How to get into a good college

How To Get Into A Good College

The college application process can be daunting for most families. As college admissions is a dynamic and ever-changing endeavor, it is hard to keep up with the requirements and more importantly to understand what makes a good college.

My approach is to explain that every college is a good college for someone. The key is whether a particular college is good for your student. Here are the steps it takes to find the best college for your student and to determine what is required to gain admission.

How To Get Into A Good College? Tips From A College Admissions Consultantere

To help you find a good college for you, I must get to know who you are and what is important to you. This includes a complete analysis of your grades, the curriculum within which you got those grades, your test scores, and your extracurricular activities. Each of these elements is as important as any of the others and none should be ignored even when one or more of the elements stands out more than another.

For example, consider straight-A students who have almost perfect test scores, but who do not contribute to their community through clubs, student government, sports, fine arts, or in some other way. Does that mean he or she is not a desirable candidate? No, but it’s important to know that colleges want to admit students who will be a vital part of the college community.

That means grades alone are not enough. Nor are test scores. Colleges want their students to have the complete package. Part of my work is to help you review your record to date and give you ideas about how to round out the picture while also exploring things that are meaningful to you.

Ideally, this happens sooner rather than later. It’s harder in your senior year, but can be done.

How Do Colleges Decide Whom to Accept?

You submit your applications early in your senior year, which means that you will present a record of your first three years of high school. This does not mean that your senior year is unimportant. The colleges will look carefully at the courses and activities you’re committed to and engaged in your senior year.

It is never too late to try something new, but the colleges prefer to see consistent dedication to a few activities.

In the college application itself, you will be asked to tell them why the activities you chose were important to you. This is your time to show your passions and this is particularly true when applying to top colleges whose students are known for having a breadth of experience and accomplishments that they will also bring to the college campus.

How to get into a good college

What GPA Do You Need to Get Into a Good College

Your GPA (grade point average) is determined by your grade times the credit count. The formula colleges use is more complicated than it was 20 years ago, and you can read about the full breakdown here. The formula looks like this:

To give you an example, let’s say you have an A in a year-long standard-level class, you receive 4 points.

If you take an honors or advanced placement (AP) class, the weight given as a reward for having increased the rigor of your curriculum becomes 5 points for an A, 4 for a B, 3 for a C, etc. Some high schools give 5 points for an A in an Honors course and a 6 for an A in an AP class.

College admissions officers don’t like to see a grade of C. So, if you try an upper-level class and don’t achieve at least a B, persisting at that level is not a good idea. Only you can know if you have given it your all or if you are only half-tried.

Learning is a lot of work. Colleges expect you to be intellectually curious enough to do that work and bright enough to succeed. This is particularly true if your target is the Ivy League or the almost Ivies (e.g., Stanford, MIT, Georgetown).

Obviously, a high GPA is preferable to a low one but put it into perspective. As I said earlier, every college is a good college for someone. Perhaps you struggled with the transition to high school in freshman year, but since then your grades have gotten better each year and you have increased the rigor of your curriculum in steps.

Colleges Look For Trends In Grades And In Rigors

This means that the college application process must clearly show that you have done better each year and that you tried taking more difficult courses. 

Ideally, you moved from standard to Honors and AP or IB classes. By increasing the rigor of your curriculum, your grades may have moved from A’s to B’s, but this is preferable to presenting a straight-A transcript without any attempt to strengthen the curriculum.

Many Students Do Not Have The GPA Or Test Scores That Would Lead Them To A Top College.

Keep in mind that the term “top college” refers to a small group of colleges whose acceptance rates are in the single digits. They differ from each other in most other aspects. Someone who would love Dartmouth, for example, would probably hate Brown. 

Don’t let reputation blind you to what is important for your child’s success in college. For us mere mortals, whose GPAs are less noteworthy, but whose achievements are nonetheless solid, there is a world of colleges to consider.

If your GPA is too low at the end of high school to qualify for the college you hoped to attend, spend some time at a Community College honing your study skills, excelling in the core requirements that will be accepted by most colleges, and then transfer in when you have your academic feet under you.

What is the Best Way to Prepare for the SAT or ACT

Your preparation for standardized testing begins in your freshman year of high school by making the most of what is taught to you in your classes. In addition, becoming a regular reader will enhance your fluency and rate.

Fluency is the ability to read text easily, conversationally, and with the proper intonation.

Rate is how fast you can read with full comprehension.

It is important to acquire the ability to do both to do well on the SAT or ACT. To get to the right answers, you must understand the nuances of the questions being asked.

Both the SAT and the ACT will soon be given in digital format. This means that there are changes happening to both kinds of tests. Colleges will accept either, so one test is not superior to the other. It is a matter of personal preference. Just like shoes, do you prefer Nike or Puma sneakers? The value of either is a matter of preference.

Some Ways To Think About The Differences Between The Sat And Act

The SAT is for strategic thinkers, those who like puzzles and want to ferret out meaning. The ACT, on the other hand, is for quick thinkers, who intuitively know the answer or who can recognize it quickly. One type of thinking is not superior to the other.

The SAT actively tries to confuse the test taker by the way it phrases questions, while the ACT is both direct and clear. Further, the digital SAT is an adaptive test. This means that what you get right at the beginning of the test will determine the rigor of the questions on the rest of the test. In effect, this can limit the overall score that you can achieve.

The ACT is not adaptive. If your student is the type to sometimes miss the easy stuff but is spot on for the hard ones, they will be at an advantage taking the ACT over the SAT.

How to get into a good college
How to get into a good college

How Best To Prepare For Standardized Tests

I have found that individual test prep is preferable to groups. When the student works one-on-one with the tutor, either in person or virtually, the time spent focuses on what the student needs to learn and the strategies best suited to that student for the particular test. Most students require about 10 weeks of prep before the administration of the test.

Why Early Testing Is Not Recommended

There has been a recent push to test students early in their high school years. I have had parents tell me that the student took the SAT or ACT at the end of sophomore year to “get it over with.” In my 30+ years of doing this work, that is a terrible strategy!

Testing too early has several downsides. First, the score is usually not the best that the student could get because the material has not yet been learned. Second, getting a score that is lower than expected or hoped for generates test anxiety in the student. 

Typically, the next time the test is taken, the student is overly focused on the outcome rather than on the test in front of him and this affects performance and the student’s mental game. Neither of which is advisable.


How Many Tests Should Be Taken?

  1. First, the student should take the 11th grade PSAT which is given in October of the junior year.
  2. Then the student should take a Mock ACT which can be taken for free through most test prep companies.
  3. Once I have the results of both these assessments, I compare the results to see which test is better suited to the student’s talents.
  4. I then spoke with the students about which test they liked better or felt more comfortable taking.
  5. The student then registers for and takes that test twice: once in the Spring of their junior year and again in the Summer or Fall of their senior year.
Keep in mind that the test score is only one datapoint in the college admissions process. Spending too much time on it to the detriment of writing solid essays, keeping grades up, and working at the extracurriculars is not a good way to go.

How Can I Increase My Chances of Getting Into a Good College

Although there is no magic formula to being admitted to a good college, there are some things that you can do to enhance your chances. Here they are:
1. Keep your grades up. That means asking for help as soon as you think there is a problem. Do extra credit projects, if your teacher allows it.
2. Spend time studying. This means that you not only prepare the work that must be handed in, but that you dig deeper into the subject. Read the textbook and look at verifiable outside sources. Ask questions in class. Arrange a study group with others who will actually work when you are all together.
3. Apply yourself to preparing for your standardized tests. If the test is given during the school day, you must realize that it is just as serious as if you took it on a Saturday morning.
4. Find three or four activities that are meaningful to you. Then devote your time to them. These may be school clubs, religious youth groups, scouting, athletics, or theater.
5. One of your activities must be a consistent form of community service. Find a group that needs help and then provide it. If you don’t have a lot of time or don’t want to interact with people, stock food pantry shelves once a month. Whatever you do, do it willingly and with an open heart. You never know when you may be the one needing help.

Why Attending College Will Change Your Life

A college education will change your life and that of your family forever. Your earning potential will be drastically affected, as will your world view. A good education broadens your perspectives and helps you understand a wider range of viewpoints. We may not always agree with these, but we can at least argue intelligently for or against them. According to the Social Security Administration:

“Men with bachelor’s degrees earn approximately $900,000 more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with bachelor’s degrees earn $630,000 more. Men with graduate degrees earn $1.5 million more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with graduate degrees earn $1.1 million more.”

This is significant and more than makes up for the effort it takes to choose your college carefully.

Does Talking to Admissions Counselors Help?

There are many ways that talking to an admissions counselor can help you. Among these are:

  1. Admissions Counselors can help you cut through the noise surrounding college admissions.
  2. You will learn who your student is and what that student wants in college.
  3. A professional analysis of the student’s GPA, curriculum rigor, and testing profile will be made so you know where you stand.
  4. Your college dollars will be better spent with good advice on choosing a college.
  5. The counselor will work with the student to help develop self-awareness that will then enable more informed decisions about the future.
  6. The admissions counselor provides a buffer between student and parent at a very stressful time.

As you can see, working through the college choice and application process has many elements to it. Hiring someone who knows the landscape and the often confusing and ever-changing process can save you time, money, and anxiety. It can also save your relationship with your child at this crucial juncture when everyone is anxious about the changes that are coming. 

If you want to get into a good college for you, contact Dr. Charlotte Klaar TODAY!

How to get into a good college

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A Certified Educational Planner and member of IECA since 1995. I have been honored with the Steven R. Antonoff Award for Professional Achievement by the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). Contact Charlotte today.