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Trade Secrets: What Your School Counselor Wants You to Know about Applying to College

When it comes to the college admissions process, what you haven't heard may be what's most important.

Elizabeth Hoyt

November 07, 2017

Trade Secrets: What Your School Counselor Wants You to Know about Applying to College
Early decision deadlines are almost within sight. Now, more than ever, is the time that rising juniors and seniors need to take advantage of summer break to visit college campuses. We’ve said that and you’ve probably heard it from your parents, teachers and counselors as well. But what haven’t you heard? When it comes to college admissions, your school counselor may not be sharing all of the pertinent information you need.

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In hopes to keep the admissions process transparent, here are some aspects you should be aware of as a student approaching college, according to GoLocalProv’s college admissions expert. • When it comes to applying, your mantra should be: the earlier, the better. Colleges fill anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of their freshman class with students who have utilized the early admissions deadlines. That means that waiting for the final decision deadline will guarantee more competition for fewer available spots! It’s usually an advantage to apply early but guidance counselors may not tell you this because they don’t like rush requests to send out early applications and student packets.

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You don’t need to be a straight A student to qualify for financial aid. Financial aid is available to everyone – but, if you’re looking to get it from your school, your best bet is at your backup schools since they’re most likely the schools that will value your GPA to raise the class averages.

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Colleges make cuts based on your cumulative GPA – not just your junior or senior year. That means that, while your junior and senior year grades are important, all of your grades matter in high school. If you start out slacking, it will be much more difficult to raise your cumulative GPA. If you start out strong, it’s much easier to maintain a high cumulative GPA. When it comes to your cumulative GPA, remember that your grades during your freshman year matter as much as the grades from your junior or senior year. • Competitive colleges reject valedictorians more than you’d think. Top colleges consider more than grades – your SAT/ACT scores matter, extracurricular activities, leadership experiences and philanthropic activities matter, too! According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 35 percent of seniors have an A-average upon graduation. Nowadays, it takes much more than amazing academics to wow the top schools! • When it comes to applications, the magic number is anywhere from nine to 12. Apply to a variety of schools, giving equal weight to your stretch, likely and backup schools. That way, you’ll have a variety of options to consider when admissions decisions arrive. You’re also likely to narrow down the list during your senior year, but having too many options is a great problem to have. • It’s important to visit campus while college is in session. Seeing a college while students are there is important. Campus is much different during the school year. You’ll get a better idea of student life if you experience it first-hand to consider whether or not it’s the right school for you. • The National Honor Society is a great club, but it won’t make or break an admission. You need much more than the National Honor Society (NHS) on your college application to make a difference in admissions. Though it’s a wonderful club to be a part of, it consists of more than a million students. As a result, it’s not as likely to stand out on applications since it’s not considered very “exclusive.”

What other tips do you wish your college counselor had shared?

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