What can a Junior do to improve their admissions chances?
I'm a first-generation college student and as such, my parents have no experience with applying to college. Heck, when I told my parents I wanted to go they were shocked. I feel like they kind of expected that I would marry some guy and have a family. So, pleasant to say I have no idea what I am doing. It's only recently I've decided I'm going and I feel so scared. I'm not even applying to any big universities, I'm mainly applying in-state. So what can I do to increase my chances of getting an acceptance letter from my Dream School (University of Louisville)?
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There is so much information out there and I 100% get that it can be overwhelming. Firstly good job for taking the initiative to seek out an enriching future for yourself and for really doing your best to pursue this independently. I myself am not 100% the most educated person on college admissions but I’ve picked up a lot of info over the year and I really hope this helps you make some sense of the process.
The core components of your apps are as follows:
1. academics (transcript, gpa, ap scores, etc)
Generally the best way to ideally improve your chances is to have a strong GPA (the "good" number depends on what schools you are aiming for) of high-level classes like honors/APs. Take as many as you can feel comfortable with but if your grades slip/you become overwhelmed you can always drop. Your mental health is important to consider as well :)
2. testing (sat/act score, sat subject tests)
Every school has a "common data set" which incudes the SAT values for 25th percentile (below average) and 75th percentile (above average) of admitted students. You should aim to be somewhere in that range to have a reasonable chance of admissions, but remember your SAT/ACT isnt everything. A 1600 will not guarantee admission to any school nor will a low SAT guarantee rejection - the whole admissions process is wholistic. Sat Subject tests are optional for most schools but if you take a couple (1-2) they will certainly boost your admissions chances!
For extracurriculars it might be hard to start new activities cause you will be a senior next year, but here is what colleges look for the most- 1. self-drive and initiative, 2. leadership, and 3. dedication. They want you to be involved in a COUPLE (not a lot!!) of activities for a long time, ones that you show commitment to and that you are passionate about (and that relate to your intended major), and that you have leadership positions in. If you can, starting a club is a great idea. Aim to get officer positions (President, VP, treasurer, etc) in honor societies or clubs. Focus on activities that are specialized, things you are passionate about and will write about on your application, and that are unique. Colleges don't want to see the kid who is in every club, every honor society, does music, sports, and volunteering - that only shows you are able to do a mediocre ability of everything, but not that you are dedicated to and capable of working intensely with a couple of specialized areas. Also try to get awards and recognition in those places if you can. The key idea is they want to see specialization, projects that you do OUTSIDE of school and start by yourself, and things where you can win state or nation wide recognition as well as showcase leadership.
4. letters of recommendation - a quick google search can give you helpful info on this
5. essays/personal statements - again, i recommend you google for advice
** for the college vine info you have to put your unweighted GPA out of 4; if your school doesn’t use that system here is a conversion table: https://www.pdx.edu/asian-studies/sites/www.pdx.edu.asian-studies/files/Attachment8_GPA_Conversion_Table.pdf
@Raynerose the general rule of thumb for college admittance is to have in the upper range of the middle 50% gpa and middle 50% for ACT or SAT a quick google search solves that. In your situation, you should have one hard school that you apply o that if you want there you'd like it. I visited my instate campus over my school break but university was still in session. Then apply to a school with a near certainty of acceptance and then 2-3 schools that you think you will get into but aren't certain. If your profile is strong enough Vanderbilt might be a viable option.
If you want some resources you could just google contact admissions insert school name and say something like Hello, I have just decided I wanted to apply to college but as a first gen student I am floundering a bit do you have links or good resources for me. Id greatly appreciate it! You might want to contact your regional admission counselor a person who recruits students in a specific region so Lousiville will probably have someone(s) for Kentucky. You google regional admissions insert school or find my admission representative insert school name.
For some general guides, Id look at SupertutorTV on youtube.
Some big dates to keep in mind are priority deadlines either Early Action (nonbinding) Early Decision (Binding) most schools only offer one of them so research if ED is a good idea and the earlier you apply the more financial aid you will get. Remember to file the fafsa which is freeish money. Then you get notified of acceptence/denial and then you pick a school and enroll. I am skipping over a few things but these are the very basics and good luck in your search!
So the other answers are really in-depth, but on a more personal note I just want to say that I'm proud of you, idk. I think that it is a very good thing that you know what you want. Also keep in mind that you can actually get in contact with the admissions directors at that school. Another good resource is any online admissions zooms, they are VERY helpful. Lastly many schools want to admit first generation students, so make sure to add that to your application.