As a mere high school freshman, college seemed more like
a distant possibility, rather than an approaching reality.
I use "possibility," not because I questioned my intentions
to attend a college or university, but because the end
of high school was far out of sight. As I finished more
years of school the idea of college became a pervasive
topic for discussion amongst my classmates, as we began
to become more focused on taking advanced courses and
preparing for standardized tests. Even still, the process
of college admissions was somewhat unclear to me.
Early on in the process, I realized that despite the plethora of advice there is for pre-college teens, there is no guaranteed way to ensure success in college admissions. So rather than attempt to mold myself into the perfect college candidate, I chose to continue to pursue my already developed interests. Aside from competitive grades and SATís, I highlighted three major areas that were important on my college applications: service, student government, and athletics (Varsity Track, Swimming, and Cross Country).
Many of my friends told me that I shouldnít have a problem getting into college, considering I was the student body president, president of the community service organization, and captain of the Track team. However, I think what a lot of students donít realize is that although there may be only one track captain or student body president in any given school, across the nation there are many, and quite frankly, we arenít that rare. I think what makes a person stand out, is what they have done with their positions in school life.
During my junior year I combined my work with student government, and
community service and created a Dance Marathon fundraiser for the National Foundation for Cancer Research in honor of one of my favorite teachers who had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The dance was deemed a financial success, and I felt good
about that. But it wasn't until my professor's funeral a month later, that it hit me. The true success of the dance became evident when his sisters came up to me at the funeral and
thanked me for what I had done.
The event was the focus of my primary college essay, and I think that it helped me stand out as a candidate. However, I wouldnít encourage anyone to found his or her schoolís first Dance Marathon, just for the sake of writing a unique essay. I believe that good essays are a result of good planning and sincerity. After four years in high school there is certainly some experience or person that one can discuss with clarity and honesty in 300 words or less.
College admission is a daunting, but ultimately survivable task. If asked to sum up a few essential tips and strategies for getting into colleges into three steps, I would say:
- Spend time early on in high school discovering what
truly interests you, and make efforts to develop your
skills in that area. If you are fascinated with mathematics,
perhaps youíd consider taking extra courses at a community
college over the summer or joining a Math Olympiad
- Start to seriously look at schools at the end of your sophomore year, or beginning of your junior year, at the latest. This should include college visits. That way you can get a sense of what type of school is a match for you.
- In the admissions process, portray yourself as who
you really are. Do not try to create an image for
yourself that you believe colleges are looking for.
More likely than not, your schools will be able to
see through your efforts.