Whether you’ve just begun considering attending college or you’re that student who has been working to get into a college ever since the end of their junior year, you are probably looking for some ways to stand out from the average student. These are a few good tips to help give you an edge over other applicants and help you get into your dream school. 1. AP students are accepted students. AP classes show that you’re prepared for college classes, and believe it or not, they actually prepare you for college work. Even if you don’t make an “A” in these classes, taking these classes shows colleges that you like to challenge yourself and are willing to work hard. Plus, for every AP exam you make a 4 or 5 on, you usually save yourself some money. Scoring a 4 or 5 on the AP exam typically makes you eligible for college credit, meaning you can test out of some classes. For example, at Northwest Mississippi Community College, scoring a 4 on an AP exam would save you about $215 per semester, and if you decided to go to a more prestigious school, like Princeton, you would save even more.2. Your teachers are your best friend, and if they aren’t, they will be soon. Because best friends write the best recommendation letters. Colleges generally frown on recommendation letters that sound like the generic charity recommendation that is handed out to everyone who needs one. On the other hand, a passionate, personal letter that makes you seem like one of the greatest students on the planet is like a steroid boost to your application. So it’s time to start sucking up to that first block English teacher that’s always giving you the evil eye (personally, I suggest the classic red apple approach).3. Resume. Yes, you need to write a resume if you’re serious, but don’t look at it as some long, laborious task. Think of it more as cataloging all the things that make you awesome onto one document. Your resume should be about a page, and since fitting all of that awesomeness onto one page may be a little hard (if not impossible), doing a little research on the sort of things your top five colleges are looking for might help you figure out what needs to be prioritized over others. This doesn’t mean that if a college wants something on your resume that you should just make it up. Even if you don’t have everything a college is looking for, make sure that your resume is an honest portrayal of yourself. After all, colleges value honesty much more than a perfect GPA.4. Make school your second home – actually, scratch that – make school your first home. Seriously, get involved in as many clubs and/or sports as is possible without splitting yourself in two. School activities show colleges that you’re a person who’s attached to your school, isn’t afraid to be a part of something bigger, knows how to work with other people and more than just a GPA. 5. The early bird gets the worm…and the scholarships. If you know where you want to attend college for sure and are ready to commit, go for it as soon as possible. It’s been proven that those who apply early get priority consideration for admission, scholarships and residence options. These applicants are commonly referred to as Early Action/Early Decision applicants. On the other hand, if you’re unsure of where you want to go, or feel like your academic profile needs another semester to mature, it’s better to get accepted in February with less scholarship money than rejected in December with no scholarship money. 6. Release your inner Shakespeare. No, I don’t mean write your college a poem. I mean, use the English language to the fullest of its capabilities and make every word count on your college essay. Try to make it concise yet captivating and have your English teacher check it at least twice. I know it seems like a lot of work but a good college essay can give you that extra boost you’ll need to beat out someone with the exact same GPA and test scores as you. 7. Have friends in high places. Behind every college admission decision is a person, a person with emotions, emotions that are going to be stronger towards someone they’ve actually had a conversation with. So get to know the admission counselor for your region; whether that means following them on Facebook, emailing them to ask what their college looks for most in an applicant, attending an interview or even all of the above (for all of you over-achievers out there).
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