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Do Your Homework to Get Into College

November 12, 2000|Kenneth R. Weiss

There's no magic formula to get you into the college of your dreams. But here are a few tips from college counselors on how to reduce the stress and confusion of the increasingly complex and tedious college application process:

Look inside yourself. Do you thrive in a small, cozy setting with lots of personal attention? Would you prefer to strike out on your own at the Big U? What's right for you? How far do you want to be from home, your parents, your friends? Is weather important? Few places match the sunny and mild climate of California's colleges.

Tell your parents to butt out. College is about breaking away. You'll soon be deciding what to study, when to study or even if you'll study. College must be right for you. This is a good time to start standing on your own.

Resist peer pressure. It's not always a good idea to pick a college because your girlfriend (or boyfriend) is going there. It's like selecting a prom dress. Just because your girlfriend picks one, that doesn't mean it'll look good on you.

Keep an open mind. Sure, you've known for years that you would attend dad's alma mater. But maybe there are other places that would suit you as well, or better. Check out guidebooks, college Web sites; watch the CDs, the videos. Ask your high school's college counselor for ideas. Go to college nights at your high school.

Visit the campus. Nothing beats the gut feeling you get when you walk the campus, chat with students, check out a class. It'll help you determine if you would fit in. Go there if possible.

Hedge your bet. Go ahead and apply to your dream school--even if it seems out of reach. But also apply for colleges and universities that you know will accept you. Shoot for the moon, but give yourself options. Who knows what will happen between now and next September?

Talk money. Sit down with your parents and have a candid conversation about college costs. What can they afford? How much are they willing to pay? What are the boundaries? Make sure you file for financial aid, even if you don't think you'll get any money. Many scholarships require a federal financial aid filing.

Sweat the details. Too many students trip over little things. Start early. Create a file of your extracurricular activities, your transcript, etc. Make sure your application is neat, legible. Make sure words are spelled correctly. Ask your college counselor if you have questions. Meet all deadlines. Make a copy of what you send in. If you don't get an acknowledgment, call and ask.

Avoid senioritis. Don't forsake your studies, as you'll want to do after you get accepted. Not only will your classes help you stay sharp for the transition to college, but many colleges now "disenroll" students who do poorly on prerequisite courses.

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