what you need to know about applying to college

Applying to college: How you can stand out!

The college admission process can seem intimidating, and sometimes it’s impossible to figure out why some students are accepted while others are denied.  The truth is, you can be an amazing student with impressive achievements and a long list of activities and still not be admitted to many universities.  There are some things you need to be aware of when applying to college. During the development of our career exploration course, we talked with a college admissions officer to learn more about the process and to find out how homeschooled students can maximize their chances of acceptance.   Read on to find out how to make your college application stand out.

One of the major points that he wanted us to understand is that admissions officers are responsible for crafting a class.  Their task is not simply to admit the “best” students as defined by a set of criteria, but to choose the right mix of people who will contribute to the university in desired ways.  Students applying to college are evaluated not only on the basis of their individual merit, but by how they fit into the mix of students who applied that year. Of course, looking the best you can on paper is a good idea, but don’t be insulted if you aren’t accepted to some of the places where you apply.  A rejection letter is not proof that you are any less awesome than you had previously believed, just that you didn’t fit the profile that the university was looking for at that time.

So how can you predict what colleges are looking for and make sure you write your application to match that?  You can’t.  Instead, your goal when applying to college should be to show them the best version of yourself that you can.  This is done in three ways.  First, you have to be the best version of yourself that you can.  Then, you need to write well and include the things that make you awesome in your application essays.  Finally, you must provide ways for the universities to see you stand out among other students.  Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

Be the best version of yourself.

This means working hard through high school.  Challenge yourself academically.   Get involved in activities that interest you and try to make sure that some of them are aligned with college majors that you’re considering.  Take on leadership roles.  Serve your community.  Do something unique, that most of their applicants probably haven’t done.  This is where homeschooled students have an advantage.  With more flexibility in your schedule, you can volunteer or intern while other students are in school.  You can do an in-depth exploration of a topic that interests you.  Just make sure to complete basic high school curriculum requirements as well.

Rock your essays.

When filling out your college applications, the essay portion is your chance to shine.  Use this to let them know more about who you are, what makes you exceptional, and what you can contribute to their university.  Admissions officers read a lot of essays.  A LOT.  This essay cannot tell them that you love math and work hard on your assignments and enjoy orchestra.  They will never remember you.  Tell a compelling story that highlights important aspects of your character and personality.  It should be unique, so that people who know you would recognize you in the story, or be reminded of you, even if it was anonymous.  

Show your value.

This last point requires some extra consideration for homeschooled students.  Though grades, test scores, and statistics are not enough to get you in, they are very important.  These measures are how admissions officers compare students with their peers.  Students who attend schools are compared to the rest of their class.  Homeschooled students must take care to provide ways for admissions officers to get unbiased data on their performance.  The best way to do this is to take the SAT or ACT.  If those are not a good option for you, then you could take some graded courses, perhaps at a local college.  If a parent has been your main teacher, you should absolutely include mom’s or dad’s letter of recommendation.  However, you should also provide at least one other letter from someone who can speak about your academic abilities (for example, from the instructor of that community college course you took).  

When applying to college, it’s important to keep your audience in mind. Admissions officers work hard reviewing all of the applications they receive, so do your best to make yours clear, interesting, and impressive.  Look for opportunities to excel academically, pursue your interests, serve your community, and develop leadership skills.  Apply to more than one school that you would be happy to attend, and try not to take it personally if not all of them say yes.  

Find out more at H4RL.com.

Join us in the H4RL Career Exploration Course to find out more about applying to college and planning your future.  You know you’re awesome – we’ll help you prove it!

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