Every college has it's own admissions criteria – so how do you know how to prepare while you're still at high school?
Fortunately, for most colleges, they are seeking students who fit certain criteria. Even if you're in your final year of high school, it's not too late to make changes that will help you write a winning college essay application.
There are two areas that college staff will be looking at, academic achievement and extracurricular involvement.
You already know that your academic attainment is going to be important in getting a college place. The college staff will be checking over your SAT scores and grade point rates to see whether you're the kind of student that can succeed with them.
They'll also be looking for any other special talents – such as excelling in the area of music or art.
References or recommendations will be requested from your teachers or school principal – so it's helpful if they are aware of and can verify your interests and activities outside of school. Interestingly, if you come from a reputatable high school, some of the more competitive colleges may take this into account.
Extra curricular activities
Your college is looking for an academically capable, well-rounded individual who can shape and mold to be one of the future leaders of the country.
Here, of increasing importance is your involvement outside of high school. With only 20% of students being accepted into the most competitive colleges, your application will need to stand out from the crowd.
For example, it's been shown that students who get involved in the debating or speech teams are more likely to be offered a college place.
Whilst getting too involved will not help you, you will need to be able to write down something about your extra curricular involvements. This can range from leading a sports team, helping with the school newspaper, being class president or any significant leadership experience.
There's a lot of pressure on colleges to be fair in their admissions process. However, this can lead to an unfairness to other students. For example, taking a student from an under represented minority or State, is active discrimination for minorities.
If you have a family member who went to the college, be sure to mention it. Children of college alumni may also be favored in the application process.
And do not forget the obvious – show your interest in the college by attending their tours, requesting information and speaking to alumni who live in your area.
Best of Luck!
Sometimes it's easy to forget our own achievements and involvements – ask for advice from friends or family when completing your admission essay and do not make it too polished that your own character does not shine through!