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My Top 10 Pieces of College Admissions Advice

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but I am big on learning from experiences.

I've had plenty of missteps in my life and I helped thousands of kids through their own. So I've gathered my ten best lessons I've learned over the years as a college counselor on what to do and what to avoid in the college admissions process.

10. Don't take the SAT or ACT on the weekend of a big event, like prom, the school musical, or a life event.

The student is so distracted and overwhelmed that it is difficult for them to get the scores they were hoping for.

9. Don't drop core classes (English, math, science, history, foreign language) any year of high school if you can avoid it.

Colleges prefer all five core classes over electives/non-core classes no matter what major you intend to pursue. 

8. Don't walk up to your teacher before or after class to ask them to write you a letter of recommendation.

Reach out to them formally (email is appropriate) and ask to set up a time to meet. This should be a well thought out discussion between you and your teacher, not you, your teacher, and the rest of the class listening in.

7. Don't spend the money to attend pay-to-play summer academic programs.

Elite colleges, even the ones that host these programs on their campuses during the summertime, look down on them in the admissions process as they exclude a large segment of students due to cost.

6. Don't do what everyone else is doing!

Do something different when it comes to the activities you do, the essays you write, and the colleges you consider. The application process (and life) rewards those that have the confidence to be their own person.

Related Reading: Perfect or Interesting? What Colleges Really Want from Students

5. Do consider and visit plenty of target and likely colleges.

Colleges with acceptance rates over 25% often track demonstrated interest in the admissions process. No matter how strong a student is for a college that tracks demonstrated interest, they must visit for the best chance of admission. 

4. Spend your summer earning money, contributing significantly to your family or community, or if you are lucky enough, pursuing your personal dream.

All of these endeavors show commitment and should be represented on your activities list, especially if you have put in the hours and weeks to prove it.

READ MORE: To Report or Not to Report? The Strategy Behind Listing Your Summer Activities

3. Think through your major choice carefully.

The strongest applications come from students who have the evidence to back up their major choice.

2. Invest time into your essays once junior year ends.

Essays are often the way to an admissions officer's heart

1. Do you. Enough said. 

Many people focus on their destiny—what's in the future for them. But I focus on the present tense. How we invest in ourselves right now is truly transformative to our own lives and the impact we can make on society. Students have the power to control their destiny if they are willing to take the reins right now. Don't wait for the future. The present is waiting.