Expert Opinion: How to Get into Your Dream College
Getting into dream colleges and universities, particularly Ivy League schools, isn’t impossible, but it can be challenging on various levels. Applying to a college is an experience that is guided by excitement and anxiety. Students are faced with rigid academic standards set by top colleges or universities. In the process of getting into a dream college, students face fierce competition to get accepted.
To make a college application stand out from a pile of equally deserving candidates, students need to demonstrate interest early in the application process. To get miles ahead of the competition, one needs to make passion a goal, plan your life- while enjoying to the fullest -around it, choose subjects & extracurricular activities accordingly, and practice learning in a 360-degree manner.
Moonpreneur has reached out to experts in the field. Let’s find what they have to say on attaining your goal of getting into a dream college:
1. Jennifer Liepin
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with 15 years of admissions experience, Jennifer’s career began in reviewing undergraduate applications at her alma mater. She works for USC Bovard Scholars as an Admissions Coach, and her recent students have gained admissions to Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Duke, Northwestern, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Brown, amongst many more. She says –
“Successful admissions begin with creating a thoroughly researched college list. This means attending school webinars, tours, or information sessions for every school on your list, and researching how effective your school is in providing a fulfilling undergraduate program within your desired major. How can you craft this list?
I recommend meeting regularly with your school counselor throughout your sophomore and junior years to create a large list of prospective schools ahead of narrowing it down to a well-rounded mix of reach, target, and safety schools.
In creating a balanced list one should begin by researching different statistics in regards to recently admitted students to the schools on your list. Create a Google sheet to note school acceptance rates, as well as 75th percentile SAT/ACT scores and GPAs for accepted students.
Observe how you compare against these rates as you determine whether a school is a reach, target, or safety.
Another recommendation in working towards your admissions goals includes educating yourself on the admissions process and what admissions officers at each school are looking for amongst candidate profiles.
I highly recommend listening to “Inside the Yale Admissions Office,” a podcast series run by Yale admissions officers keen on sharing their insights as to how their admissions process works.
Finally, think, as you complete your admissions applications, “What can I uniquely contribute to this school?” Universities appreciate students that can handle the rigor of their curricula and show a level of engagement that will enrich the overall undergraduate experience
for that campus. Make sure that your essays, teacher and counselor recommendations, and other aspects of your application reflect this.”
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2. Shawn BeanShawn Bean has been teaching high school since 1999 and is also an entrepreneur with 2 companies (MidwestTeachersInstitute.org and PdPersonalized.org) and a blog (teachersidehustleblog.com).
He attended Bradley University for undergrad, then Walden University for his master’s. In his current role as an educator, he often speaks to students about what it takes to get into their dream college. He explains –
“The first step is to identify which college is your dream. This sounds easy, but usually, we go about it the wrong way. The first place to start is with your prospective career path, making sure that they have options for you should you change your mind. The reason that I chose Bradley University was that it has a highly regarded business program in the Midwest.
I never saw myself as a teacher, but I was able to transition into their program when I made the switch.
Students today also need to take a long look at what they do outside of the current school day. We live in a world where people have many options with their free time, and universities want to see that their incoming students can handle that temptation well. Besides the usual suspects, joining a team/club or some form of student leadership, I always suggest students consider forming their own business. Regardless of the actual financial success, you are demonstrating a relatively large number of skills that will increase your odds of being successful.
To run your own business, you’ll need to manage your time, and at times manage other’s time. Scheduling becomes important, as does persevering and overcoming adversity (which any business will experience). Throw in budgeting and interpersonal skills, and you are starting to round out a good argument to accept you into the school.
Another thing that helps is to gain more life experience in a variety of forms. Consider things like volunteering or attending camps in your area.
Last, I’d make sure that they worked on their networking skills. You’ll need to lean on support from many individuals to make it, so make sure you’ll have no issues getting someone to write those letters of recommendation you’ll need.”
3. Alok Jain
Alok Jain is the CEO and Co-founder of the Silicon Valley-based EdTech start-up Moonpreneur. He is a serial entrepreneur with four successful companies in his list of accolades. His most recent venture, Moonpreneur Inc., is disrupting the EdTech sector.
An IIT-alumni, Alok’s vision is to bring about a change in the way children are prepared outside traditional classrooms. With the brain of an entrepreneur and the heart of a father, Alok decided to create this company that imparts children with an entrepreneurial and innovative mindset. His sole focus currently is to secure the future of the young generation through hands-on entrepreneurial training, STEAM-based learning, and an outcome-focused approach via the Moonpreneur’s Innovator Program.
Alok explains –
“Everything can be achieved if planned accordingly. To ace college admission, one needs to set a goal, chalk out a plan, and be determined. “A robust, diversified college application is what every college selection team looks for!
Colleges wish to see a consistent, diversified story throughout the application. Grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and essays should define a student in a positive, synced, and balanced manner. One should make sure that the extracurricular activities are relevant to the degree a student wishes to pursue. For extracurricular activities, your child can take up community service, leadership, and more. Students should focus on subjects and activities that can enhance the overall scope of the application.
One should make sure that the extracurricular activities are relevant to the degree a student wishes to pursue. Getting into a dream college requires a lot of effort and planning. So plan everything from the start to succeed in life.”
4. Lyndsey Eksili
Lyndsey Eksili is a highly experienced, dynamic, accomplished, and motivated Educational Leadership Specialist with significant administrative, community outreach, and policy analyst experience.
She has over 15-years of experience in private, public, and charter school systems bolstered by significant time working with cross-functional teams to set cohesive policy agendas that advance PreK-12 goals and increase attainment of desired educational outcomes. Lyndsey currently serves as the principal of Pinnacle Academy, a Preschool-12 STEAM-focused independent school in Northern Virginia.
According to Lyndsey –
“Getting into your dream college or university is not impossible. Here are three things that will make your application stand out from the rest.
First and foremost, make sure your grades and test scores are as high as possible. Colleges and universities like to have high GPAs in college-level classes especially, so take that AP course and aim for a 4 or 5 on the final exam. Not only will you earn college credit, but It also goes a long way in the eyes of admissions officers. Take as many opportunities as possible to study and prepare for the SAT and ACT.
This can be done through taking practice tests and classes, of course, but also through simple tasks such as reading the daily newspaper.
Secondly, oftentimes we fall into the mistake of dabbling in many extracurricular activities, rather than focusing on a few that provide us with depth in a particular focus. Quality over quantity is a good rule of thumb to go by for extracurriculars. Schools are looking to build a well-rounded student body of experts, rather than jacks-of-all-trades.
Lastly, apply early and don’t limit your choices by choosing only one dream school. Choose three. This will automatically increase your chances, some experts say up to 94%, of getting into one of your choice campuses. When applying, do not wait until the deadline. Submit your applications early, make sure you proofread them, and practice, practice, practice writing essays before you send your final admissions essay to the college or university.
These are just three out of many things you can do to get into your dream college or university, but they are three things that will make a huge difference in your applications.”
5. Sherri Lewis
Sherri Lewis assists students, families, and professional colleagues in understanding and navigating the trends in the college application process. Work one on one with students in creating college lists and connecting with colleges, editing essays, completing college applications, and preparing for interviews. Also, work with students in submitting applications to graduate school programs as well as assist families in managing the application process to private secondary schools. She said –
“What exactly are competitive colleges looking for in their students? That one student who stands apart from others– the student teachers describe in recommendation letters as, “The most amazing student I have taught!” In addition to meeting the college’s numerical benchmarks for GPA and test scores, the rigor of a student’s high school programming is also taken into consideration.
Did the student take the highest level of courses available? Did they take all five core subjects all four years of high school? What extracurricular activities did the student participate in, for how long, and have they progressed to leadership roles within these activities? Are there any special circumstances or any significant accomplishments? What senior year courses are the student enrolled in and yes, colleges will look at senior year grades.
So how do you get on the radar of highly competitive colleges? If attending your dream school is your goal, start as early as your freshman year of high school so you can work toward establishing a strong foundation meeting the basic criteria mentioned above. Make sure you have met or exceeded the general prerequisites and then start building a profile, essay, and application highlighting your unique, magnificent qualities.
Now is the time to brag about the club you started, the success of the business you created, or the science courses you are taking at a local college because you exhausted the science curriculum at your high school. As you complete your application and move on to your essays, try not to repeat information the colleges already have about you.
For example, if you won All-State for track and listed it as an award on your application, don’t write an essay about how winning the award was the best moment of your life. Instead, introduce new information about yourself so every aspect of the application is another piece of the puzzle that is you.
Keep in mind there are many great schools out there! The perfect college is the one that promotes growth academically, socially, and personally preparing students for the next phase of their life.“
Believe it or not but there’s no magic formula to get into your dream college of choice. What has worked for many successful students and will work for you, as well, is to apply the right approach and develop a solid understanding for a remarkable application.
Applying to a dream college can be an empowering process, so give it your best to ensure that a hefty envelope from your dream college arrives as planned.
Very informative and interesting.