Not The Same Old Back-To-School Advice

Back_to_schoolGet good grades.  Get involved.  Get good test scores.  It’s all good advice.  But it’s advice you’ve probably heard before… a lot.  As students head back to school, here are five bits of Collegewise admissions advice to help you get in to college that might be new for you. 

1.  Practice the art of participating in class.

Raise your hand.  Ask questions.  Participate in classroom discussions.  Colleges don’t want students who just plow through courses and get good grades; they want students who are engaged in class, who like to learn, and who make contributions by participating.  In fact, that’s why colleges ask for letters of recommendation from your teachers–to learn if you’ve demonstrated these qualities.    

2.  Commit yourself to a few activities you really enjoy. 

Colleges aren’t impressed by the student who has a five-page resume of activities.  They are more interested in the students who pursued their passions, who really committed themselves to the few activities that actually meant something to them.  So instead of trying to add more involvements to your plate, ask yourself what you really like doing, and find ways to pursue those interests. Athletics to art, clubs to computers, school plays to after school jobs, if you commit yourself to it, the colleges will take notice (and you’ll have a lot more fun in high school).

3.  Look for ways to make an impact.

Once you’re involved in activities you really enjoy, find ways that you can make an impact.  You don’t have to be the best water polo player on the team to lead the fundraising drive to buy the team’s parkas.  You don’t have to be the president of the Spanish Club to cook the enchiladas for your club meeting.  And you don’t have to be the star of the school play to offer to run the lights.  Being involved is good, but making an impact is great, and you can do that in a lot of ways.

4.  Be yourself. 

Too many students today spend their high school years trying to mold themselves into someone that colleges supposedly want.  But colleges aren’t looking for students who all act and think alike.  In fact, a big part of getting into college today means just being comfortable with who you are.    So if you love math, celebrate your love for numbers and become the math club’s fearless leader.  If you’re a die hard Yankees fan, don’t be afraid to mention in your college essay that the worst day of your life was when the Red Sox came back after being down 3 games against your beloved Bronx Bombers. Colleges are looking to bring different students together to create an interesting community of students.  The best way to show them how you’ll fit in is to be exactly who you already are, not to be someone you think they want you to be.

5.  Really think about why you want to go to college.

We’re not suggesting that you shouldn’t go to college.  But as the college admissions craze spirals even further out of control, it’s easy to forget why you’re doing all of this.  Do you want to go to college to learn more about physics?  To experience dorm life?  To live someplace else?  All of the above?  Colleges appreciate students who have thought about what excites them about college, what they look forward to about it, and what they hope to get out of the experience while they are there.  Colleges know it these students who will continue to be engaged in the classroom, who will make contributions to their campus communities, and who will benefit most from the college experience. 

So as you head back to school, think about ways you can make an impact in and out of the classroom, try to find the things that you really enjoy, and remember why you are doing all of this in the first place.  Welcome back!