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Insider Tips on Applying to College

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Insider Tips on Applying to College

With schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton hitting record-low acceptance rates this year, it’s easy for the upcoming class of applicants to get a little stressed over college admissions. And with reports that hiring a college admissions consultant costs $20,000 to $400,000 (the average is really $4,000 to $6,000 depending on where you live), it's easy to see why families shy away from getting the help they need.

As a first-generation college student born to immigrant parents who only went to elementary and middle school, I think it’s important that families get the help they need. That is why I’m sharing the top three tips I share with my students as an independent college admissions advisor and former alumni admissions interviewer. These tips will help your college application stand out, no matter where you apply.

1) Network

You may think that networking is something adults do, but you need to network with the admissions office at the schools that interest you. For an increasing number of colleges, “demonstrated interest,” is becoming more of a factor in admissions. I’ve even heard some schools say that students who don’t connect are more likely to get deferred and waitlisted. You can demonstrate interest by signing up for their mailing lists (even if you already receive communication from them), sending your regional admissions representative an email, and taking a campus tour.

2) Research

If you look at college admissions as a matchmaking process, then you can understand why colleges think it's important that you have spent time learning more about them.

And after researching a school via its website or sites like Unigo, you’re able to include specific details (such as classes you want to take or professors that interest you) in your supplemental college essays and in other communication with the school.

3) Focus on Quality vs. Quantity

A student once told me that a guidance counselor advised her to apply to 20 schools! Filling out college applications takes time and energy, so if you are trying to keep your grades up and stay involved in activities, it's not realistic to apply to so many schools. I recommend you apply to six or eight with a max of 10, so that you can create and submit your best work.

Finally, remember that you are more than your GPA, your scores, and your transcript. Applying to college is about figuring out who you are and what you want to do and sharing that with colleges. Wishing you a smooth and enjoyable college admissions journey!

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Anna Ren is on a mission to make applying for college as transparent and stress-free as possible for families through her holistic approach towards college admissions consulting. Anna is the Founder of Elite Advantage Prep and the affordable online college planning course, Prep for Success. Sign up to receive instant access to her free college planning mini-course “Prep for Success: College Planning for Teens.

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