To My Terrified Freshmen: This Is What You've Waited For

by Monique Hawkes
(Baltimore, MD)

Princeton University

Princeton University

I know that the last thing on your mind as a freshmen is what campus you see yourself at four years from now. All you are trying to do is make it through your first day in a school filled with bullies, mean girl cliques, and more responsibility than you think you can handle. The sad fact of the matter is that freshmen year is probably the most important time to start thinking about college. But let’s be realistic; there’s no way the majority of fourteen-year olds are going to know exactly what they want to do when they graduate high school. But there are places to start.


From my experience, I have learned that quite possibly the best thing any student can do to prepare themselves for college in their first two years of high school is keep their GPA up while still challenging themselves. Nobody is asking every student to be the next Einstein, but colleges will look for progress and going above and beyond in order to strive for a good grade. Sadly, college admissions are not able to see all you’ve done to strive for that C+ in AP Government; they only get one piece of paper: your transcript. For those reading this who do not know, your high school transcript shows every class you have taken since the 9th grade, including the curriculum level (standard, honors, GT, or AP/IB) and final grade you received. Your class rank, GPA, and even how many days you were absent in each year are included. You can basically say it’s your entire high school career summed up on one piece of paper. Colleges will receive an official copy of this in order to get an idea for the kind of student you are, but this is not the only thing taken into consideration.

Colleges also like to know what authority figures, outside of your family, think of you, so it is smart to create good relationships with your instructors and teachers because once senior year comes, you will need them for recommendation letters. Procrastination will try and get the best of you, but be sure to ask early for these letters. Just like you, teachers have a lot of other deadlines to meet and they need to allot time for your letter. Not only that, but they will need a copy of your resume in order to personalize what they write and include all your many achievements. Your resume is another one of those very important pieces of paper, but it goes beyond the grade. This is where colleges are able to find out more about YOU and your personal life. All your extracurricular activities are listed, along with any community service you’ve participated in or jobs you’ve held. Freshmen through junior year is your chance to figure out what you want to do so that you can start figuring out what college best fits you.

Getting accepted into college is something that takes baby steps, and you’re not alone in it. As you progress through high school, don’t forget that your guidance counselors and teachers are there for any questions or struggles you may be having. I realize that the actual application process does not start until senior year, but now is the time to start thinking about it. The slate has been wiped clean; middle school is over and high school is the time for you to become the most well-rounded person you can be. It’s kind of early to think about this, but it’s just something to keep in mind because right now is where it all begins.

High school is what you guys have waited for; this is your time to shine. Be involved in as much as you can, not because you feel like you have to, but because you want to. Not only is this the kind of stuff colleges look for, but it will make your time in high school that much more enjoyable. I left middle school not knowing really who I was or what I wanted to be; I am now leaving high school with a group of loyal friends and many memories I will take with me to college. Being a freshmen can be a daunting task, but it’s all a process so that you are able to become the best you that you can be.


Read more College Admissions Help from other students and parents who have been through process.



Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Monique for sharing advice to those high school freshmen. Yes, this is a great time to lay the foundation to get into a good college, hopefully the campus of your choice. I also like your advice to get involved and become the best that you can be. Best of luck to you.


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Applying to Colleges

College Tour - Applying to Colleges

College Tour - Applying to Colleges

College applications can be a stressful process for many students. Through my experience of applying to colleges, I have found several different tips that that has allowed me to get into the even more selective schools.

Colleges are more leaning towards accepting students with a high GPA, good SAT or ACT scores, and letters of recommendation from reliable teachers that can fully describe every single good point of a student. Even though a student will pass with flying colors in a regular class, colleges will see you as not being able to challenge yourself and place yourself into more rigorous programs. Thus, they will believe that you will be unable to handle the courses in a selective college.

It is imperative that a student selects a teacher who will write a good and compassionate letter of recommendation about a student. Write a long resume detailing a person’s activities in and outside school. These resumes tend to show a student that has been able to make the best of their high school years. It is always important to research into what type of student a college is looking for, and sometimes they aren’t looking for the most competitive, but rather the most convincing. Colleges enjoy having unique students that have committed to various activities in school. Colleges will always attempt to accept exceptionally outstanding athletes, people with strong commitment in volunteer service, jobs, leadership, and clubs.

Other than that, it is important that if you have a college major that you exhibit the fact that you are truly interested by participating in clubs relating to the major, or volunteering in an area involving that career pathway. You always want to have the most up-to-date knowledge about each school you are interested in, so it may be helpful to ask people that are already in your dream school and ask for tips on what they did to get accepted. Asking questions is not a bad thing to do, and it is the best possible thing to do during college fairs or visits in order to gain a stronger background and idea of how a college may fit into your own personal life.

Altogether, colleges are more reliant on a student’s grades, then their extracurricular activities in and outside of school. High school may be a time to have fun for students, but it is also a time to help prepare an application for a college. It may be tempting to relax and ease your way into college without doing any work, but it is a much better idea to focus more on work and other additional activities outside of class.

Read more tips about Applying to Colleges from other students and parents who have been through the college admission process.



Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you for sharing your tips about applying to colleges. Good luck to you in school.


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Get Connected!

by Melissa Clucas
(Jackson, Michigan, United States)

College Admissions Help - Get Connected

College Admissions Help - Get Connected

Talk to people around you that can help you. Being accepted into a college or getting financial aid is not something you can do solely on your own. Be it your parents, a college adviser, a teacher giving you a recommendation letter or what ever it is, you need people around you to help you succeed.

Many times if you get to sit down and talk to someone, you aren't just a number any more and you are showing that you care enough about your education and care enough to put the effort into becoming successful. If you're going to someone for help, not only are you getting a one on one interaction where you can ask and clarify questions directly, but it helps to familiarize yourself with how the process works and what the requirements are for what you need to get done. People are willing to help you if you need it, more than likely, they've been in the same boat as you at one time.

There are many resources and people around you that can help you or give you advice. Each and every high school teacher had to go through the same process when they started college. What is their story? There is no doubt that they could have advice that might potentially guide an incoming freshman in the right direction. A college adviser can help you find scholarships and resources that will be beneficial in helping you pay for college. He or she may also assist in clearing up questions in how to fill out an application, or aid in finding a fitting college or major that you might be interested in.

Never think that college is something you have to go through with alone. There are many, many resources and help available to any kind of student, and the more you take advantage of them the easier college will be.


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Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Melissa for sharing your advice to get connected. You are so right – it is the people you know and those you will meet who can help you through the college admission and financial aid process. Good luck to you in college.



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Essential Advice for College Applicants

by Daniel Wassall
(Catoosa, OK, United States)

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University

When applying to college or post-graduate programs, attention should be paid to two key areas: preparation and punctuality. Upon choosing a school to which to apply, the application process and application itself should be thoroughly studied. This is where punctuality is important. Some schools operate on a “rolling” admissions basis, which means that qualified applicants are accepted on a first-come first-served basis. In these cases, submitting the application at the earliest possible date is crucial. No matter the qualifications of the applicant, a late application can be the deciding factor in being denied admission. From personal experience, the best way to ensure punctuality in submitting the application is preparation.

There are two components to properly preparing for the college admission process. Short-term preparation is the easiest to handle because this pertains specifically to the application itself. The parts of the application that may require preparation are letters of recommendation and supplementary documents, such as college essays. In choosing a writer for a letter of recommendation, careful attention should be paid to choosing someone who is not only willing to write a letter, but who will write a thoroughly complimentary account of the applicant clearly expressing that they know the applicant well. Be sure to request this letter well in advance to ensure that the writer has plenty of time and do not hesitate to offer the writer any additional documents, such as a résumé or curriculum vitae, to help with the letter.

The long-term component to preparation mainly deals with remaining in good academic standing in the years leading up to the application process, so that when the time comes, there will be no fear of a less-than-impressive application. For the college application process, grade point average and standardized test scores are crucial to a strong application. Showing well-roundedness by participating in school activities and volunteering is also important, but academic standing seems to be the key component. If the plan is to apply to post-graduate programs after a bachelor’s degree, an application that shows the prowess of the applicant in fields other than academia is important. In these cases, letters of recommendation, participating in campus activities and internships play much larger roles.

In conclusion, the key to success in the college application process is preparing well and remaining on time with all parts of the application.

Read more Advice for College Applicants from other students and parents who have been through process.



Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Daniel for clearly explaining two important elements of the college application process: preparing well and remaining on time with all parts of the application. Best wishes to you in college.


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