It used to be that higher education, anything past a high school diploma, was only for those hoping to specialize in a certain area or set themselves on the executive track in the business world.
But now, just about anyone with serious career ambitions is encouraged to attend college or some form of post-secondary schooling.
If you're planning to attend a college or university, the application process can be a consistent source of stress and anxiety.
You'll need to gather all kinds of official documentation, write application essays, acquire letters of recommendation, and potentially pay application fees to various schools, and that's all on top of narrowing down your list and strategizing based on your projected ability to get accepted to each school on your list.
If you're looking for a little bit of guidance, you've come to the right place. We're going to get into the challenge of how to get noticed by colleges when you're applying. It doesn't even really matter what kind of programs you're applying to. These tips are general-purpose and will help you stand out among an absolute flood of other applications.
If you're a junior or a senior in high school, then you definitely need to give some thought to what your grades are like and what you can do to improve them by the time you're ready to apply to college programs.
Sure, not every school is going to make grades the most important factor in whether you're accepted or not, but even in a more practical sense, your grades communicate how well you can apply yourself and stay committed over a long period of time.
If your current GPA is a bit on the low side, then the next time you're picking out classes to take next semester, you might want to go with more modest selections where you'll be able to excel.
This will help boost your GPA before applying and may even give you the time you need to study up for college standardized examinations like the SAT.
On the other hand, if you have very lofty ambitions for schools you'd like to apply to, then you'll need to be a bit more aggressive with the classes you choose.
Here in the States, AP classes are a great option for this type of student. The material conveyed in these classes is meant to be at the college level, and so if you can manage to get good grades in these classes, you will, in effect, be proving that you can handle college-level class content.
AP classes also offer the chance to test out of those subjects, pending a fee and a good score on the exam, meaning you'll be heading into college with a few credits already under your belt.
Being able to brag about your good grades in your college application is one thing, but colleges no longer look just at grades and GPAs.
Nowadays, applicants need to show different sides of themselves, rather than just the academic side.
You've probably heard by now that it's a good idea to be able to list some extra-curricular activities on your college application.
This is definitely true, but it also doesn't have to end there. Volunteer experience or even some kind of work experience also help round out your application and show that you have no trouble committing to multiple things at once.
These additional elements are especially important if you want your college focus to be on something much larger than just the classes you're taking.
For example, if you fancy yourself a natural leader and you want to pursue leadership positions in different clubs and, eventually, with a company or nonprofit, then showing that your interests are expansive can be very important.
In fact, if you started a new club at your high school or did a lot of independent work outside of school, this is the time and place to brag about it a little bit.
It may seem strange that colleges want applicants to know what their professional focus is going to be when they're still teenagers, but for many different schools, that is definitely the case.
You can certainly enter higher education with an undeclared major. After all, college is a great time to explore different interests and career options, but if you know what you want from the get-go and you can make that clear on an application, you'll probably have a leg up on those. who are still doing their exploring.
For student athletes, this is easy enough to work out, and if you're already on track to play college ball, then you might already be in touch with recruiters.
But for students with other interests and career ambitions, the application is where you'll need to make those interests very clear, both through your activities and through your college application essay, which we'll be talking about next.
Best of all, if you're able to determine what you'd like to focus on when you're still applying to colleges, then you'll also be able to do more accurate research as to whether each school will be able to provide you with what you need to excel in that area.
The college application essay is perhaps the most well-known aspect of the application process. Even if you don't fancy yourself a writer, the essay is the perfect opportunity to show who you really are.
If you want to include a bit of humor, it will definitely help you stand out. Likewise, if you can communicate some of your personality in this essay, rather than defaulting to a professional style, then the school will get to know you, not just the details of your application.
Don't be afraid to ask for all kinds of help with this essay, just outside of asking someone else to write it for you.
Be honest, be yourself, and be passionate about your career focus. Schools will be able to sense whether you'll be a good fit for their program.