The majority of U.S. colleges admit most applicants who meet their standards. However, if you decide to apply to selective institutions — those admitting fewer than 60% of applicants (in some cases as few as 15%) — give yourself every chance for admission by preparing your application with great care.
• Even before you apply, elect a challenging academic program for senior year. Four solid college preparatory classes are a must---five are better! Selective colleges will carefully examine both the depth and breadth of college-prep course work. If you can, choose honors, accelerated or Advanced Placement classes.
• Remember that you won’t be present when decisions are made about admission, but your application will. It is far better to fill out fewer applications and allow yourself time to do a good job on each one than to send out great numbers of poorly prepared applications.
• Selective colleges will carefully evaluate your ability to express yourself. Put time and care into the essays. In approaching them, think about aspects of yourself that distinguish you from a large pool of applicants. Look for approaches to questions that reflect the unique person and student you are. The best essay is one that no one else could have written.
• Some highly selective institutions will require an interview, others will make one available. An interview is your moment to present yourself as a living, breathing person through the interviewer to the admission committee---take advantage of it. Follow instructions for arranging it in a responsible and timely manner.
• Most selective institutions require recommendations from your counselor and one or two teachers. Choose teachers who know you well. Also consider someone in your community who can shed light on a different aspect of your profile.
• If you have a special talent—in the arts, athletics, or writing—think of ways to share it with the admission office. Send a music tape or sample of your writing.
• Look at your applications as a chance to highlight your abilities, accomplishments, interests, and contributions to your school and community. Remember that even the most competitive colleges are looking for reasons to admit students, rather than deny them. Your well-prepared application will let you relax, knowing you’ve done your job well by giving each school a clear picture of your best qualities and qualifications.