Getting into college isn't as difficult as most people think it is. There are colleges out there who will take anyone who has the tuition money. But most people don't want to go to just any college - they want to go to their first-choice college.
So, what are your chances of getting accepted to the school that you want to attend the most? Well, they are better than 50/50. According to UCLA's annual CIRP Freshman Survey, more than half of students get accepted to their first choice college. This is no accident; many of these students apply to a school that is a good fit for their academic ability, personality, and career goals.
Students who get accepted to their first choice college also have another thing in common: They spend a good portion of their high school career preparing for the college admissions process. Let's take a closer look at how you can get into college by following four easy steps.
Get Good Grades
Getting good grades might sound like an obvious step for college-bound students, but the importance of this cannot be ignored. Some colleges have a range of grade point averages (GPA) that they prefer. Others use a minimum GPA as part of their admissions requirements. For example, you may need at least a 2.5 GPA to apply. In short, you'll have more college options if you get good grades.
Students with high-grade point averages also tend to get more attention from the admissions department and more financial assistance from the aid office. In other words, they have a better chance of getting accepted and may even be able to get through college without accumulating too much debt.
Of course, it is important to note that grades aren't everything. There are some schools that pay little or no attention to GPA. Greg Roberts, admissions dean at the University of Virginia, has referred to an applicant's GPA as "meaningless." Jim Bock, admissions dean at Swarthmore College, labels the GPA as "artificial." If you don't have the grades you need to meet minimum GPA requirements, you need to seek out schools that focus on other application components beyond grades.
Take Challenging Classes
Good high school grades are a proven indicator of college success, but they are not the only thing that college admissions committees look at. Most colleges are more concerned with your class choices. An A grade has less weight in an easy class than a B in a challenging class.
If your high school offers advanced placement (AP) classes, you need to take them. These classes will allow you to earn college credits without having to pay college tuition. They will also help you develop college-level academic skills and show admissions officers that you are serious about your education. If AP classes aren't an option for you, try to take at least a few honors' classes in core subjects like math, science, English or history.
As you are choosing high school classes, think about what you want to major in when you go to college. Realistically, you're only going to be able to handle a certain number of AP classes in a single year of high school. You are going to want to choose classes that are a good match for your major. For example, if you plan on majoring in a STEM field, then it makes sense to take AP science and math classes. If, on the other hand, you want to major in English literature, it makes more sense to take AP classes related to that field.
Score Well on Standardized Tests
Many colleges use standardized test scores as part of the admissions process. Some even require minimum test scores as an application requirement. You can usually submit ACT or SAT scores, though there are some schools that prefer one test over another. A good score on either test will not guarantee acceptance to your first choice college, but it will increase your chances of success and can even help to offset bad grades in certain subjects.
If you don't score well on tests, there are more than 800 test-optional colleges that you can consider. These colleges include technical schools, music schools, art schools and other schools that don't view high ACT and SAT scores as indicators of success for the students that they admit to their institution.
Participating in extracurricular activities, charities, and community events will enrich your life and your college application. When picking your extracurriculars, choose something that you enjoy and/or have a passion for. This will make the time you spend on these activities much more fulfilling.