College Prep

Breaking Down the College Admissions Process

Teen at University

Let’s face it: planning your college future is a daunting experience for both parents and students alike. There are so many questions to answer: what can you afford? What do you think you want to do? Would you do better at a large school or a smaller one? Have you built the right high school experience to get into the college of your dreams? In this article, we’ll touch on all the key points on preparing for college admissions — including how to set yourself apart. 

Why Plan Ahead for College Admissions

Your future after high school really starts well before you step onto a college campus for the first time. Admissions can be competitive, and with 8 out of 10 people changing majors at least once, putting a solid plan in place while in high school creates a positive ripple effect that can last your entire college career. So what can motivated high school students like you do to plan accordingly? First step: start early and get prepared.

Five Key Points about College Admissions:

  1. Find a school that’s right for you: College admission is competitive, yes, but there is a right fit for everyone. According to recent statistics:
    Less than 100 U.S. colleges are highly selective, accepting less than 25 percent of applicants. 
    Roughly 500 four-year colleges accept more than 75 percent of applicants.
    Open-admission colleges accept all or most high school graduates.
  2. Look beyond your grades: Of course, the work you've done in high school is the first thing schools review: they look for students who earn strong grades in challenging courses. But, they also consider what you do outside the classroom. This can include your application essay, college interview, and extracurricular activities, such as internships and pre-college online courses that showcase your interests and your motivation. 
  3. This is your future, own it: Don’t forget, you're in the driver's seat. Stay focused on what's important to you and what you want to get out of the college experience. College planning feels overwhelming at times, but stay focused on your goals and be true to yourself.
  4. Choose a school that fits you: Base your choice on how well a college fits your needs and personality. Don't worry about how it's ranked. The experience, achievements, and skills you have once you get there — and after you graduate — will matter most. 
  5. Loved ones provide advice and support: Family, teachers, and friends are a great resource. Discuss your collegiate plans with them and ask for help and advice. Make an appointment with a school counselor to review the application process, determine which colleges will suit you, and options for financial aid.

Pre-College Programs Tailored to Aspirational High School Students

Higher education is leading the charge when it comes to engaging motivated high school students. Rochester University, a Prelum partner, is one example. The Rochester Pre-College Online Program for high school students' 5 online courses are all ideal for pre-college prep. Students 13 and older can sign up for one or two-week sessions. Courses include: biomedical engineering, medicine, orthopedic medicine, video game design, and U.S. healthcare. 

Prelum partners with a  variety of universities that offer online learning programs for high school students. One such program is Wake Forest University. Their Online Immersion Programs for high school students feature an impressive assortment of science and medicine options, such as: bioscience, medicine, cancer medicine, sports and women’s medicine. And Case Western Reserve University’s Pre-College Program is distinguished by courses in astrophysics and evolutionary biology, engineering, neuroscience, and medicine. Another leader is Georgetown University, whose courses run the gamut from cybersecurity and entrepreneurship to law, politics, and even surgery to name a few. You can also check out the full list of Prelum’s university partners.

Created by each university’s expert professors, the online courses are highly interactive, with many featuring tech-forward tools that present Prelum students with unique features, including navigating an animated timeline, clicking through various life cycles, or matching course concepts with examples. In addition to online courses, many of our Prelum partners offer summer sessions, both online and in-person.

So what are other unique options?

Summer Sessions are a Must

Summer enrichment programs (in addition to programs throughout the year) are a great option for high school students. For in-person programs, students can see what campus life is like and meet professors in person. Summer programs allow them to focus on their traditional studies during the school year and to fully immerse in summer programs in the off-months. In addition, high school students and teens benefit from summer enrichment programs, of varying topics, like: STEM summer camps, engineering summer camps, or law summer camps.

Internships and Job Shadowing: Two Additional Options

Most aspiring high school students live in communities with extracurricular activities that can lend well to college applications. Volunteer programs are a great way for high school students to get a feel for their potential college majors and see if there’s a possible fit.

While volunteering is a greater time commitment, job shadowing is an option that requires less of your time. As the name implies, shadowing allows you to spend a day or two following professionals to observe their day-to-day responsibilities. It can be a wonderful, real-world learning experience for a young person. 

Key Summary Highlights on Preparing for College Admissions:

  1. Driven high schoolers who seek opportunities will find a whole array of options including, online courses from leading universities, summer immersion programs, summer camps, volunteering, or shadowing.
  2. These programs not only provide an inside look at the field for students, but give universities a pool of motivated future students who have proven themselves in some of the best universities.

Preparation Checklist for College Admissions:

  • College Choices: Create a balanced list of reach, match, and safety colleges
    - Plan a variety of campus visits to get a feel for the size, the geography, and the personality of each school.     
  • Applications: Gather application
    - Complete application, make copies
    - Pay application fee
    - Submit application
    - Confirm application receipts
  • Deadlines: Create a timeline of early and regular application deadlines
  • Transcripts: Request high school transcript sent    
  • Required Tests: Identify all required test  (e.g., AP Exams, IB exams, admissions) 
    - Take all tests
    - Send in all required tests
  • Recommendation Letters: Request recommendation letters
    - Send thank-you notes to recommendation writers
  • Essay: Identify all required essays
    - Draft your essays
    - Proofread for errors, including spelling and grammar
    - Have at least two people read it
    - Revise your essay
    - Proofread again
  • Interviews: Interview at college campus
    - Conduct an alumni interview
  • Financial Aid: Make a timeline of financial aid deadlines
    - Use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
    - Submit CSS PROFILE, if needed
    - Accept financial aid offer(s)
  • Guidance Counselors: Meet with school counselors to discuss first steps and receive advice on best practices.
    - Keep school counselor abreast of application details

We encourage you and your parents to learn more about Prelum and our university partners

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*Kaplan may receive compensation upon student enrollment in one of our partner programs.*