Your Money Matters: College admission tips for high school seniors

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Christine VanDeVelde

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College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step


Take a deep breath and relax
At this time of year, students and families are fearful and confused and fall prey to stereotypes, rumors and gossip about college admission. Students hear how competitive the process is, but we know that most schools admit about 70% of their applicants. And applying to college is not rocket science — colleges aren’t asking 17-year-olds to do anything 17-year-olds are not capable of doing.

Make a list that’s just right
Students should have a realistic list of colleges to which they definitely want to apply. One of the perennial scare stories in college admission is that students are applying to fifteen, twenty or even thirty schools — so you must do that, too. The truth is the opposite.  About 75% apply to seven or fewer schools. But that’s a mistake, too. Best advice? Apply to eight to ten colleges.

Read the fine print
Applying to college is in no small part about following directions. There are more than 2600 colleges and universities in the U.S. and forms, essays, financial aid, deadlines can be different at each one. If you don’t follow each school’s own rules, you won’t be taken as a serious applicant — or worse.

Start writing
Students should be starting rough drafts of their essays, or at a minimum be brainstorming about them. Don’t worry about finding the perfect topic. There isn’t one. Admission deans rank the essay fifth after factors like grades, curriculum, and test scores. But slipshod effort or questionable taste in an essay may keep you out.

The one thing students do NOT have to do right now:

The early bird doesn’t always catch the worm.
Students think that they must apply NOW under an early action or early decision plan.  There’s a lot of pressure to do so from peers, parents and the media. Students think applying early improves their chances or that early decision will fill most of the seats in the freshman class. Simply not true. And there are many advantages to waiting and applying regular decision.

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