College application time is here, and it’s time to get real about the process. Blindly filling out (and paying for) applications for every school is not a good use of your time—or money. Here’s how to strategically decide where you will apply and increase your chances of getting in:
- Make a list of at least three schools you want to apply to. In fact, write down all the schools you want to apply to. Think of this as your brainstorming. Then, start doing your research by checking out their sites for admission requirements, costs, degree programs, and campus life.
- Be realistic about which colleges are a good fit for you. While minimum requirements are often posted on the school’s website, they often aren’t enough to get you in. For example, on UF’s admissions website they list a 19 as their minimum ACT or a 1000 SAT. However, their average student profile indicates students will need much higher scores for them to seriously consider your application. Google “average student profile” and then your school’s name to see for yourself. Below is a chart with all the different profiles for FL schools. These averages change year to year, but only in that they become more competitive each year.
- If you haven’t met at least one of these minimums, consider other opportunities different institutions. If you’re a senior and you have a low ACT/SAT, you don’t have a lot of time to increase that score. And, at this point, if your GPA is low, you don’t have time to bring it up. Don’t panic! There are so many options. Just because everyone in your clique is going to a particular school doesn’t mean it’s the right place for you.
- After this reality check, you may need to revise your list. Be sure one of the schools listed is a stretch school. While you must get real, you should still stretch for a school a little beyond your reach. Perhaps you have the GPA but not the ACT score, or you have the SAT score but not the GPA. Go for it! Perhaps by writing a great essay or having some awesome extracurricular activities listed on your app, you may have a shot. Some schools wait until the very last minute and will offer students spots that were left vacant by someone who couldn’t attend.
- Get a brand new, professional gmail account and use that for all your college correspondence. I recommend a brand new one because your parents probably set up your old one. It’s time to start a new chapter. For every school on your list, make profiles in each school’s application process. Some schools are on the Common/Coalition App; others have their own application processes. But for every school, you’ll need a username and password to submit your application. Use your gmail account to set this up.
- Spend time on the essay. Lot of time. Choose topics that are timely, interesting and impactful. Get help if you’re a lousy writer. It’s OK, lots of people are lousy writers. In fact, even brilliant writers start with a less-than-perfect first draft. But, if you take the time to write, edit, get feedback, and revise, you’ll have a competitive essay.
Nothing stings more than rejection, so don’t set yourself up for disappointment. It sounds harsh, I know. But why try to force yourself into a situation that just isn’t right for you? Now is the time to pave your own way and to make decisions that make sense for you. Honoring your own set of unique strengths and abilities will result in a positive college experience and set you up for success. And, in the end, your success is all that really matters.
Overwhelmed by the whole thing? Try taking one of our workshops for the college application process. We've guided many students through this process. Let us help you. Click the button below for more details.