The process of preparing for, applying to, getting accepted into, and choosing the right college for you can be a very scary and nerve-wracking experience.
Think of it this way, you’re preparing for the next four or five years of your life. This is the time when you’ll be expected to show your independence, become somewhat of an adult, and begin the journey to becoming a productive member of society.
So, where do you start? How do you prepare? Start here:
6 things you should know about getting into college:
1. Plan Early
A drag, yes, but also a necessity. Don’t forget who you’ll be competing against when you’re a junior and applying for acceptance to your first choice. Think about all those smarties who want to go to the same school you’re interested in.
Use all the time you can to get ready. You can’t go back in time, so be aware of everything you need to do to be a top pick: extracurricular activities (e.g., volunteering, being an active member of a club, playing a sport, etc.). You won’t be able to rewind your life and participate in these activities when you’re filling out that application, so do it now.
Homeschoolers: Call the schools you’ll be applying to and ask how they evaluate home-schooled students. Find out how you can be the most successful applicant.
The sooner you get this information, the sooner you and your parent(s) can decide the best course of action to take as far as which classes and activities you should be participating in.
No matter what they say, remember that being able to show them that you have a range of social experiences and diverse personal interests will dispel any negative myths they may have of home-schooled students.
When you go in for the interview, talk up your experience. This could be a major advantage for you, so don’t downplay the fact that you have been home-schooled. Highlight all of the fun and creative things you’ve been privy to that sets you apart from your public and private school counterparts.
Many college admissions counselors have had limited interactions with home-schooled students, so take the opportunity to accentuate the positive and teach them a thing or two about your experience.
2. Choose Classes Wisely
Sure, you can slide through high school taking the easiest classes and acing them, but is that what you want? Do you want mediocre, un-challenging courses that get you the grades, but not necessarily the competitive advantage?
Think about your goals after you graduate and where you want to apply yourself to. Consider taking classes that are just above your learning ability, and challenge yourself.
Colleges do look closely at which classes you took, and will weigh that against others who have other similar attributes. Remember, if you don’t take yourself seriously, neither will they. They have a keen ability to smell complacency.
Homeschoolers: Because you will be producing your own transcripts, make sure you document everything. Keep records of every class you take and every activity you participate in.
3. Every Year is Crucial
It’s true, freshman year counts. But if you fell a little short, don’t freak out. Colleges look for trends more than anything else. They want to know how you do over a period of time. So keep that in mind from here on out.
4. Prepare for the Dreaded Exams
ACTs, SATs, and any other acronym-ed exams that colleges consider in the acceptance process are annoying, but necessary to prepare for. Start taking the practice exams early, and take a lot of them.
You want to do as well as you can on these, obviously. So take the time and study. Remember, this is an investment in the next four or five years of your life. You never know, you may be a total rock star and getting into college will be a breeze after that.
5. Be Selective with the Extras
More isn’t always better with extracurricular activities. Be choosy with what you get involved in, and put your all into it. You don’t want to enroll yourself in ten clubs, then feel completely overwhelmed or apathetic about going to any of the meetings. What’s the point of that?
Two or three is a healthy number in this category. Perhaps playing a sport and joining a club that offers volunteering opportunities would make for a strong high school experience. And if you stick with both for the duration of your high school career, even better.
6. Pick the Right School
For many of you, choosing the right school will be more than just your decision; your immediate family will likely be involved. Remember to consider factors such as location and price when selecting the right school.
Think about how far or close you want to be, how expensive it will be, how you will be paying for it, etc. Do some research. Can you get a scholarship? Are there work/study options? Talk to your high school counselors, professionals, mentors etc.
Homeschoolers: Although there are many advantages to going to a college with a campus, you can now obtain your college degree entirely online. There are many accredited, four-year universities that offer undergraduate degrees online.
There are downsides to this, however. And they should be considered very carefully before committing to such an endeavor. For one, you will probably not have the same social experience.
Making friends will be that much harder. There are also a lot more challenges when completing a degree online. You have to be extremely self-motivated, independent, and disciplined to work.
This is a topic that can be expanded on quite a bit, so we invite all comments, suggestions, recommendations, etc. Please tell us on our Facebook page!