Now is the Time to Start Thinking about College!

Tips to get a Jump Start on College Admissions

Preparing for college admissions is a marathon, not a sprint. Back in my marathon running days, one of my running books asked this question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer, “One bite at a time!” I would offer the same advice to students preparing for the college admissions cycle. Divide the steps up into bite-sized pieces and start early so that you don’t become overwhelmed and frustrated with the marathon of college admissions.

Here are a few things you can do during your sophomore and junior years to make the elephant of college admissions easier to swallow.

Think About Careers that Excite You

While it is just fine not to have your dream career hammered down before entering college, putting some thought into what career will make you happy is a good way to narrow down colleges by focusing on majors that will prepare you for a job that will excite you after graduation.

Your sophomore and junior high school years are a great time to talk to your parents’ friends about their jobs, research jobs that fit your interests, and even job-shadow professionals in your careers of interest. Informational interviews with professionals in areas of interest to you are also a great way to test the waters and learn more. Most people are more than happy to make time to visit with a student who is interested in a career in their industry. Having a good idea of the types of jobs that make you excited will help you stay on track in college and avoid changing majors which can cost you credit hours, time, and money.

Start Visiting Different Types of Colleges

While your list will not come completely together until the end of your junior year and will be revised through the start of your senior year, knowing the type of school you would like to attend can help you narrow your list to a group of schools that you are very excited about.

Are you a large-campus type or do you like the slower pace and ease of getting around a small campus? Do you want to be in a big city or would a more rural locale suite you? How does a small liberal arts school feel versus a larger R1 campus? By visiting different types of schools, you can help narrow the field of schools that might be of interest to you.

Not all campuses are fully open again to campus visits, so you can also do virtual looks. Town & Country Magazine offers some great tips for organizing your college visits (both in-person and virtually). You can cover a lot of ground with no travel expenses through virtual visits found both on the college websites and on sites like You Visit. Colleges and independent sources have upped their game on virtual visits due to the pandemic, so take advantage of these great, free resources to help focus in on the schools that you want to see in-person.  

Start and Regularly Update a List of Activities and Awards

Colleges will want to know about your high school activities during the application process. Think carefully about how you want to fill your time and how your activities accurately reflect your passions and interests.

College admissions teams are interested in students who show sustained interests in a set of activities and who stick with those activities and gain leadership roles within those organizations. As you become active in clubs, do volunteer work, and win awards, keep a running list that you will use to create a student resume.

If you start an activities list early and craft it into a resume that you update every 3-4 months, you will not have that panic at the beginning of your senior year trying to remember name of the award you received as a freshman.

Take Charge of Your Social Media Accounts

High school is a good time to do a clean-up of your social media presence. You want to ensure that there is nothing in your social media accounts that will raise eyebrows in the admissions office. Every year, some students have college admissions offers rescinded due to something questionable that they posted on social media.

To avoid embarrassment and heartache later, keep your social media accounts clear of things that could be perceived as an indictment of your character. This is a good habit to start, because not only are admissions offices looking at your online footprint, so are your professors and future employers. I advise students to use the grandmother test. If you would be embarrassed (or should be embarrassed) for a sweet, saintly grandmother to read your social media accounts, it is time to clean them up and keep them that way.

While you are online cleaning things up, begin to follow some of the schools that might make it to your college list. Social media gives you a great window into the tone of the institution and the things that they think are important. Following schools on social media also helps you show demonstrated interest in those schools.

These are some small bites you can take of the college admissions elephant. If you want to know more, email us for a free consultation at [email protected].

Start early for application success!