The Basics For Getting In
You’re a sophomore or a junior in high school, and you’re getting ready to apply to colleges in the U.S., U.K., or Canada in the next couple of years. You realize that it’s a long and at times difficult road to travel, but you’ve seen others do it before you, and you’re determined to follow in their footsteps. Good for you!
Now I know there’s one big question on your mind: “What do I have to do to get in?” Let me tell you that there is no one magic answer; however, there are steps that you can start taking right now to make sure you have more than a passing chance at admission to at least one college that is a good fit for you.
Remember that this is a process—there are some areas that you need to work on all through high school, but most importantly in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. So, fasten your seat belts, everyone, we are ready to take off!
Grades and Tests
- You should do your best in your Math and English classes; they will be the most important components of your transcripts.
- You need to keep all your grades as high as possible in order to have a chance at the more selective schools.
- One important detail to remember is that a consistently high GPA in a number of the more challenging high school classes is an advantage for you; admissions committees place great emphasis on a rigorous curriculum.
- You should prep for and take the standardized college entrance tests, which in most cases are TOEFL iBT (English proficiency), SAT (comprehension), and SAT Subject Tests (knowledge). IELTS, another English proficiency exam, is generally preferred by UK universities, but like TOEFL iBT, it is accepted globally at most universities. Similarly, ACT is an alternative to SAT and accepted at most institutions of higher learning.
Outside the Classroom
- You need to develop an interest in at least 2 extracurricular activities; preferably one should be a charitable sort of endeavor, and the other ought to be one that is geared toward self-improvement. The key factor here is to show a passion for an activity outside of your classes; remember that it is quality, not quantity that matters, so pick what you love, and show your commitment in your application!
- Go to as many concerts, films, and art exhibitions as you can. Trust me when I say that being actively interested in cultural life will enhance your chances of being admitted.
- You need to develop your English writing skills; this is an essential goal as the application essays are a huge part of the admissions process.
- Summer schools are also recommended, mainly for improving English skills.
- Internship planning is a very good idea; it will enhance you intellectually and socially and it will help your application be a well-rounded one.
- You should make sure you have good relationships with at least a couple of your teachers from whom you can ask for recommendation letters.
- You should consider choosing a college major; having at least an area of interest for your higher education will aid you in choosing schools to apply to.
Your School List
- You should first research schools based on your choice of major—check out who offers the strongest programs in that major.
- After a process of elimination based on your own preferences, as well as your own performance, prepare a short list; you should take factors such as location and climate into consideration as well—all of these factors, together with academic ones, make for a “good fit” school!
- It is very important to make sure that the requirements of the schools on your short list match your own academic standards. You may have a couple of “reach” schools there, but you must include “target” and “safety” schools as well for optimal results.
Last but not least…
You should be vigilant with regard to keeping track of test registration deadlines and college application deadlines; your school counselor or your private counselor, should you choose to have one, may advise and remind you, but will not do the actual work for you! In short, you need to take on the responsibility of reaching your own goal, which is going to college abroad!
You may have heard of the saying, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” In life and in college admissions, there are no guarantees, but if you do your part, set your criteria correctly, do your best, work hard, and choose your schools wisely, you will get there.
We wish you all a nice, turbulence-free flight!