In this episode of our podcast, MyGuru founder Mark Skoskiewicz talks to Wendy Friedman of CollegeBound Admissions. Friedman is an independent college counselor who helps students plan for, apply to, and get into college.
When does the college application process start?
Many people believe that the college application process starts in junior or senior year of high school, but that is too late for someone to start becoming a great college applicant. As a student, you build your academic and personal record from the moment you start high school. Colleges care most about your academic record (grades and test scores), and every class counts from ninth grade on. You should always choose the most rigorous classes you can handle and then work hard to perform well.
What should high school students keep in mind as they move towards college to ensure that they will get accepted to their dream school?
Get to know yourself; most students do not really know who they are by the time they are ready to apply to college. You can do this throughout high school by finding classes, extra-curricular activities, and friends that you love. This often means trying things that are initially outside your comfort zone and then sticking with the things that really excite you.
Admissions officers at selective schools report that about 80% of their applicants are academically qualified, so students need to distinguish themselves from the competition in other ways. By developing your personal profile, you can show colleges that you will make a valuable contribution to your future campus community.
What strategies can students use to improve their grades and academic performance?
Always come to class on time. Tardiness can only bring negative attention, and you might miss valuable in-class discussion. Be prepared to participate in class; let your opinions and ideas be heard. Sitting in the front of the class can help you maintain eye contact and pay better attention, which will also improve your participation.
You can go above and beyond teachers’ expectations by going to a local college library and searching for books or articles about subjects being covered in class. Reading professional articles can help you with your writing, and you will be armed with new ideas and theories to bring up in class and incorporate into your papers.
Why is it important to talk to your teachers?
Teachers are an underutilized resource. Many students do not ask their teachers for help, often because they are afraid to admit that they do not understand something. Instead of seeing teachers as people who are just there to evaluate you, see them as people you can actually talk to and get feedback from.
Most teachers will make an extra effort if students make an extra effort; you will not be penalized for asking for help. In fact, your teachers will become your biggest cheerleaders, because they will know you tried really hard. As they get to know you, they will be available to write you letters of recommendation or otherwise help you with the college application process.
What are some common mistakes that college applicants make?
Students often choose schools for the wrong reasons (such as parents, friends, or college rankings) and they forget to form their own opinion. It is never too early to start looking at schools, especially online. Keep an open mind; try not to go by name recognition. When the time comes, you should really know about the schools’ course offerings, communities, professors, and student bodies, and you should have a clear picture of how you might enhance the community.
Students also make the mistake of not showing schools enough interest – colleges like to know that they are wanted. If they admit you, they want to know that you are going to say yes. Once you know that a college is a serious one on your list, you need to demonstrate that interest through communications.
Finally, watch your social media presence. 40% of colleges now check social media during the admissions process, so make sure there is nothing about you on social media that could be perceived negatively. Friedman suggests the “grandma rule” – if you would not want your grandma to see it, then it should not be on social media.
To hear the full interview, check out the episode on iTunes.