Tips to college applicants from a recent grad

Colleges Mental Health
In this Nov. 14, 2019, photo, a student attaches a note to the Resilience Project board on the campus of Utah Valley University, in Orem, Utah. The purpose of the project is to let students know that it is OK to struggle. More college students are turning to their schools for help with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. That’s according to an Associated Press review of more than three dozen public universities. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Ah, college — it’s much more than just a sweatshirt that John Belushi iconically wore on the set of Animal House some years ago.

For many high schoolers, the path to admission is much more of a mystery than something to plan, prepare for, and anticipate.

Believe it or not, there isn’t an exact and linear path to admission, but there is plenty that students and supportive families can do to make an application glow right off the page. 

The concept of collegiate education differs greatly from that of a high school one. College dedicates focus to exploring knowledge more of one’s self than it does of an academic discipline; in an age where standardized admissions tests are being phased out, high school students that show their own unique and energetic personalities are favorable candidates over those that just let the numbers speak. 

Here’s some honest advice from a college grad that went through the process not all that long ago: 

Don’t be deterred by bad grades of the past

Admissions counselors aren’t going to hold your 9th grade, C- algebra average against you. What colleges look for in students that didn’t get off on the right foot is an upward trend and major attitude adjustment. It’s a clean start as of this very moment, take your classes seriously and wrap up on a high note—it will be noticed in good favor. 

Make your application as personal as possible 

The best way to stand out to admissions offices is to literally stand out. Tell a story about your campus visit and what compelled you to apply, talk about your lofty dreams and how this certain program makes you believe they can be achieved, call the office when you submit your application and speak to someone about how excited you are to consider that school as your next step. It goes a very long way.

Schedule an interview

As you will also hear when applying for jobs in the not so distant future, “be a face, not a name” on your application. The best way of doing this is to land face to face with the counselor that will be influencing your admission status. Tell them about your extracurricular interests, what you enjoy outside of school, especially if it’s something relevant to your intended major. Colleges value what students do on their own time just as much with what they do in school because it potentially shows intuition and passion in areas that academic subjects fall short.

Have fun

Like every good coach tells a team before a championship game, “work hard and remember to have fun out there.” The reality is this, yes college apps are a boatload of work but remember what it is you’re doing. You’re picking out the next place that you’ll be meeting friends, coming closer to the career you seek, and if we’re being realistic where you’ll be partying it up all the time over the next couple of years. Make it fun, exciting, and something that you and your family remember in growth as opposed to just butting heads.

It’s not the end of the world if things don’t go according to plan. Just do your best and remember that the harder you work, the luckier you get.

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