There’s No Yellow Brick Road to Get Into College

There’s No Yellow Brick Road to Get Into College

There may not be one path, but shares tips to guide you when applying.

Published September 15, 2011

For the 28th consecutive year U.S. News & World Report has released its list of the nation’s best colleges. Harvard University and Princeton University tied for first place and Yale University ranked number three. 


When combining colleges overall, researchers have argued that the actual lifetime-earnings advantage for college graduates vs. non-college grads is an estimated $279,893, but oftentimes, going to college is easier said than done. breaks down U.S. News’ tips to get into college:


1. You Want To Go, So Why Wait to Get a Start?


Don’t just think that colleges look at what you’ve done the last two years of school — they look at the total package, so it’s important to have a four-year plan. In order to take challenging math classes your last year, for example, many schools require that you start with geometry as a freshman in order to take pre-calculus by your junior year.


Make a plan as soon as you enter high school. If you are already halfway done, then double up on math, science, or foreign language classes in your junior and senior years to show that you are making an effort to turn things around.


2. Be Your Biggest Competitor


The strength of your curriculum is almost as important as the grades that you receive. Take challenging classes, but don’t sacrifice your health or social life in the process.


3. Cast Your Net Too Wide and You Might Sell Yourself Short


The College Board reports that the vast majority of students say that the more colleges they applied to, the more stressful the experience was. Don’t let the extra pressure of over-applying hurt your chances of getting into school.


4. If You Mess Up, Then Fess Up


Admission officers understand that seventeen-year-olds are not perfect. If you do have a flaw in your application, then use your personal essay, teacher recommendations or an interview as an opportunity to clarify your grades or past behavior. For example, you could express how a B in a difficult class was the result of trying to bring the grade up from a prior C-, which helped you to grow as a scholar.


5. Less is More


Colleges like to see that you are involved in extra-curricular activities, but don’t just join groups to join. Colleges like to see that you are well-rounded, but it’s better to be involved in a few activities wholeheartedly over time.


6. On the Wait List? Wait It Out


A letter to be waitlisted is not a denial letter. Today, many schools are taking a number of students from their wait lists in order to improve their stats.  Stay in touch with the admissions officers, send your updated grades and honors and make it clear that you will attend if accepted.



Once you are finally selected by the college of your dreams, congratulations! Now it’s time to choose "fit over prestige." Don’t just go to a school because of its name. Visit, ask lots of questions of students who are currently attending the school, and make sure that the college you are accepted into has what you are looking for socially, culturally and academically.



To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.


(Photo: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Written by Danielle Wright


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