December is when many colleges begin sending early acceptance and early decision notices to high school senior applicants. Early signs show the bar went up again due to increased applicants! With fewer students getting in, let’s look at any lessons there are to learn about college planning. The following summary covers what I read, hear from parents with college students, and learned in the work world among a wide range of industry employees. PrepScholar did a good job of covering the territory so I’ve included highlight points. There are links so you can review the entire PrepScholar post.
This story begins on Quora.com, a top website for finding good advice and real world views on a wide range of topics. Students or parents can find wisdom about college planning, specific colleges, college strengths, or advice regarding getting into selective colleges. You can post any question and people with strong qualifications will answer. To find good information, begin by reviewing past questions on your broad search terms. For example, in the question field, enter “University of North Carolina Chapel Hill” instead of “How Can I Get into the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill?” A broader search approach will bring up all related questions with the terms you entered.
What if you are not aiming for a highly selective college?
You can build a stronger application if you apply the advice in this guide. Do your best. Create your best. Invest some time to answer hard questions about your future. Talk to working professionals to hear their advice and challenges. Your years between age 18-22 are a special time to invest in college and to “push” to build work skills. If you have a career plan and know what you need to do to build specific credentials for a career in mind, you will more likely end up with a happy ending after graduation and beyond.
Here is a Quora question that sparked links to a long and good explanation of how to get into top colleges;
“If I get a perfect SAT score, will the Ivy League universities automatically admit me? By Vineet Reddy, a former student at Northview High School, Johns Creek GA. This post led to a link of top guidance: “How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League” by a Harvard Alum, of Allen Cheng of PrepScholar.
Reading the PrepScholar post is a great education. The reading is long but is well worth your time. Yes, not every student aims to get into selective colleges. However, the views apply to most students who are wanting to know what they should do to create good choices for future success.
What will you learn?
How should you use your time well in high school? Most students make the mistake of trying to be “well rounded,” thinking this is what colleges want to see. This is a big mistake because this is not focused on doing anything particularly well. Shift your path by developing a “relentless focus” for any skill or field. Create a “deep spike” instead, of something impressive that is difficult to do to set you apart from the competition.
How should you use your time well in high school?
Be intentional about how you use your free time and extracurricular activities. Developing a “spike” of skill mastery and accomplishment in some areas is far more important than being well-rounded by spreading yourself thin with many activities and a variety of skills. It is hard to get straight As, plays an instrument, and compete in a sport. Instead, explore and dive deep into something. Make trade-offs. Give up what is usually 1,000 hours of wasted time every year on things that don’t matter. Focus on your top strength, something specific, and something you are passionate about so you can stand out. Find ways you can show accomplishment in this area and by competing at the highest levels possible. Focus on what you like doing, what you are good at, and keep doing that. Aim to be stronger and stronger.
So, what should you actually do?
What you do doesn’t have to be newsworthy. Do think big. Aim for focus on something you are genuinely interested in. Commit to discipline, competency, and passion. Talent is not required when you take the dive, but you need devotion and hard work. A strong will and structure in your life can get you there. Start brainstorming and doing online research to unravel more ideas. Find something rewarding and fun to do. Let go of a time wasters. Let go of classes that don’t fit into your story. Find out how to tackle this goal.