There is more to applying to college than just filling out a form. It takes time and organization to put together an outstanding application packet. Understanding the application process is the first step.
Most important, remember every school has an application deadline. If you're a high school student, check out this sample calendar to keep you organized.
Plan enough time to get forms, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Your school might require an entrance essay, or you may have special circumstances to consider.
Once you understand the process, you will find it is easier to plan your time and organize your work to submit the strongest application packet possible.
Supplement your research by using the Internet, books, counselors, parents, and current students to find out as much as you can about each college.
Once you've narrowed down your list of schools, sort your choices into three groups by your chance of being admitted. Applying to at least one school in each category helps you avoid aiming your sights too low - and missing out on a chance to get into a competitive program - or aiming too high - and not getting in anywhere at all.
Dream schools: These are your "reach" schools that are your toughest challenge in terms of cost, admissions selectivity, or both.
Mid-range schools: These are schools where you stand a competitive chance of getting in.
Safety schools: These are affordable schools where your chances for getting in are very high.
Study for standardized tests
While standardized test scores aren't the only factor that colleges consider, they are a measure colleges use to determine if you are ready academically.
Select recommenders who know you
A recommender is like a star witness who will testify about your achievements and character. Choose teachers who can write about you as a student and as a person.
Leadership is better than membership
When choosing activities, aim for quality over quantity. In your application, highlight experiences in which you have displayed leadership and initiative.
Craft an irresistible essay
Highlight your strengths beyond the facts and numbers in the application. Choose a topic that you feel passionate about and that reveals something about who you are.
Aim for perfection
Enlist others to help edit your application and essays. The way you present yourself in these is critical to getting accepted. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Source: Gen and Kelly Tanabe, authors of Get Into Any College.