The more advice you’re given about college admissions, the more complicated the whole process seems. So this month, we picked some of the most common college admissions topics and, for each one, asked ourselves, "What’s the one thing a student really needs to know about this?" Read one to find five of those of those one-things.
1. College Essays
Don’t write what you think the colleges want to hear. You’ll inevitably end up writing about how community service taught you that it’s important to help people, or how your trip to Spain taught you to appreciate different cultures. And those are the essays that everybody writes.
Instead, write something honest that helps them get to know you. Something nobody else could write. Whether you write about cooking spaghetti and meatballs with grandma, or how you’ve lost every election you’ve ever run for, if it’s important to you, it’s likely to be important to colleges.
2. Your College Interviews
The college interview is a conversation that is meant to be enjoyed. It’s not a test with right or wrong answers. So treat it like the professional version of a blind date (without the awkward goodbye). Be yourself. Make conversation–don’t just wait to be asked questions. Enjoy yourself. The interviewer is simply looking to get to know you, not to test your worthiness for admission.
Stop looking for activities that "look good" to colleges. Colleges want you to do what you really like to do, whatever that might be (as long as you don’t fill your days watching TV and sleeping). And they want you to commit yourself those things to those things you enjoy. Whether it’s leadership, sports, art, cooking, dancing, playing the flute, whatever…if you sincerely enjoy it and you work hard at it, the colleges are likely to be impressed.
4. Classes and Grades
Always challenge yourself to the best of your academic ability. Colleges would rather see you get a "B" in a harder class than an "A" in an easier one. Remember that college is school, after all, so while your activities and essays will be important, colleges will first be trying to evaluate your potential as a college student.
5. Getting in to College Today
You don’t have to worry so much. In spite of all the bad news you may be hearing, you’re going to get in somewhere. And the name of the college you attend has much less influence on your future success than what you actually do in college does. Finally, remember that the vast majority of college students are very happy where they go to college (even if they attend colleges that were not their first choice when they applied). So remember to enjoy the ride to college while you’re working so hard to get there. And try not to worry quite so much.