You’re in love—maybe it’s the location, maybe it’s a sports team or academic program, or maybe it’s just the name (no doubt, this is the reason plenty of Harvard applicants are dreaming of wearing Crimson). But, you’ve got a dream school, and you’re crushing hard. Let me tell you how to win it over.
For the best chance to get into your dream school, hit the books—an impressive SAT or ACT score and a stellar GPA are exactly what you’ll need to to get a ‘yes’ from admissions officers.
Find Out What Test Score And GPA You’ll Need
Use your high school’s records to figure out what GPA and test score you’ll need to have a realistic shot at getting in.
Most high schools keep records of students who were accepted, rejected or waitlisted at particular schools, along with numbers like their GPA, test scores, and class rank. Oftentimes, this information is available online. You can use this data to give yourself an idea of what numbers you’ll need to have a good shot at admission.
At most colleges and universities, test scores, and GPAs, in particular, are considered at a high school-specific level, so your school’s alums’ numbers are a better gauge of where you need to be rather than the numbers posted on college admission websites.
Know Your Dream School Like The Back Of Your Hand
Do some research on your dream school to keep on top of its application requirements and see what types of students it admits.
You’ll want to find out everything you can about your school’s admissions requirements. How many SAT Subject tests does it require for admission? Are there particular AP courses or exam scores the school recommends?
Having this information handy will help you plan your courses during your high school career so that you’ve covered all your bases by the time it comes to apply.
If you haven’t started high school yet, you might even be able to find out if the college or university has particular feeder high schools from which it accepts large or above-average numbers of students.
Sometimes, colleges won’t even accept the top student at high schools they don’t know much about. So, if your local high school doesn’t tend to send graduates to your dream school, consider attending one of these schools to give yourself a better chance of securing admission to the school.
Show Your Dream School Your Interest
Visit your dream school and introduce yourself to the admissions officers if you have a chance to do so.
Don’t be too overzealous with contacting admissions officials—nobody likes a nag or a stalker—but make an effort to get to know your dream school’s admissions officials for your particular region of the country.
These officials will likely come through your area at least once a year for a college admissions fair, usually held at a hotel ballroom or high school in the area. Try to attend a few of these, politely introduce yourself, and talk about your enthusiasm for the school.
When application time comes around, it will be helpful to your chances for these admissions officers to remember your face and name. This will help you stand out among the thousands of faceless applications the admissions officers will be dealing with.
Then, when the junior year rolls around and you go on your college tour, check in with these admissions officials again if you can. Traveling to the school is a sign of your commitment and continued interest in that school, and will show the admissions officials that you’re the real deal.
Be Sure Your Dream School Is The Right Fit For You
Whatever your reason for wanting to attend is, if accepted to your dream school, you’ll be spending four years of your life there—so, get to know the school really well.
Research what it has to offer as much as you can. Make sure that it’s somewhere you’d be comfortable—urban v. rural campus, city v. campus feel, religiously affiliated, far from home or close to home, etc. Also, check in with yourself once in a while to make sure that your priorities and interests still match up with your choice of dream school.
You’ll change a lot during high school, so a school you’ve dreamed of attending your whole life might not be as great a fit as another by the time you’re ready to start submitting applications. Try to remember what it is about the school that made it your dream school, and be sure that those interests and priorities still align with your interests and priorities today.
Work For A Strong GPA And Test Scores
For the best shot at attending your dream school, be an academic superstar—work for the best GPA and test scores you can.
No matter what your dream school’s GPA requirements, schools get more and more competitive each year—if you’d be in the 50th percentile of applicants this year, by next year you could be in the bottom half. So, get as many As you can and try for a GPA of 4.0 or higher.
In addition, be sure to take test prep seriously. Most colleges or universities will accept either the SAT or ACT, so you might want to try taking both, and find out which you do better on—this can be the test score you submit to your school. And, if there are SAT Subject tests or AP scores your school wants, make sure you take classes in these areas and have a study plan in place these exams, too.
Prep Expert’s SAT and ACT prep courses are excellent resources if you need to improve your test scores. Our expert instructors combine content knowledge with strategies, tips, and tricks to ensure you’re maximally prepared to tackle your exam. Our courses have helped hundreds of students get higher scores.
What’s more, we offer in-person instruction in cities throughout the country, as well as online classes, so you can study from anywhere. For those wanting to put in even more test prep time, we offer in-person or online sessions with a private tutor.
If you’re taking a test prep course right now, remember: this isn’t the only time you should be spending on test prep. Until you’ve achieved the score you need to get admitted to your dream school, you should make test prep third on your list of priorities, after family and schoolwork.
Set a consistent schedule, and study somewhere quiet that's free of distractions. Fitting in study whenever you can is great, but it’s best to have a consistent study schedule and stick with it. Prep Expert instructors can help you plan a study schedule that will work for you.
Pick The Right Admissions Category And Apply To Safety Schools
When it comes time to apply to your dream school, be sure to select the admissions category (Early Decision or Regular Decision) that will give you the best advantage, and be sure to apply to safety schools, too.
If you’re absolutely sure that you want to attend a particular school, then applying Early Decision (ED) might be your best shot. If your school doesn’t have ED admission and you’ll be applying Regular Decision with the rest of the applicant pool, it doesn’t hurt to mention in your personal statement that the school is your top choice and that you’ll attend if admitted.
In addition, using the features you like about your dream school as a starting-off point, research other schools that might also be well-suited to you. It’s important that you have a list of 9-12 schools you’re applying to, and which cover three categories—reaches, targets, and safeties.
Is your dream school Harvard? Well, Tufts, only a few miles away, offers many of the benefits of Harvard but is easier to get into.
Are you a budding politico with your sights set on Georgetown? Well, George Washington University offers all the same benefits of being located in our nation’s capital but is less competitive for admission.
There might even be some schools where you are their dream applicant. If a school wants more students of color, or from another region of the country, or football stars or flutists, you might have an edge for admission based on these things. Doing research will help you discover plenty of these types of opportunities.
Don’t Despair If You Don’t Get In
If you’re not admitted to your dream school, remember that where you go is not who you are—stay positive and you’ll have a great college experience no matter where you end up.
It’s not the end of the world. There are plenty of excellent schools out there, and wherever you matriculate, if you apply yourself and work hard, you’ll get an excellent education and be in a great position to succeed going forward.
And, if you work hard at whichever school you end up attending, there’s always the transfer applicant pool—another chance of attending your dream school.
For more help on getting into your dream school, check out Prep Expert.
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