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Suggested Strategies for Getting Into College

Please see the article in the Seattle Times by Whitman College's President, George s. Bridges, May 2007 entitled: Choosing The Right College: Getting To The Heart Of The Matter



Be Challenged

Take challenging courses throughout your high school career, honors and advanced placement whenever possible.

  • Take courses beyond the minimum requirements (4 yrs of language and or math, an extra science class) this makes you competitive, rather than just eligible.
  • Don’t ease off in your senior year.
  • Enroll in summer school to bring up low grades in certain classes.
  • Participate in special programs for enrichment such as internship, mock trial, etc.
  • Take college level courses (i.e. concurrent enrollment at College of Marin)


Develop Your Sparkle Points


  • Colleges want quality, not quantity. Don’t join a lot of clubs to impress colleges, but instead have depth. They look for commitment, leadership and passion.
  • If you have a REAL talent, let colleges know about it (send a tape of your musical talent, a portfolio of your artwork, a photograph of a hobby, etc.)
  • Show that you are unique and have something to offer to the college community.
  • Make sure that you do not have anything on Face Book or You Tube which you would not want your grandmother to see. Colleges routinely check these sites for researching future students.




  •     Plan to take the  PSAT in October of your junior year. Take the SAT Reasoning and or ACT with the ACT Writing component,  in the spring of your junior year and repeat the one you have done better on in October of your senior year, if you are not satisfied with your first scores. If applying to one of the University of California campuses, take two SAT II Subject tests as soon after you have successfully completed the related class. This could be in your freshman, sophomore, or junior year. You may also take 2 SAT Subject tests as a senior but it is advised to take the test as close to the completion of the class as possible. If you are planning to study engineering, computer science or math,  it is advised that you take the Math Level 2 SAT Subject test. Math Level 1 is not counted for UC Campues. Your two SAT II tests should be from 2 different areas such as a math and language or biology and literature. For more information on University of California testing requirements go to of California


Apply to a variety of colleges in respect to their selectivity


  • Generally, apply to 1-2 “reach” schools, 2-3  “good chance” schools, and 3-4 schools that you feel confident in getting into. For a  back-up, apply to a community college. These choices will be impacted by your finances, profile, and desired characteristics in schools. What is most important is that you feel good about attending any of the schools you are applying to.
  • Don’t get your heart set on just one college, there are many that will be a good fit;. 

Applying Early Decision, Early Action or Single Choice Early Action


  • If you definitely want to attend a certain college, and you feel you are a strong candidate, you might want to apply Early Decision as your chances of getting accepted are generally improved. Remember it is binding and you can not compare financial aid packages.
  • Apply Early Action if there are a number of colleges you would like to attend are organized enough to apply at these early dates. This means you hear earlier but if accepted, they are not binding.
  • Single choice Early Action is a non-binding Early Decision where the student is prohibited from applying either Early Decision or Early Action to other colleges, but may apply regular admission anywhere else. Students are not bound to attend the Single Choice Early Action school if they are accepted.




  • Take advantage of having an interview if the college recommends one. It gives you a chance to learn more about the school and to show the school that you are truly interested. Be ready with questions and know that the person you speak with may or may not be a graduate so that the depth of knowledge may vary.




  • Start early, send your application before the rush, as colleges will take more care in reading it. Bottom line, meet all deadlines.
  • Type your application and watch for grammar and spelling.
  • Copy all materials sent electronically or by mail.
  • All colleges prefer that you submit electronically but in most cases will accept hard copy applications which you will have to request by mail, email, or phone.




Tell a story only you could possibly tell. Reflect on the story. Tell about the reaction, how it impacted you, don't just write about the action. Have someone who knows you and have someone who does not know you well read it and write three adjectives that describe you. Is that what you meant to convey? Write about something personal that you can be passionate about. Show curiosity and self- awareness. Don’t go beyond suggested limit or use a gimmick. The CCC has several community volunteers able to help students with their college essays. See Ms. Imai for details.

Wait Listed/Appeal


If placed on a “wait list”, send that college more relevant information about yourself to improve your chances of being pulled off the “wait list” (i.e. new test scores, mid-year grades, special circumstances,etc.) Know that there has to be significant, new information to make a difference.  Follow the above to appeal if you feel there is just cause. Know that a small percentage of students are successful in reversing an admission’s decision.


No Acceptances


Go to NACAC website  in May to see what schools may still be looking for students. Apply to a junior college.