The college application process can be intimidating and time-consuming, but the payoff of getting into the school of your dreams can make the stress of college applications worthwhile. Having a prestigious school grace your resume is a fantastic way to give yourself a leg up as you begin your post-schooling life, but you won't have the opportunity to add that school to your resume without putting in the necessary time on your applications. A solid application will boast impressive transcripts, glowing letters of recommendation and a compelling essay. The work of building a winning application begins from the moment you step foot in high school, but even if you get a late start, you can still put together an application that will get you into good schools. There are plentiful resources available for students who want to bolster their college applications, from online resources to skilled college counselors who can help you create the best application possible.
We understand that college applications can be stressful and overwhelming, so we've put together a series of articles to help you better understand the process. One article focuses on the college application process in general, giving you a broad overview of the steps necessary to get into a good school. We also have an article dedicated to the thorny subject of college admissions essays; although these essays intimidate many students, understanding the basics of an admission essay can help you create a strong essay that will get you noticed by admissions officers. Finally, we have a pair of articles to describe college counselors and college consulting. Understanding the work that these college admissions professionals do can help you decide whether you can benefit from their services.
1. Do I Need College Consulting?
For many students, getting into the college of their choice is a daunting task marked by deadlines, mountains of paperwork, rigorous testing and financial concerns. College consultants help students and their families handle the many challenges of the college admission process. Families have a number of choices as to when to hire a college consultant. Dedicated students who desire to attend a top-tier university may wish to begin working with a college consultant in middle school in order to get advice on which classes to take. Others don't begin working with a consultant until high school. At this point, college consultants can help with every step of the application process, including filling out the forms, assisting with the admissions essay and looking for available financial aid options.
There are three main groups of students that can most benefit from employing a college admissions consultant, including those with special circumstances, those in need of individual attention and students who are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the application process. The first group of students includes those with an uncommon educational background, including homeschooled and transfer students. These students may require special help to make sure colleges understand their educational records.
The second group includes students who are working hard to get into top-tier universities and those who need some extra push to figure out their academic plans. Top-tier universities are difficult to get into, and students can benefit from some extra help. In most cases, these students will probably want to start working with a college consultant in middle school to help them select courses and extracurricular activities that will help them meet the rigorous standards of these schools. Students who are unsure about which university to attend can work with a consultant to identify the student's strengths and possible matches for college.
Finally, students and families who feel stressed by the entire process may require outside help to keep them on track and avoid missing any important deadlines. College consultants don't have to worry about upsetting familial relationships, so they can be as strict as is necessary to keep students on schedule. Consultants can also help families who are unsure about how they'll be able to afford college. With their deep understanding of all the financial aid options available, consultants can help families identify scholarships and other aid packages that can help defray the cost of college.
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2. How to Write the Perfect College Admission Essay
Many colleges require a college admissions essay during the application process. The essay portion gives each student the chance to introduce themselves to the school, beyond simple grades and academic records. Although the essay is generally not the most critical part of the application, it can help nudge a student higher above another student with similar grades. Most high school students will have had plenty of experience writing, but the college admission essay is one of the most important pieces they will ever compose.
Writing one of the best college admission essays begins with the student setting aside the proper amount of time for the essay. This allows for plenty of time for the student to brainstorm without the stress of a looming deadline to stifle creativity. Most colleges assign students a theme for their essay, giving students a path during the brainstorming process. Once the student begins to write, she can use experiences from her own life to add personality to her essay, helping it stand out from other college admission essays. Focusing on sharing stories that show educational and personal growth is also a good way to help the reader connect with the student.
After composing an initial draft, letting the composition sit for a few days gives the writer a chance to look at it with fresh eyes. During the rewriting process, the student can consult a sample college admission essay to learn what other successful students have incorporated into their own works. This is also a good time for the student to seek help on their essay. Teachers and parents make good helpers for this process, especially when assigned to look for grammar and spelling issues. Students may want to hire a college consultant for extra college application help.
3. Do I Need a College Counselor?
Identifying the need for a college counselor depends on your situation and the type of student that you are. Students who want to get into Ivy League universities will find the services of a college counselor particularly useful; the college counselor serves as an objective assistant who can suggest classes, school clubs and employment opportunities that fit with the student's academic goals. Students with special needs, such as those with chronic conditions, can also benefit from a college counselor. In this situation, the counselor can identify schools that would work best with the student's needs and help with any transcript irregularities due to missed school days.
Finding a reputable college counselor can help you get the most out of your investment. Some college counselors previously worked on college admissions boards and have earned college counseling certificates from advanced university programs. Asking about the success rate of each potential counselor on your list can help you narrow down your list of candidates.
College admissions counselors offer a number of services, and it's important that students select counselors who offer the services that they need. In addition to their advisory role, counselors can help with test preparation and offer editorial and proofreading support for the admissions essay. College consulting can also help students locate sources of funding to help pay for their schooling.
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4. How to Apply for College
Applying for college is one of the most important things a high school student will do in their academic career. Today's applications require more than simply filling out a paper form and attaching a few transcripts, however. For many students, the college application process begins early, even in middle school. An early start allows students to plan the classes and extracurricular activities that can help them improve their odds of getting into their preferred college. During high school, students can draw up a list of schools that they would love to attend and start looking at the requirements of each school. Visiting schools on the list can help the student narrow down their choices to a manageable level.
As the junior year of high school draws nearer, students need to begin working in earnest on the list of requirements for each college. This includes preparing for essential testing. Many colleges will accept SAT and ACT scores, but the student needs to find out the required scores for each test. After completing the tests and receiving grades, the student can begin to compile all of the necessary information for each college application, including transcripts and a college admission essay.
After submitting the application, some follow-up tasks may be required. Some universities use in-person interviews to help them decide which students to accept. Students will also want to use this time to consider the financial aid options available to them. The amount of financial aid the student is able to secure may affect his or her decision on which school to attend. Finally, once the student has heard back from the universities he applied to, the only step left is to make a final decision on his future college.
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Applying for college can be a daunting prospect, but today's students have abundant resources to help make the process simpler. Online materials and professional counseling are just some of the options that students can use to improve their college applications. If you need help identifying ways to improve your college application, read these articles for inspiration.
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