How to Navigate the College Admission Maze

The thought of navigating through the seemingly endless college admission application and requirement process often
makes even the most even-tempered person a little crazy. Just applying for college can seem like a full-time job, albeit a temporary one. There are
strategies, however, that make the process easier.

Building the Foundation

College admission officers place substantial weight on an applicant’s high school grades, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities. Laying the groundwork for such a foundation starts in elementary school. Parents
play a crucial role when it comes to encouraging children to read and do well in school. Parents and teachers work together to spot and address problems
and difficulties early, setting young students on the path toward a strong academic future.

As students move on to middle school, more emphasis should be placed on challenging courses and defining possible career goals.

In high school, the focus is on core academic classes, such as English, math and science. Parents, teachers and students can identify academic weaknesses
and shore up skills through school or tutoring programs. Many colleges require that students provide scores from one or more standardized tests, such as
the ACT or SAT, before admission. Most students take the ACT or SAT when they are juniors or seniors.

Admissions officers also place weight on extracurricular activities. As a college-bound student, you should get involved in community or school-based
volunteer projects, work opportunities, enrichment programs or workshops.

Choosing the Right School

It’s the role of college admissions officials to choose students who are likely to succeed and fit in with the mission of the institution. Students should
likewise choose a school that fits their career goals and needs. Begin by making a list of possible college choices. Remember to factor in location and
feasibility. Applying for colleges is both time consuming and energy draining. By developing a short list, from five to eight, you can focus your time and
energy on filling out high quality applications, rather than a high quantity. If you are certain about which school you want to attend, you may be able to
apply early and get an early decision.

If possible, visit the campuses on your short list before applying. Virtually all colleges conduct open houses or programs designed to introduce potential
students to the school and campus life. Even if you can’t visit in person, most colleges offer virtual tours and informational videos on their websites.
Either way, it’s important to get to know as much about the schools you’re seriously interested in attending. After all, you’re considering where you might
want to spend the next four years. Make sure it’s a good fit.

The Application Process

Made up of several sections, the application is designed to be an inclusive map of a student’s academic and personal life. Applications vary, but most
require a completed form, application fee, high school and final transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation from teachers or other
adults and an essay section, where you describe yourself and why you think you are a good fit. The essay is extremely important, so take some time with it
and make sure there are no grammatical or spelling errors before submitting. Some programs, such as art and music, require portfolio submissions or
auditions. Face-to-face interviews are sometimes required, but can also be requested. Requesting an interview indicates serious interest on your part.

More than 525 colleges participate in the

Common Application

program. The Common Application program allows you to fill out one application and submit it to each school on your list. Applications fees for each
submission still apply and some schools may ask for additional material, but if your short list of schools participates, the Common Application program is
a real time-saver.

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