College Admission Tips
Before applying to any selective college, college-bound
students may consider these tips:
• Take challenging courses and build a good foundation throughout
elementary, middle and high school.
• The first year in high school is when you start to create a
record that will play a role in the college admission decision. A
picture is being painted by what you do in 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th
• The 8th grade is when you plan what you will take in high
• Not everyone is Harvard-bound. Assess what your skills really
are and on what "playing field" you will perform best.
• Pursue volunteer and extracurricular activities that reflect
who you are.
• Take the PSAT as a sophomore to prepare for the SAT, which will
be given during your junior year.
• It helps if students have learned to take responsibility for
themselves at early ages and through their high school careers.
Students who seem best suited for college are those who held jobs
and had some responsibility for taking care of themselves, for
managing themselves. When they reach college, they have to
discipline themselves to study, go to class, and turn in papers on
• Learn to deal with rejection and failure, especially if you are
looking at competitive colleges. Not everyone can be in the top 10
percent of the class. Good coping skills will benefit you throughout
• Decide what kind of school you are looking for by the end of
your junior year or beginning of your senior year.
• Familiarize yourself with university settings. Attend summer
camps on college campuses. Visit colleges while on vacation.
• Consider more than just a school's size. Bigger is not
• Students' relationships with their parents change as they begin
the college search process. Students, take responsibility for your
own actions or non-actions. This is usually the first real-life
decision you will have to make. Be prepared to deal with this
• Your best friend is not necessarily going with you to the next
phase of your education. Make your college choice individually. You
will become a better person if you are brave enough to strike out on
your own. Value and develop your own self-worth.
• Visit different campuses.
• If you realize a school isn't right for you, don't be afraid to
ask an admission counselor for ideas on other schools that may be a
• Understand what a research institution is, what a liberal arts
college is, what different types of colleges exist.
BE ON TIME
• Writing the college admission essay is crucial. Don't put it
off until the last minute. Start early. Set a self-imposed deadline
of Thanksgiving of your senior year to have the rough draft-if not
the final draft-complete.
• Know and meet all deadlines. Don't lose an opportunity because
you missed a deadline.
• Have your essay proofed.
• Write your essay for yourself. Don't write what you think your
admission counselor wants.
• Identify and articulate your accomplishments. Decide what your
greatest accomplishment thus far in life is.
• If you are not satisfied with how you are doing in school, the
first place to look is at yourself. You might find out a lot by
looking inward first, instead of just transferring to another
• See college as a fun place.
• Don't expect college to be like television or the movies. It's
not like "The OC" or, hopefully, not like "Animal House."
• Don't be afraid to ask questions during the college search
process. Parents should assist students in the college search, but
should not take over. Let the student make appointments for college
visits. Let the student complete and mail inquiry cards. Let the
student complete and mail the application. Let the student do the
work required to gain admission to college.
• The college decision involves an incredible investment of time
that can never be repeated: four years of undergraduate education.
College is the second or third largest investment of personal
resources that parents and students make. Have a plan.
• Speak with alumni and current students at the colleges that
• For first-generation families: Students, follow your dreams. Be
realistic about your skills and abilities. Seek colleges that will
best benefit your whole life. Don't shy away from applying to a
school because you think it costs too much. That's why scholarships
and financial aid exist. Parents, seek out professionals-it does not
have to be a paid service. Many college and university admission and
financial aid professionals are willing to help parents identify
• Admission counselors are not salespeople. We are here to tell
you about the college admission process and to give you information
on the school we represent. We're not trying to sell you something
that is not right for you. Use admission counselors as a resource;
that's why we're here.
• Mailings that guarantee scholarships for substantial fees are
usually scams. High schools, public libraries, the World Wide Web
and the college admission offices offer free access to scholarship
• Visit www.fastweb.com, a free scholarship search service on the
World Wide Web.
BE A PARENT
• Give your student the opportunity to make intelligent choices.
• Talk to students about where they want to go to school, what is
affordable and what you are willing to sacrifice. Sit down with the
students and help them decide what schools are realistic to pursue.
• Parents should not prevent students from exploring college
options for majors and degrees. Let your student figure out what he
or she is passionate about.
• Talk to your students about income so they can understand the
concept of spending money for college as an investment versus just
"going to a school."
• When a student begins college, parents are doing a disservice
to allow him or her to leave before completing at least one
semester, and preferably one year. Students sometimes have a hard
time adapting to newness and to change and to stress. Homesickness
is not a problem.
• It's important for parents to remember that not every student
wants to go to a Southwestern, a selective school. That is not a bad
thing. You should support your student in seeking an environment
where he or she will succeed-whether that's SU or an Ivy League
school, technical institute, community college or state university.
• Getting you into medical school or law school or a specific job
is not Southwestern's mission. That is an outcome of the educational
process. Southwestern's challenging, supportive, primarily
residential liberal arts and sciences education prepares you to
think, speak and deal with diverse populations and new ideas.
• Education at SU is not certification. It's not a collection of
classes. It's a total experience that helps you become a
• A broad education is the best preparation for the unexpected.
• Major in something you enjoy.
• Seek opportunities for leadership development.
• Be prepared to have your horizons stretched in college. You
will meet people who have different opinions. You may disagree. You
may agree. Your values may change or they may not. It's okay to see
things in a different light than your parents.
• A good exercise for students is to ask what you parents thought
they were going to do when they were 18-years-old. What was their
first college major? Their second? Their third? What major did they
graduate with? What was their first job? What are they doing today?
Then ask them to defend why you should be pressured to know exactly
what you are going to do.
• Begin by taking as broad a course selection as possible at the
undergraduate level. Don't focus on preparing for one specific
career. The career you begin pursuing may not be around in four
years when you graduate. Ten years after you graduate college, it's
likely that you will be working in a career you didn't perceive as
possible when you began college.
• Look for challenges inside and outside the college classroom.
Some of your best learning will be done outside of the classroom.
• The kind of experience you have will depend on the effort and
time you put into college.
• You can have a great experience any place you decide to go to
• Have fun as you search!