 Tips to Increase Speed on the ACT Science Section
  6. Should I Take the ACT Writing Test?

Tip #3: Take the college essay seriously

We know that writing the admission essay can be intimidating since it is one of those admission requirements that can make or break your chances of getting into your dream college.

There is no particular formula that will help you write a great college entrance essay. However, you don’t have to worry; with the help of a few guidelines, you can easily write a perfect application essay that will fulfill the admission requirements and increase your chances of landing a place at your dream college.

To make it easier for you, we have put together a list of college essays do’s and don’ts when it comes to composing a perfect college entrance essay. 

College Essay Do’s

Do ask for professional help

It is always a good idea to ask for professional help. No matter how good a student you are, do you want to risk your entire future just because you weren’t able to write a good “about me” essay? Absolutely not.

Go through various college application essay topics. Essay writing samples with perfect formatting are available online, which will give you an idea of how to present your application essay. Do plenty of research, collect thoughts, and check out 100 free essays for college to ensure that you have a vast knowledge base that will help you when you think about how to structure your thoughts. You can take help from professional writers who will help bring your best side into the light so that the admissions officer will love your application essay, and you will be one step closer to achieving your dream!

Do write about your rituals

Everyone has some sort of rituals, be they religious, cultural, or social. Take about those things that started as habits and have now become traditions in your community. How to write a college application essay becomes easy when you know who you are.

If there is an annual dance in your town, write about it; if your family comes together for dinner every night, talk about that.

Use this tip to learn how to write college essays and while choosing college application essay topics. Show the admissions officer the kind of person you are and the kind of social relationships you have and how you would be a good fit for the community in the college you are applying to.

Do show your strengths and passions

If you write eloquently about some famous personality or historical figure, it will not help you get admission to your dream college. A college application essay and college personal essay needs to be highly personal and showcase your passions, strengths, and uniqueness. Once you know what your strengths are, how to start an essay will become easier for you.

College Essay Don’ts

Don’t sell yourself

Never try to sell yourself. It is highly inappropriate to say that “No is better suited than me for this program.” This is another don’t when it comes to college application essay format. There is a risk of a backlash from the Admissions Officer who’d say, “Let me the judge of that,” and that’ll not be good for you at all. This is a commonly made mistake in a personal college essay.

You need to learn the college application essay format. Simply illustrate things that make you well-qualified and let the officer come to this conclusion on their own!

Don’t write about your grades and scores

This is another thing about what to avoid in college essays. Your admission essay and college personal essay isn’t about how many marks you scored on your math test or what grade you got in AP Physics paper; it is a glimpse into your personality and who you are. You will attach your transcripts and result cards with your college application anyway since they are a part of the admission requirements. This means that the admissions officer is going to know what kind of academic record you have. Thus, there is no need to be repetitive since it will decrease your acceptance rate.

Don’t mention anything that symbolizes status

Did you take a trip to the Bahamas last summer? That’s cool, but that’s not what an admissions officer wants to hear about. You don’t have to hide privilege or affluence, but there is no need to flaunt it needlessly. Many students make this mistake when they learn how to write college essays.

Tip #4: Apply early if possible

Make sure to submit your applications ahead of time, even if you are not applying for early decision or early action. This sends a message to your dream college admission committee that you are interested in being part of their institution. Plus, you’ll have more time to look for college scholarships which are necessary because college cost isn’t cheap. You will also be able to avoid a lot of stress if you started applying early since you have a lot of requirements to finish high school.

Tip #5: Apply to at least three schools

So Stanford is your dream school? But what if your credentials and test scores did not make the cut? Will you just wallow in self-pity and throw your dreams of finishing college education?

One of the best advice that we can share with you to successfully get into college is to apply to at least three schools. There is a higher chance that you’ll get admitted this way than focusing on just one school.

Tip #6: Enrol in honors classes

Enrolling in honors classes is an excellent way to boost your high school GPA, which matters a lot when it comes to college admissions. Like AP classes, honors classes offer college-level coursework, so you also get an idea of how college works. Once you are successfully admitted, you’ll be able to adjust easier to the level of academic work your professors will require you to do. You are like hitting two birds in one stone if you apply this tip.

Tip #7: Join academic groups

There are many legitimate academic groups like the National Honor Society that you can join in to improve your academic skills and, at the same time, help you in making your college application look more thought out. This will bolster your academic profile, which colleges carefully consider when it comes to admissions.

Tip #8: Get involved in meaningful extracurriculars

When we say get involved in extracurriculars, we also expect you to carefully think about the club or group you are going to join in because this matters to the admissions committee. Instead of joining multiple clubs, focus on a club that suits your interest, and contribute to meaningful work. Here is a list of extracurricular activities colleges like to see in your application:

how to get to college

Aside from being a proven tip on how to get into college, joining clubs and doing extracurricular activities have a lot of benefits which involves the following:

  1. It improves academic performance
  2. It widens your perspective
  3. You make friends
  4. You gain essential life skills
  5. It reduces academic stress
  6. You become more confident

Tip #9: Take AP tests and SAT Subject Tests

Some schools are quite competitive that they ask for Advance Placement (AP) test results where you can earn acceleration credits or class credits. Usually, an AP score of 5 is the only result accepted by top colleges, so you better do your best. It will also help if you enroll in several AP classes like Chemistry and Math.

Tip #10: Consider joining foreign exchange programs

Joining foreign exchange programs also look good in college admissions because it easily stands out among other meaningful activities other students will put in their application. According to sustainablesummer.org, foreign exchange programs promote “cross-cultural understanding, challenge and adventure, an opportunity to develop independence and language skills, and so many more.” Surely, colleges will find this impressive and meaningful.

Tip #11: Join essay competitions during high school

By joining essay competitions in high school, you get free training in writing your admission essays and your scholarship essays. You may not notice the change in your writing skill as you start joining competitions, but eventually, the training you undergo to win such contests will prove useful as you prepare your college admission essay. 

For instance, you spent a lot of time studying how to write a good thesis statement for a writing competition your teacher asked you to join. As you draft your admission essay, you will notice that you are now more confident in writing your introduction and organizing the content of your work because you learned that particular skill. This useful tip on how to get into college will also help you with college requirements once you start studying.

Tip #12: Demonstrate leadership skills

Being a part of the student council or manifesting leadership skills in other activities is highly considered in college admissions these days. According to Woodlynde School, it is becoming more popular than the usual extracurricular activities that colleges like to see. Here are some ways to gain leadership-related credentials to put in your college application:

  1. Create your club in high school that addresses current needs/issues
  2. Initiate a community service project
  3. Attend events centered on leadership
  4. Be a part of the student council

Tip #13: Get involved in your community

Anchored to tip #11, you should also be more involved in your community not just in the summer before senior year but during all four years of high school. By doing this, you are proving that you are a student with depth, and you care about others, which some people lack. You’ll also learn a thing or two while being immersed in community-related activities, so it is a win-win situation. So if you are confused about how to get into a university, try this tip and see for yourself.

Tip #14: Don’t just rely on legacy

When you go look for advice to get to your dream college, you will find some websites stating that you should apply to your parents’ alma mater. While this works for some, this isn’t always true for many. So it would be better not to rely on your mom or dad’s connections solely. Apply all the useful tips you’ll find in this article instead.

Tip #15: Develop self-confidence

Developing healthy confidence in your skills and capabilities is also an unspoken key to successful college admissions. This will be reflected in all your engagements, activities, and, most importantly, your college essay content. There is a list of ways to build your confidence, which can also be applied in other situations. You just need to have the patience to work on them.

Tip #16: Be authentic

How to get into college easily, you ask. Well then, you have to show them who you are. We know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Don’t sound too boastful in your college essay and list your achievements in a very structured way. Instead, tell your dream college what you are passionate about, your life aspirations, and what you are striving to finish your education. No matter how simple, these little things give them a glimpse of who you are as a person. Imagine them reading thousands of applications focusing on GPA, SAT scores, etc. Reading your essay that is very authentic will be a breath of fresh air for them.

Tip #17: Gather letters of recommendation

Teachers don’t only give letters of recommendation. They can also come from school counselors, and other individuals you think can judge your character accurately. In terms of the number of recommendation letters you should submit, you should ask the school you are going to apply for their specific requirements.

There are two common types of recommendation letters that you can get. Refer to the figure below for a more detailed explanation.

how to get to college

Tip #18: Show interest in your dream school

Some schools like students who show dedication to learning more about what they have to offer, so demonstrating your interest early on might earn you some extra points. Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Visit the school campus
  2. Go on a campus tour
  3. Get scheduled for an optional interview

Tip #19: Take bridge programs if offered

Some schools offer bridge programs, an opportunity to study and live on a college campus in a brief period. You’ll get the chance to experience how the professors teach their students, and you will also get to sit in the same classroom with some of the best minds of your dream school. Once you include this in your college application, the committee will see that you are interested in being part of their campus.

Tip #20: Ask someone to review your application

You may find your application good enough, but some people won’t. That’s why it is essential to ask for other people’s opinions regarding your application. You can also ask them to proofread it just in case you have missed some grammatical errors or mechanical mistakes. Your best option to do this is your teacher or your parents. But if you know a professional who writes good essays, seek their help.

Tip #21: Prepare for interviews

After sending your applications, you should focus next on the interview. Although some schools do not conduct applicant interviews, several colleges include it as part of their admissions. If that is the case, you should research some of the most common interview questions and make sure that you are not late in your appointment. 

Tip #22: Maintain a good social media presence

This tip on how to get into college might surprise you, but some schools visit your social media accounts to check for personality red flags as part of their admission process. So, to be safe, make sure that you don’t have any posts that will embarrass you or make them think differently.

Tip #23: Get help from admission service firms

The last and final tip in this article is to seek the help of admission firms. This is for students who have read all the steps to get into college that we have listed but still unsure what to do. It’s fine. We understand how much pressure college admission can make in someone’s life, so we encourage you to go to a trusted college admission firm and see how they can help you get to college.

Conclusion

We hope that by reading all these steps to get into college, you now know where to begin. Again, you do not have to apply to all of them. Just figure out what works for you.

To recap, here are the 23 tips we have discussed on how to get to college:

Tip #1: Get good grades in high school

Tip #2: Do well on the SAT and ACT

Tip #3: Take the college essay seriously

Tip #4: Apply early if possible

Tip #5: Apply to at least three schools

Tip #6: Enrol in honors classes

Tip #7: Join academic groups

Tip #8: Get involved in meaningful extracurriculars

Tip #9: Take AP tests and SAT Subject Tests

Tip #10: Consider joining foreign exchange programs

Tip #11: Join essay competitions during high school

Tip #12: Demonstrate leadership skills

Tip #13: Get involved in your community

Tip #14: Don’t just rely on legacy

Tip #15: Develop self-confidence

Tip #16: Be authentic

Tip #17: Gather letters of recommendation

Tip #18: Show interest in your dream school

Tip #19: Take bridge programs if offered

Tip #20: Ask someone to review your application

Tip #21: Prepare for interviews

Tip #22: Maintain a good social media presence

Tip #23: Get help from admission service firms

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!

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