Choosing to go on with your academic journey after high school may be a big step for you. After assessing your goals for the long-term, you may have come to the decision of pursuing bigger and better options, but that is just the beginning. It would mean a lot of sacrifices and effort on your part, even before you start attending your first class of the semester.
Why so, you ask?
It’s fairly simple – you need to put in a few hours here and there in order to gather some good points for your college application. It takes a bit of tenacity and patience every now and then, and some bits of existential crisis (cue in: “Do I really need Model UN and Theater’s Guild to juice this application a bit more?”).
Before you even consider the idea of acing your SATs and ACTs, here’s one question you should ask yourself: “Do I have a good list of achievements and activities to make my college application substantial and interesting, if not stellar?”
What the University Wants, What You Want
First things first: in order to be accepted by the university of your choice, you must understand what it is that they actually want and require. It would be best to develop a solid research base for this and organize all of your materials into folders (in your cloud storage, or actual ones) according to your different prospects as this would make it easier for you to check what’s missing.
While doing your research, this would also help you consider important factors such as school fees and premiere course offerings. If you’re planning to pursue a certain degree, such as programming or computer science, it’s best to consider schools that specialize in that certain field so you can get more out of what you pay for.
Since most schools have tight deadlines when it comes to submission, you must note all of these important dates and manage your time wisely. It also helps to re-evaluate all your choices and narrow them down to a manageable number, preferably 3-5 schools, so you won’t get too overwhelmed with the requirements.
Prepare All Necessary Documents
Most universities would need a remarkable number of documents such as application forms, transcripts from your present and previous schools, certificates, and others. Of course, it would take a considerable amount of time to request these documents and furnish copies, that’s why you should prepare these ahead of time.
Colleges generally prefer a holistic applicant, or to be more specific, a student who also participates in extracurricular activities. Joining a club or participating in school activities, as well as keeping other interests and hobbies like maintaining a blog about your academic life, can improve your chances of being accepted at a good college.
If you already have interests outside of school or are good at something other than academics, and you have an after-school group in your school which focuses on that exact same activity, then don’t hesitate to join that group! That would make looking for extracurricular groups seem like less of a chore and more of a passion project.
Colleges also pay attention to the skills you possess and hone in on these extracurricular activities which, essentially, are a feather in your cap. If you have additional talents that could be useful for extracurricular college groups, such as video editing, mixing music, or photo editing, you can also highlight that in your application. Carefully selecting the skills to mention in your college application letter or essay will definitely earn you plus points.
That being said, the extent by which extracurricular activities affect your college application is also largely dependent on the school you’re applying to.
ACT or SAT?
Now on to the dreaded, but extremely necessary, ACT and SAT.
Contrary to common knowledge, colleges and universities generally do not have a preference between ACT and SAT.
Arguably, SAT is more popular because it leans more toward language comprehension, and the 400-to-1600 SAT score is more widely known. This is a ticket to the Liberal Arts track, or perhaps the Social Sciences. You will finish the SAT in 3 hours or up to 50 minutes more with an essay part. Needless to say, taking SATs drains your budget and takes up a lot of your time, so you want it done right the first time.
If you are picking a STEM course, the ACT with a set of tests that include science is the way to go. This test is administered for 2 hours and 55 minutes or up to 3 hours and 40 with an essay part. ACT scores are between 1 and 36.
Perhaps the most common yet most valuable advice is to take a major or degree that interests you. These days, however, it pays to make practical choices. It matters to pick a college degree that not only keeps you in your passion or field of interest but also promises a decent salary and career stability.
Explore Your Options
If you are still unsure, learn about unusual college degrees that might pique your interest. Why not consider unconventional college environments offered in online degrees from reputable schools and a list of accredited Christian colleges that also offer online courses? Maybe distance learning could work for you – you don’t even have to go out to learn, and the best part is you could manage your own time. If you’re a self-directed individual who doesn’t need much micromanaging in order to complete tasks, it may be something that you could consider.
If you’re still unsure about everything, you can always go to your school counselor or ask family and friends what they think will be a great fit for you.
Widening your options offers you a greater advantage over picking out a single college to apply to. Consider applying to at least five colleges, but please don’t go overboard and bite more than you can chew – this will take a toll on your stress levels, and possibly lead to unnecessary burnout. Going to a college open-house or speaking with alumni can also help you form a good mental picture of how you and a specific college fit.