Five Keys to Winning College Admission

One of the requirements before you go to College is to complete the college admission process. To be accepted into the College of your choice (and if you’re smart, you’ll have a second and third choice), you will need to take the required college entrance exams, as well as fulfilling the other requirements.

As noted above, you should have selected at least three potential colleges. More colleges will give you more choices, but too many choices can paralyze you. Make your choice based upon your personal situation; how much you (or your parents can afford), how far away it is from home, and if it provides a path to the degree you seek.

college admision

Let’s pick an example. You live in California and want to go to Stanford. A quick Google search shows that at Stanford, “a High school diploma is required and a GED is accepted”. That’s the first hurdle. Reading further down, you see that, unlike many other schools, Stanford does not take everybody.  Stanford does not have an open admission policy. Next, Stanford lists items it considers “very important”; these include Class Rank, Academic GPA, Standardized test scores, Application essays, and Recommendations. Those are the five obstacles to getting admittied to this college.


The good news is that you can work on each of those items.

Here are Five Keys to Winning College Admission:


Key to College Admission #1: Class Rank  

Stanford’s chart shows that 90% of incoming freshman were in the upper 10% of their high school class. Think of some ways to improve your class standing. Could you schedule an easier course? Take some extra credit work? Bribe the valedictorian to transfer to another school? I once dropped a class in High School when I found the instructor did not believe in giving "A's". Avoid those types of "Tough Love" instructors at all costs.

Key to College Admission #2: GPA

Stanford’s chart shows that 91.13% of incoming students had GPA’s greater than 3.75. Between 3.50 and 3.74, we see a total of 6.53% of the accepted students. Not much hope here if you are pulling lower than B+ grades. However, only 85% (84.16%, to be exact) of the incoming students submitted their high school GPA’s. Well, what can you do to raise your GPA? Study, study, and more study; along with a judicious choice of classes and teachers might go a long way toward raising your GPA. You can also explore some extra credit to bump up the average, as noted in the Class Standing advice mentioned above. If that doesn’t work, investigate how you can avoid submitting your GPA. The 15% of incoming students noted above were still accepted, even though they did not submit a GPA.

Key to College Admission #3: Standardized test scores

Stanford accepts both the SAT and the ACT (with writing component), you can choose which one to take. Or you can take both and forward the highest score to Stanford. Prepare for the tests by using one of the many test preparation options available. Kaplan is a popular choice. The 75th percentile score for the SAT for the different sections ranges from 760 to 790.  The next chart is the most informative. It shows the “percent of first-time, first-year students with scores in each range”. Roughly speaking, if you are not at or above the 75th percentile for either the SAT or ACT exam, your chances of being accepted into Stanford are less than 25%. So hit those practice tests! One other piece of advice about the practice tests; don’t be content when your practice scores reach the 75th percentile. It is very common for your score to drop on the real test, no matter how much you have practiced. Therefore, strive to be hitting the 90th percentile on the practice tests to ensure you have a buffer zone for the expected drop.

college admissionKey to College Admission #4: Application essay

Even if you consider yourself a good writer, it would be a great idea to review some winning examples. A quick Google search will show you a sampling of winning essays. However, don’t plagiarize someone else’s essay. The reviewers also have the Google. The winning essays all share the essence of good storytelling, an interesting opening line for the hook, followed by a gripping story. Many otherwise competent students are terrified of putting words on paper (or electrons on screen). There is a burgeoning industry in professional essay writers. The only problem is, the writer for hire is like an old comic, they tend to re-use their material. You might find your ghost written essay has been cloned to other aspiring entrants. You don’t want to begin (and end) your college career with a reputation for plagiarism. My advice would be to write your own essay, and then have others read it. No, not your parents; have a professional review it and advise you on punching it up.

Key to College Admission #5: Recommendations

Gather more than you think you will need, and choose the best from the batch. You will probably need to push to get them completed. Be pleasantly persistent about the deadline you are facing. Also, there is nothing wrong with writing up some points that you would like to have considered. For example, “Remember that day I was the only one in class who could remember Shakespeare’s middle name because of my outside reading?” It is also permitted to write yourself a glowing recommendation and asking your prospect to merely sign it. As long as the letter is truthful (you do know Shakespeare’s middle name, don’t you?), your prospect should have no qualms about signing it. Even if they ask for a minor revision, at least they are now committed to signing a revised letter.

College Admission is not that hard to achieve but since it is your access to your future, don't gamble; make sure you get admitted to the college of your choice! 

There you have it; five ways to increase your chances of getting accepted into one of the most exclusive colleges in the US. Remember, this is not an all-or-nothing approach. If your GPA is a bit low and you can't get it raised, spend more time on the other items. If you get high SAT scores through excellent test preperation (like Kaplan offers); combine that with glowing recommendations and a well written essay to put yourself in the best possible light.

Note: this website is not associated with the College Admission review of Kaplan; click here if you wish to get redirected to their official page



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