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What Do Colleges Look At?


1. College Application

You can do a lot to stand out as an individual in your college application. In addition to teacher recommendations, a letter or two from someone who really knows you can be helpful. If you have some special skills, let admissions offices know about them. The best way to get into college is by emphasizing your own talents and strengths.

2. The Essay

Here are some key points to consider when writing your application essays:

  • Good writing is writing that is easily understood.
  • Avoid overuse of adjectives, adverbs, big words and exclamation points!!!
  • Have a good writer critique your essay and another proofread it.
  • Stick to the length that is specified in the application.

Here are some guidelines to help you zero in on a good topic, or if the topic is assigned, help you find an effective way to get your point across:

  • Don't repeat information from other parts of your application.
  • Avoid generalities.
  • Maintain the proper tone.
  • Pick a topic you really care about.

3. Recommendations

  • Start early. Your teachers and counselors are swamped so give them plenty of time; at least 10 days notice.
  • Give your teachers and counselors all necessary materials (resume of activities, goals, choices of colleges, and application deadlines).
  • Waive your confidentiality rights.
  • Select recommenders wisely; they should know you personally.

4. Paying for College

  • Merit-based scholarships are given to people with outstanding achievements: athletes, artists, high grades and academic scores, etc.
  • Need-based grants and scholarships are given to those who can demonstrate financial need. The two best sources include the colleges' own aid programs and financial aid. You must apply for financial aid by fililing out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and sending this application as soon as possible after January 1 of your senior year. These applications are available in the Guidance Office after December 1 of your senior year. Also complete any aid forms enclosed in the application packets of the colleges to which you are applying.
  • Those sponsored by the federal government include the Stafford loans for students and the PLUS loans for parents.
  • These loans are awarded based on the information given in the FAFSA.