Getting Ready for College
By Ally Rau
For many juniors, it is time to start looking into the long process of applying for college. This is a stressful task, but it is also an important step in figuring out what your plan is after high school. “You want to figure out what you are interested in and get to know yourself,” Amy Schwab, a La Follette counselor, said. High school is a good time to do exactly that.
One of the first steps to being successful in the college application process is making sure that you have done everything that you need to do in your high school career. At La Follette, all juniors should meet with their counselor to make sure they are on track to graduate and make after high school plans. “It is your opportunity to talk specifically about things that you want to do,” Schwab said. “You can figure out possible colleges that you are interested in and the range of the ACT scores needed to get into a specific school.”
Your ACT score is a big factor in what schools you could go to, but the significance of the test is lessening. According to Education Quest, many colleges have required ACT scores in order to admit a student, but there are other parts of an application that do not just rely on your ACT score. Your cumulative GPA and the classes you took in high school have a major impact as well. Colleges look at honors and AP classes and how well you performed in them. They are also looking for extracurricular activities and volunteering opportunities. Schools want to see what you did outside of school and if you stayed committed. They also want to know what you did to help others, through volunteering or working. Colleges will see that you were involved in other activities, not just focused on school, and they’ll know you can manage your time.
The next important step is getting letters of recommendation and writing a well written essay. Recommendation letters should be from teachers that know the type of student you are as well as your strengths in class. Someone who has taught you personally and can offer a great perspective on the type of student that you are. The essay is your chance to tell a college ways that you are unique, why you want to go to that particular school and how it is the right fit for you. Many colleges will include a prompt for the essay.
The best way to overall prepare for college is to visit the school that you are interested in. You are not going to know if you like a college unless you visit and are able to see the area. “Get on campus as much as you can to get a sense of how a campus feels,” Schwab said. “It’s such a personal thing, and make sure that it is a good fit for you.” College is about getting an education, but it’s also about the school’s overall campus.
College applications can be stressful, but it is truly the start of something great and it will all pay off in the end.