Summer is here, and for many, that means heading to the beach, an outing at Disneyland, or maybe even a trip to India! In my perspective as an admissions officer, besides those fun activities, summer is the perfect time for undergraduate applicants to get ahead in their planning for purposes of college admission. If you will be applying to colleges in the near future, I am going to provide you with a 5-step process to ensure that you maximize your preparation and, in turn, probability of success in landing at your dream school.
The first step is to finalize your school list. This process can be made easier by speaking with your family and friends who might have attended your desired colleges. Even if they have not attended a specific school, they might have some type of experience they can share that can help you to formulate your own thoughts about that university. Also, call the college and schedule a tour. Nothing can replicate your experiencing the campus culture first-hand. You might even connect with some students, alumni, or faculty members who can provide greater insights about that particular college. Don’t forget to include safety schools on your list, in case you do not receive admission to your dream schools.
The second step is to begin the application process. At the initial stage, this means actually creating an online account. Depending on the type of application account, you might want to add specific schools so you can begin to understand application requirements, including essays and test scores.
The third step is to approach teachers who respect your work and with whom you have positive relationships so that they can provide you with letters of recommendation. To help them in this process, provide your resume so they are aware of all of your accomplishments outside of the classroom. Having something to reference as they write will not only make the writing easier for them, but it will also strengthen the quality of the letter itself.
The fourth step is to reflect on your shortcomings and determine how you will overcome any perceived weakness. For example, if you have a high GPA and a stellar SAT or ACT score, but not enough extra-curricular involvement, you will want to find an opportunity that is meaningful to you and allows you to make an impact in your local or global community. Whether it is volunteering at the hospital, a homeless shelter, or any other type of non-profit organization, you will demonstrate to colleges that you offer to them more than just academic potential. Through your community service, you provide evidence that you have the potential to become a future leader and positively transform the world in which we live.
The fifth step is to plan your narrative. In other words, you will want to identify how your values and experiences perfectly align with the schools to which you apply. This “fit” will be reflected in all of your essays and personal statements. You should tailor them to what each school is looking for in its students and also do it in a way that is genuine to who you truly are and allows your story to shine in the minds of the admissions committee.
If you complete these 5 steps this summer, you will be well on your way to achieving success in the college admissions process. With enough dedication and a little luck, hopefully you will land at your dream school. Enjoy your summer and make it a productive one!
(Nirav Mehta is a college admissions expert. He received his undergraduate degree from UCLA and his graduate degree (MBA) from the University of Michigan (Ross School of Business). He currently serves on the Admissions Committee at the University of Southern California. Mehta is passionate about education and has helped thousands of applicants navigate the complexity of the college admissions process. Feel free to reach out to him at email@example.com or connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/niravmehta2/)