Getting into college
Monday, March 27, 2017
It has been quite some time since I applied for undergraduate school. However, I remember it like it was yesterday! I came from a school without much college preparation, and I ended up choosing the schools in Michigan (where I grew up) that were either prestigious, or that I knew other students from my high school attended. I definitely looked into Ivy League schools; I thought it was something I should be doing because of my GPA and goals of being a physician, but it wasn’t really where my interest lied.
On a last minute whim, I decided to apply to Arizona State University because I have family in the area, and I wanted to experience another side of the country. It ended up being the best decision of my life!
For those of you out there thinking about applying to college, ask yourself this-
“What is most important to me”?
For some of you, that may be location. For others, it may be a specific program or academic track.
If you take one thing from this post, just remember that the name of your college will not predict your success. Only YOU hold the key to your success.
Take me for example. Arizona State University is definitely not the most prestigious school out there, but I still made it to medical school and a very successful residency program! My biggest piece of advice is to follow your heart and choose a school where you feel comfortable and happy.
It may be a good idea to purchase a reference that lists each college along with their statistics and requirements for matriculation.
Before you make your college prospect list, consider these things:
This number is of course an important part of your application, but it does not define you. I repeat… it does not define you! It may determine which schools you are a competitive applicant for, but that can be widely variable. Advanced placement classes can be a good idea depending on your future career goals, but keep in mind that these classes will always affect your GPA, whether good or bad. Some applicants may have a fabulous GPA, but with an easier set of classes. Colleges will look take this into consideration.
Depending on your high school or preference, you may be taking the ACT or SAT. They are both college entrance exams. I took the ACT when I was in high school, but many of my friends from different schools took the SAT. This score may or may not be strongly considered when evaluating a college applicant. It would be within your best interest to discuss these tests with your guidance counselor, and research the importance of test scores at the colleges you are interested in. I am showing my age with this topic unfortunately, as I do not have much up to date information!
- Personal references
Here is your chance to shine! Choose your letter writers carefully. Schools will typically state the specifics required of these letters. They may request at least one come from a teacher, or mentor, sometimes a personal friend. It would be a good idea to discuss your expectations with your letter writer. Sometimes you can even consider writing your own letter, and then asking your letter writer to modify as they see fit. You definitely want to highlight your strengths in these letters!
Not all undergraduate schools require letters of recommendation*
- Extracurricular activities
I have always heard that schools care about much more than grades and test scores. Well now that I’ve been through a few years of school myself… I can tell you that it’s true! My biggest piece of advice here is to choose the extracurricular activities that you love! There is no reason to spend your free time on an activity, just because you think it will look good on your application. Take my advice and spend that precious free time happy and doing things that you love. It will come forward in your applications and the most important thing is showing that you can do more than just school. 😉
Remember that this should all be a fun and exciting process! Try to focus on your goals and where you really see yourself. This process is about YOU. There will be a lot of opinions thrown around; don’t be intimidated!