The college application process can be confusing, and the vast majority of students applying to college have never done it before! So, of course there are going to be many unkowns when it comes to how to get into college. Here are some of the most common questions people have when they are considering applying to college:

1. Should I take hard classes and risk my GPA, or take easier classes and get straight A’s?

It’s all a matter of balance. The joke here is to take hard classes and get A’s. But, you have to make a decision based on your abilities and interests, and challenge yourself as much as you can. If you want to be a serious candidate for college, you must push yourself, but ultimately you must perform. Taking the easier class and getting an A+ is not too good either. The trick is to lean into your strengths. If you’re good in science, then push there. More of a writer? Then write. If you have to roll back in math, then do that. You are an individual human being, not a formula.

2. If I get bad grades, can I still get into college?

Of course, yes. There’s a college out there for you, especially community college. The question is this: are you prepared for college? If you get bad grades, then maybe you’re not prepared for the rigors of a self-motivated academic life that college requires. Also, can you afford to go to college? If you get bad grades, then you won’t get scholarships. If you made bad choices that led to bad grades early in your academic career, are you making good choices now? Is it your junior year, and so you have time to get back on track? The U.S. is the land of second chances. At the very worst, you can go to community college for 2 years, excel academically, and then transfer to the flagship college in your state to receive your degree there.

3. Are my ACT or SAT test scores really that important?

On the one hand, no, because standardized test scores are not an indicator of future success. Also, not all colleges look at these scores. But, yes, you should endeavor to do well because your scores are how scholarships are determined. So, take them seriously and do as well as you can.

4. How can I get a scholarship?

Get good grades, get good test scores. The vast majority of scholarship money comes from the colleges themselves, so apply to colleges that will give you the most scholarship money. They always give money to the best students. Think about it. Who plays in the NFL? The best football players. How do you get to the Olympics? Be really good at an Olympic sport. Want a scholarship? Then excel at academics and extracurricular activities.

5. How do I get good letters of recommendation from my teachers?

Go above and beyond what is required by your teachers. Talk to them, get to know them, treat them like human beings. Build a relationship. Let them know what is going on in your life. Most of all, your relationship with your teachers is about school. So, it’s most important to be a good student. Do your work, hand it in on time. Demonstrate to your teacher that you care about their class. Just remember, it’s about being a good student first and foremost.

6. Which extracurricular activities should I do?

The ones you enjoy, and the ones you’re good at. The specific extracurricular activities you choose don’t matter. There is no formula. Spend time doing activities you like, and aim for excellence in those areas. It’s not about numbers, it’s about how well you perform. If you play a musical instrument, they do not measure how much you practice, they measure how good you are. The same is true for sports, and all other activities.

7. How do I decide my major?

Ask yourself, what are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Remind yourself that it might not matter when you start college. Do what you enjoy and you will excel at it. Place your focus on the subjects you enjoy. You may want to be an engineer, but if you struggle with math, then you may not succeed in an engineering program. It’s all about aiming for excellence. Employers after college are not hiring you based solely on your college major. They’re hiring you for what you know, and for your habits. Demonstrate a rigorous work ethic through academic and extracurricular success and you will continue to succeed beyond your college life.

Do you have questions about the college application process? The experts at Great College Advice can help you navigate the sometimes confusing and overwhelming task of getting accepted into college. Contact us at greatcollegeadvice.com to find out how we can help you master the college application process, and ultimately be able to attend the college of your dreams!

Published by Mark Montgomery

Mark is a leading educational consultant. His experience as a professor, college administrator, and youth mentor help him guide students from around the country and around the world.

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