Five top tips for getting started on your college search

By: Lakoi Takona, Staff Reporter

With college only a school year away for the juniors attending Thornton-Donovan, it is important to start preparing now in order to guarantee smooth sailing throughout the college application process. Here are five important things you need to know to get you started on your college applications.

  1. Academics (GPA, SAT/ACT)

The single most important factor in the college admissions process is academics. The higher your numbers, the better chance you have of getting accepted in your top-choice college. Because junior year is the single most important academic year, finishing the year with an amazing GPA shows colleges that you are a hard-working student who would have little problem adapting to the rigorous coursework in college.

Along with your GPA, your standardized test scores (ACT/SAT) are just as important in the college admissions process. The standardized tests help colleges see where you square against other students nationwide. The best times to take the SAT/ACT are twice in junior year and once in senior year, if needed.

  1. Extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities allow colleges to determine what kind of person you are outside the classroom, including what are your qualities, interests, leadership abilities and other talents. Having interesting extracurricular activities gives you the upper hand over other applicants. Some extracurricular activities you can do include community service, jobs, camps, summer programs, travel-study programs, clubs, school newspaper and sports teams.

  1. College visits

Toward the end of junior year or during the summer before senior year, you should visit a few of the colleges that you are interested in. College visits allow you to get first-hand experience of what campus life is like at the schools that interest you. By touring classes, dorms, recreation facilities and cafeterias, you can determine whether or not you would be interested in attending that particular college.

  1. Draft college list

Creating a draft shortlist of some of the colleges you are interested in is a crucial first step in determining what your dream schools might be. When adding a college to your list, it is important to consider all of the college’s relevant stats: student body population, faculty-to-student ratio, majors, weather, location, and GPA and SAT/ACT requirements.

  1. College draft essay

The college essay is another very important factor in the admissions process. Because of this, be sure to give yourself ample time to write the essay. You should begin writing a rough draft in the summer before your senior year. You should try your best to get as many people as you can to read it in order to receive some helpful constructive criticism on your drafts.

Following these five tips will help ensure an exciting, (relatively) stress free college application process.