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How do I get into a good university?

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Subject: Career question for you

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SoRelle’s Answer

Take time to talk with your teachers about how you can improve as a student. Competitive universities all have applicants with excellent grades (and any standardized test scores). In addition to the academics they are looking for students who have motivation to study something the school teaches, show their interest through school and extracurricular projects, and are involved in their communities.

You also need a couple of strong written recommendations from your teachers, so it all goes back to asking your teachers for help to improve as a student and learn more in the field you're interested in.

And if you're feeling pressure (from parents, friends, or yourself) to get into the "right" school, make sure you're applying because it's what you want to do and you're willing to work hard to earn a degree in a field you're interested in. If you start college before you're ready to work at your studies, it's a waste of your money and time. Not everyone should go to college and even those who will enjoy it may not be ready until later.

It's a huge investment in time and money, so make sure you're willing to do the work to get there and to make college a rewarding learning experience.
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Chirayu’s Answer

There are many things you can do to get into good colleges. From getting good grades, getting good results on your SATs/ACTs, good recommendations from your teachers, and extracurricular activities. You can significantly improve your chances by writing good essays when you submit your college applications and by taking challenging classes in high school or even college level classes. Getting in a good university will also depend on your location or where you choose to go as all schools are different somehow, some may offer different specializations whereas some colleges may offer different fields so depending on where you choose to go or your career choice, you can make a shortlist of all the good schools and make a pro and con list.
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Uma’s Answer

1. Put time and thought into your written college essays. These are essentially your personal statements that allow admission boards to get a sense of who you are and what you care about to determine if you are a good fit for the university. I would definitely recommend not procrastinating on these and getting tons of feedback and revisions from friends, family, teachers, etc.

2. Take part in extracurriculars. The activities you do outside of school should be related to what you enjoy whether it's learning an instrument, playing a sport, volunteering, or participating in a school club like Model UN or debate. If you take on leadership positions like team captain or club president, this shows an additional level of responsibility that will stand out on your college applications.

3. Take practice standardized tests. Different universities put different levels of emphasis on your ACT/ SAT test scores. Taking practice tests will allow you to get comfortable with the types of questions and concepts you'll be tested on on the big day. It will also allow you to develop testing strategies (ex: how to read excerpts faster) that will make you feel more confident on test day.
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Brad’s Answer

(I was an admissions counselor for a small private liberal-arts college in New England focused heavily on internship opportunities for a few years, and was a volunteer working for my alma mater, a large state university)

1) Take challenging classes and maintain a high GPA. Standardized tests are (slowly) going away, and GPA is the greatest indicator of future potential and success. If you can do well in Honors or AP classes, go for them, but only if you have the work ethic and believe you can succeed. Colleges weight more difficult classes, so getting a B- in an AP classs is about the same as getting an A in an academic or non-honors class. But showing you went for the harder stuff is also an indicator of how hard you're willing to work.

2) Standardized tests. Take BOTH the SAT and the ACT if you can, they focus on different strengths and some students do far better in one than the other. Practice tests are good, but don't go nuts taking the test like 20 times, you'll just burn yourself out. But keep in mind many colleges are not focusing on Standardized tests any more

3) Extracurriculars. Do more than just study and go home. Join a club, a sport, an activity or volunteer group to demonstrate who you are OUTSIDE of your classroom. If you need to have a high school job for any reason, that should be something you should discuss as well. While not a "traditional" extracurricular it does demonstrate responsibility and maturity (and hey, some of us need money in high school so don't feel bad about it)

4) Letters of Recommendation are also key. Your favorite teachers, your mentors, your coaches are all good examples, but make sure they will be willing to give you a good letter. A mediocre letter of recommendation is a warning sign.

5) Unless you KNOW what you want to study, I would suggest taking some community college courses to get a cheaper head start on your higher education (AND those can also go on your transcript and are often considered Honors or AP level courses to an admissions counselor). It gets some of your fundamental requirements out of the way for cheap, and lets you explore a few fields of study before you commit to a school or program.

Good luck!
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Gloria’s Answer

Hi Dalton,

You are asking a tougher question than you think since you and I may have a different definition of a good school. I would want to know - what do you consider a good school? Is it inexpensive? Is it well known for the major you want to earn a diploma in? I have studied at five different universities and earned two diplomas. I was never asked where I earned my diplomas from. I was asked about what I knew and how it applied to the job that I wanted. I was also not asked about my GPA except for the very first job that I ever got. After that, I was asked about job experience and my college knowledge. Good can vary by where you live. I live in Texas and University of Texas at Austin is considered a good school here in the state. I had never heard of it before I came to live in Texas, so I am not sure why it is "good". Why were some of my schools good? I liked a good library. And since I often went to school out of state, I liked a student union with easy to access resources and a good advisor. Some friends thought a school was good when it had big sports programs or a good sorority or fraternity experience. You should consider if you want to live in a big city or small, near home or far away; if they have places where you can work to offset school expenses; what clubs are offered to enhance your school experience or support your hobbies,

If you are concerned about getting into a particular school for a particular major, you have gotten a lot of good information from others on how to improve on meeting the requirements of the university that you are aiming for. Getting into a school is just one of the many hurdles you will face when you go to university.

Gloria
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Jen’s Answer

I agree with what's been posted above. I am also a firm believer in "its not the school you go to, but what you do once you're there". So many students are set up for disappointment in the college application process by the big name schools or "the best" schools. What is often forgotten, however, is that there is a school out there for everyone. At a smaller university for example, you may have the opportunity to do more work directly with a professor doing research. Perhaps you want to start your college journey at a community college to save some costs. There are so many paths to go.

Be open to exploring many options. I recommend a book such as "Colleges That Change Lives" by Loren Pope for some different perspectives.
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Favour Adaugo’s Answer

At the colleges you’re applying to take the time to carefully consider your high school performance in terms of grades, courses, test scores, essays, activities, recommendations, and interviews (if applicable). By adhering to these twelve guidelines, you will significantly improve your chances of being accepted to the colleges of your choice:
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Kevin’s Answer

In order to get into a good university you must diversify your classes, maintain a good GPA, and test/apply well. Have a dedicated study schedule for standardized testing. This piece is very important to stand out amongst the masses. There are going to be a number of applicants with strong grades, and grading systems vary depending on the high school, so doing an exemplary job on your SAT/ACT will be pivotal to getting into the college you want.

Volunteer in your community, diversify your background as a student via extracurriculars, be a leader in everything you do (sports, school, work). Tell your story - this is your value to a university. How are you different from the masses? Can you tell your story if given an interview for your favorite school?
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