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Getting In the Door: Finding the College of Your Choice

Mar 6, 2008
Applying for college is an intimidating task for any student. Unlike high school, where classes and curriculum are relatively simple and straightforward, college attendance is a drastic and often frightening change for both parents and students. The first step is to start discussions with high school counselors and teachers. Is there a particular field of interest? Those already in the academic world will likely have beneficial advice and recommendations that make this process easier.

It's always a good idea for any potential student to visit their campus of choice prior to applying. Not only will you see the student body as it will be when you attend, you will meet advisers, faculty, and develop a better idea of the facility's layout. Ask many questions and find the answers to your questions. This saves you from applying to a facility that might not be what you assume.

The first details to discuss are standard considerations. Do you already have a specific institution in mind? It is recommended that any applicant have several colleges in mind. Is there a location that most interests you? Do you want to commute to a local institution or are you looking for a major facility with full dormitories?

Many colleges have detailed web sites that even tell the ratio of students to faculty as well as the average size of classes. If a student wants a college with a smaller number of students per class, they should investigate their facilities of choice prior to applying.

What about the student body? Is there a diverse array of students and backgrounds? Will this enrich your experience in college? Naturally, study the curriculum offered and ensure the classes will interest your particular student.

Admission counselors expect a number of things from a student. Is there a particular field of interest? Are there letters of recommendation? These are letters from previous teachers and there are some things to know before requesting such materials from teachers. First, select only teachers with whom you've had positive experiences. Ensure the letter is well-written; as a poorly created letter of recommendation reflects negatively on the student.

It is always impressive to choose a teacher in the field that interests you. For example, if you intend on pursuing a degree in journalism, one of your letters of recommendation should come from an English or literature instructor.

After you've chosen who will write the best quality letters, give the teacher plenty of advanced notice. Supply documentation on the college, applicable deadlines, and provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope for each letter.

Extracurricular activities make a legitimate and lasting impression upon admission officers. They show commitment, responsibility, and initiative. It is imperative to understand that advisers are not looking for quantity, but rather quality. If you belonged to ten clubs or organizations and were not active, it doesn't count for much. Active participation in one or two activities, however, makes a much better impression.

When listing such activities, highlight any leadership experience and a list the most important events in which the student participated. Were you in school plays? Were you involved in special projects or fund raising activities for a local charity? Did you participate in band or drama classes? What about community services such as your local "meals-on-wheels," or humane shelter?

Cost is a major factor in attending college, but it shouldn't dictate where you apply. Even if the tuition and costs make a college seem prohibitive, there are always financial resources available to help. Some colleges offer sponsorship programs, state or Federal grants, and a host of other resources are available for students in need.

If possible, take both the SAT and ACT tests prior to applying for college. Universities differ widely in their preferences. Some facilities want the results from one and others prefer results from both.

Applying for college is often a daunting task, but it isn't impossible. The process is difficult for the majority of students, but rewards you with a bright and promising future.
About the Author
Michael Fleischner is the Managing Director of http://www.EssayEdge.com and a long time marketing expert. He has appeared on The TODAY Show, Bloomberg Radio, and other major media. For help with your college application essay or medical school application visit EssayEdge.com
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