(from Admissions Officers/Representatives)
Before applying to any selective college, college-bound student should consider these tips from admission office staff/counselors:
Take challenging courses and build a good foundation throughout elementary, middle and high school.
The first year in high school is when you start to create a record that will play a role in the college admission decision. A picture is being painted by what you do in 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades.
The 8th grade is when you plan what you will take in high school.
Not everyone is Harvard-bound. Assess what your skills really are and on what "playing field" you will perform best.
Pursue volunteer and extracurricular activities that reflect who you are.
Take the PSAT as a sophomore to prepare for the SAT which will be given during your junior year.
Familiarize yourself with university settings. Attend summer camps on college campuses. Visit colleges while on vacation.
See college as a fun place.
Decide what kind of school you are looking for by the end of your sophomore year or beginning of your junior year.
Speak with alumni and current students at the colleges that interest you.
The college application process starts a different time frame. As you begin the senior year, it signals that you’re applying to go to a school, and you will receive a letter back that says either yes you can or no you can’t.
Writing the college admission essay is crucial. Don’t put it off until the last minute. Start early. Set a self-imposed deadline of Thanksgiving of your senior year to have the rough draft–if not the final draft–complete.
Parents: talk to students about where they want to go to school, what is affordable and what you are willing to sacrifice. Sit down with the students and help them decide what schools are realistic to pursue.
Students’ relationships with their parents change as they begin the college search process. Students, take responsibility for your own actions or non-actions. This is usually the first real-life decision you will have to make. Be prepared to deal with this change.
Your best friend is not necessarily going with you to the next phase of your education. Make your college choice individually. You will become a better person if you are brave enough to strike out on your own. Value and develop your own self-worth.
It helps if students have learned to take responsibility for themselves at early ages and through their high school careers. Students who seem best suited for college are those who held jobs and had some responsibility for taking care of themselves, for managing themselves. When they reach college, they have to discipline themselves to study, go to class, and turn in papers on time.
Parents: give your student the opportunity to make intelligent choices.
Learn to deal with rejection and failure, especially if you are looking at competitive colleges. Not everyone can be in the top 10 percent of the class. Good coping skills will benefit you throughout your life.
Visit different campuses.
Read newspapers. Keep up with current events.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the college search process. Parents should assist students in the college search, but should not take over. Let the student make appointments for college visits. Let the student complete and mail inquiry cards. Let the student complete and mail the application. Let the student do the work required to gain admission to college.
Parents should not prevent students from exploring college options for majors and degrees. Let your student figure out what he or she is passionate about.
The college decision involves an incredible investment of time that can never be repeated: four years of undergraduate education. College is the second or third largest investment of personal resources that parents and students make. Have a plan.
Know and meet all deadlines. Don’t lose an opportunity because you missed a deadline.
Parents: talk to your students about income so they can understand the concept of spending money for college as an investment versus just "going to a school."
Have your essay proofed.
Write your essay for yourself. Don’t write what you think your admission counselor wants.
Identify and articulate your accomplishments. Decide what your greatest accomplishment thus far in life is.
It’s important for parents to remember that not every student wants to go to a Southwestern, a selective school. That is not a bad thing. You should support your student in seeking an environment where he or she will succeed–whether that’s SU or an Ivy League school, technical institute, community college or state university.
For first-generation families: Students, follow your dreams. Be realistic about your skills and abilities. Seek colleges that will best benefit your whole life. Don’t shy away from applying to a school because you think it costs too much. That’s why scholarships and financial aid exist. Parents, seek out professionals–it does not have to be a paid service. Many college and university admission and financial aid professionals are willing to help parents identify resources.
Use admission counselors as a resource; that’s why we’re here.
If you realize a school isn’t right for you, don’t be afraid to ask an admission counselor for ideas on other schools that may be a better match.
Admission counselors are not salespeople. We are here to tell you about the college admission process and to give you information on the school we represent. We’re not trying to sell you something that is not right for you.
Mailings that guarantee scholarships for substantial fees are usually scams. High schools, public libraries, the World Wide Web and the college admission offices offer free access to scholarship resources.
Visit www.fastweb.com, a free scholarship search service on the World Wide Web.
Education is not certification. It’s not a collection of classes. It’s a total experience that helps you become a well-rounded person.
A broad education is the best preparation for the unexpected.
Major in something you enjoy.
Seek opportunities for leadership development.
Be prepared to have your horizons stretched in college. You will meet people who have different opinions. You may disagree. You may agree. Your values may change or they may not. It’s okay to see things in a different light than your parents.
Understand what a research institution is, what a liberal arts college is, what different types of colleges exist.
Consider more than just a school’s size. Bigger is not necessarily better.
A good exercise for students is to ask what you parents thought they were going to do when they were 18-years-old. What was their first college major? Their second? Their third? What major did they graduate with? What was their first job? What are they doing today? Then ask them to defend why you should be pressured to know exactly what you are going to do.
Begin by taking as broad a course selection as possible at the undergraduate level. Don’t focus on preparing for one specific career. The career you begin pursuing may not be around in four years when you graduate. Ten years after you graduate college, it’s likely that you will be working in a career you didn’t perceive as possible when you began college.
Look for challenges inside and outside the college classroom. Some of your best learning will be done outside of the classroom.
When a student begins college, parents are doing a disservice to allow him or her to leave before completing at least one semester, and preferably one year. Students sometimes have a hard time adapting to newness and to change and to stress. Homesickness is not a problem.
Don’t expect college to be like television or the movies. It’s not like "Beverly Hills, 90210" or, hopefully, not like "Animal House."
The kind of experience you have will depend on the effort and time you put into college.
If you are not satisfied with how you are doing in school, the first place to look is at yourself. You might find out a lot by looking inward first, instead of just transferring to another school.
You can have a great experience any place you decide to go to school.
Have fun as you search!