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6 Critical Facts To Consider Before Applying to College

Paul Hemphill

This guest blog is from Paul Hemphill, a private college admissions coach and financial aid specialist.

He has created six DVDs and written two books about strategies that make students stand out in the college application process. They are available from Amazon. This post offers Paul's perspective on preparing for the college admissions process.

  1. Begin the admissions process no later than the 9th grade. That is, start speaking about college. And sparingly. This is no time for so-called "boot camps" for college admission that do nothing more than create stress for the student and line the pockets of enterprising admission gurus. Occasionally mention college as an inevitable future experience. Mention something productive of your own college days as a hint of the good things that can be expected of the college experience. In other words, begin creating the culture of college as an expectation of new discoveries to be embraced. It's aging well, teen-style.
  2. When your child’s applications arrive in the room of the admissions committee four years later, it’s Showtime: the decision to admit your student will take no longer than 30 minutes. “Today, it’s a complicated and prolonged dance that begins early,” says J. D. Britz, dean of admissions and financial aid of Kenyon College...“there is little margin for error: A grade of C in Algebra II/Trig? Off to the waitlist you go.”
  3. Olympic athletes begin practicing their sport four years before their Showtime, which takes a lot less than 30 minutes, with very little margin for error. Your student’s preparation for admission success will take the form of fatigue, long hours, boredom, and little recognition until their qualifying moment arrives. The difference is that your student will more likely win the gold, which means admission to college.
  4. A student should specialize in one activity; texting isn't one of them. As an Olympic athlete must practice for only one event with total commitment, a student should specialize in one activity or talent that demonstrates a real interest, passion, or the student’s uniqueness. Limiting focus will allow for more time to study and to improve grades. Creating a limited but strong profile - a theme - gives the colleges what they desire.
    For example, if the student enjoyed working on political campaigns, his theme would be politics; if she enjoyed ballet, her theme would be dance; if it were playing the guitar, the theme would be music; if it were soccer, sports is the theme.
  5. The student’s mission is three-fold: to get good grades, good test scores, and to demonstrate a theme.
  6. Commitment is the operative word here. Ideally, colleges like to see evidence of leadership. But if you were never a captain or a president, a college admissions committee wants to see how you’ve managed your time and focused your efforts. Colleges want to see evidence of your passion for something. They want you to be part of a mosaic they are creating for a new freshman class.
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#1 Susie Watts 2010-03-19 03:11
As I college consultant, I think you made some very good suggestions for high school students. The only thing I would add would be to help 9th graders realize that this is where their GPA begins. Choosing the right courses and making the best grades is very important. Thinking about extracurricular activities and which ones they might pursue with enthusiasm and the possibility of a leadership position is also good. I think your comment about talking about college "sparingly" is also very wise. Some kids are so tired of hearing their parents talk about college that they burn out on the process before they begin..

Susie Watts
College Direction
Denver, Colorado

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