The Dos and Don’ts of Admission Preparation

Published by Wendy Nelson on

This is a guest post from Amanda Wilks.  Read more about her at the bottom of the post.

These days, whether high school graduates should go to college is a hotly contested issue, largely due to the rising costs of tuition. Detractors argue that the cost of going to college doesn’t pay out in terms of job prospects and salaries, and say it’s better to focus on a trade. Look it up.

The truth is, graduating from college does pay off: college graduates on average earn 10 to 300% higher salaries (depending on their field of study) and have less than half the employment rate of those with just a high school degree. Getting into college, then, can dramatically influence your life. To help you stay on track as you prepare your college applications, these are the dos and don’ts of college admission preparation.


1. Ask for Help

The college application process can be long and confusing, and sometimes you need assistance in figuring out how to tackle each step. Getting expert advice can help you direct your energies so that you are focusing on details that admissions committees want to see and not wasting time on things they don’t.

2. Get Involved in Extra-Curricular Activities

Being active in extra-curricular activities in high school make you stand out in your college applications as a person who doesn’t just attend school because it’s required but instead has a love of learning and a sense of discipline. These are desirable qualities to an admissions committee and gives them an idea of how you will contribute to the student body once admitted.

3. Be Open and Honest in Your Personal Essay

It can be tempting to slack off on the personal essay and focus instead on your test scores, but the essay is the only space for the admissions personnel to get to know you as a person. As such, you should be open and let your personality and your interests shine through. For example, in her personal essay, Jodie wrote about her passion for learning Japanese origami, which culminated in her learning to fold 1,000 paper cranes. The admissions committee saw her as someone with a natural desire to learn and a strong sense of perseverance, and now she is a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University.

4. Do Everything in Moderation

It can be tempting to take on every honors class and extra-curricular activity that you can squeeze into your schedule, but you don’t want to burn out before you even finish school. Moderation is the key. Allow yourself time in your schedule to pursue your personal interests. These not only help you avoid burnout, they also make you unique and stand out from the crowd.


1. Get Overwhelmed

The number one thing that you shouldn’t do when starting college admission preparation is get so overwhelmed that you don’t even know where to start. This can lead to poor decisions like procrastinating to the point that you must pull overnighters to study for entrance exams and meet important deadlines. Instead, you should stay organized. Start early and make a to-do list to keep yourself on track so that you have time to take breaks and get the sleep you need.

2. Apply to Every College / University You Can Think Of

Some college applicants apply to as many colleges as they can think of, thinking it will increase their chances of being admitted. Their mistake is failing to consider if they are actually a good fit. When narrowing down which colleges and universities to apply to, research their programs and—most importantly—any statistics you can find on admitted students. This can give you a good idea of if you meet their admission criteria and would make a good fit in their university environment.

3. Forget about Financial Assistance

You may write off certain colleges because you think you can never afford them, but financial aid and scholarships can cover some if not all the costs associated with tuition, textbooks, and room and board. The key is to apply as early as you can—funding for grants and scholarships is limited and is typically awarded on a first come first serve basis.

4. Prioritize only Your Dream School

You probably feel a lot of pressure to get into your dream school, whether it’s family pressure or otherwise. The truth is, you can have a successful college experience no matter where you end up. Just look at the real-life examples of Tom Hanks, Tina Fey, and Barack Obama: each was rejected from their dream university and had to settle for their second or third choices, yet all managed to have successful college experiences and careers. Regardless of if you’re the next A-list celebrity, comedian or politician, you can take some of the pressure off when you realize that you can have a valuable college experience no matter where you end up, even if it’s not your dream school.

Going to college is one of the most important things you can do in your life, and as such, it is vital that you approach the college application process the right way. By following these do’s and don’ts of admission preparation, you can find success in your college search.


About the author: As an ex Boston University valedictorian, a reputable guest blogger, and arduous education promoter, Amanda Wilks is seeking to help others set the premise of a brilliant future and career. See Amanda’s Twitter for more details.