How To Get Into Your Dream School

by Alan Pedroza
(Sarasota, Florida, United States)

As kids, we all consider the possibility of going off to college. I remember when I was about five or six years old that I saw an episode of Blue’s Clues where the main character, Steve (the owner of Blue), had his younger brother, Joe, take over the show since the former was going to college. I still remember the little jingle all the other characters would sing, “Steve is going to college. Steve is going to college.” I remember thinking to myself that one day that would be me.

Flash forward to last summer when I realized I had one more year of high school before going off to college. My first piece of advice is to do as much research as possible. Look at the different colleges that you have heard about. Being in Florida, the popular choices for me were Florida State University (FSU), University of South Florida (USF), and University of Florida (UF). Out these three, only FSU had stood out to, but only for a short period of time. Make sure the colleges you are interested in have what you are planning on majoring in. If you don’t exactly know what you want to major in, research the ones the spark at least some interest. I started with the idea of majoring in film, and so I was led in the direction of applying to University of Chicago and/or FSU. However, having discussions with my parents, I began doubting whether film was a good major or not, and so I did heavy research on it. I then got the idea of attempting to major in both film and business to have a back-up and/or some sort of way to create my own business in film. The one school that will allow me to do that is Eckerd College, which is where I will be attending this fall. So I highly recommend doing research on the schools and majors you are attending to.

My second piece of advice is to be prepared for anything. SAT and ACT are important, so take each more than once that way you can see what the test is like that first time around and prepare for the next time to obtain a higher score. If you have taken one of the exams at least once, odds are that you can receive a higher score the next time you will go to take it. Really prepare for them too. Purchase some sort of SAT or ACT prep book. If you don’t really have time to study, read over the test taking strategies that most prep books offer in their inceptions. Also, be prepared to be rejected from some schools and/or scholarships. You may not qualify for what a
school may be looking for, so I highly recommend having at least two “safe” schools. This is one thing I highly regret not doing. I applied to one, and only one, school. I was lucky that I was accepted, but I have considered what would’ve happened if I didn’t. As for scholarships, apply to as many as you can. It’s free money, and it’s just for you, so why not take it.

My next piece of advice involves scholarships. My greatest regret was not listening to my dad back in the last few weeks of my junior year when he told me to look for scholarships. I figured I had plenty of time especially since I didn’t even know where I was going to school. My advice is to apply for scholarships as soon as possible and finish them as soon as possible. If you live in Florida, apply for Bright Futures. The application relatively short and easy, so why not apply for it? Also complete your FAFSA. Schools will take a look at your academic achievements and economic status to see if you qualify for grants, scholarships, and loans. Eckerd College is a private school, and hence the cost per year is relatively high. However, after I completed my FAFSA, they were willing to help me out by about 80%. There are also plenty of scholarships for everyone, just make sure you look for them as soon as possible and that they don’t charge you to complete them (those are scams).

My next piece of advice is for all high school students, from freshmen to seniors. Take high school seriously. I know it is really easy to slack off, but your hard work and dedication WILL pay off. Take the most rigorous classes that your school may offer, but don’t go overboard. Take dual enrollment, Advanced Placement, IB, or at least Honor classes, but make sure you put in the hard work. You may not have the best grade, but if you are in higher-level classes, schools will consider the classes’ difficulty when reviewing your application. Also, get involved. Whether it is community service, school clubs, or any sort of out of school activity, colleges will take that into consideration, along with your academic achievements, when considering you for admission. You may not be the best student academically, but school not only want intelligent people, they also want students who are willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone. Take advantage of your time in high school, and begin working hard in your freshman year, but don’t over-do-it and have fun as well. Work hard and play hard.

Thanks Alan for sharing your tips on How To Get Into Your Dream School. Best of luck to you.

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Art School and You – Admission Tips

by Cynthia Chanady
(Boise, ID, USA)

So you’ve finally decided to pursue a college education in the arts, but have no idea where to start. Despite the daunting process, small tips can go a long way. I’ll start with the biggest piece of advice I can offer: if you have a “top” school, visit it in person! Although essential to all college students, art students require even more consideration for the feel of the campus and student life. No matter what type of art you do, you’ll collaborate, communicate, and interact with your classmates a lot in college. Connections make up the base of the art industry, so make sure your potential classmates appeal enough to make long-term connections with!

After picking your top school, it gets a bit more complicated. Most art schools require a portfolio, but even if they don’t, send one anyway because merit scholarship consideration revolves around it. Some schools require more creativity in your portfolio than others, but all will want to see observational studies. This includes drawing people, interior spaces, landscapes, and objects from live observation. Get started as soon as possible! If you want to get good at drawing, do observational studies frequently and draw daily. And producing good art under extreme pressure and time limits never ends well. So pay attention to your school’s portfolio requirements and start early. The better your artwork, the more financial aid you’ll receive. And with rising tuition, you’ll want the extra help.

Next, admissions usually look at a statement of intent, or a short essay, often required in the application. I recommend writing about a significant event in your life relevant to the prompt (try to show instead of tell), but definitely keep whatever you write mostly in active voice. You may not think much of writing as an artist, but the colleges want to see you can communicate with both words and pictures. You won’t make it in the industry without writing skills!

And finally, attend National Portfolio Days, if possible. Taking place all over the country, NPDs offer informal reviews of student portfolios by admissions officers from several schools. However, these sometimes overcrowded but free events make getting to many tables difficult. Arriving at the doors early and heading straight for your top school allows for the best outcome. And remember, despite your personal preference, take their advice seriously. Also remain fearless, despite feeling as if they’re judging your heart and soul instead of canvases or a slideshow. Shy, antisocial artists without confidence won’t make it far in admissions or in their career. Neither will arrogant lazy ones. So community service, art awards, and leadership positions better your chances at admissions as well!

Above all else, maintain your individuality, no matter how strict or harsh the admission requirements. Great artists add personality to every stroke, line, and pixel possible! You’ll have no problem getting accepted anywhere if you make a lasting and positive impression.

Thanks Cynthia for sharing some great tips to select an art school. Best of luck to you.

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The Next Big Stepping Stone

by Murdock Aaron Millwood
(Bakersfield, California, United States)

It never seems like the day will come but the next time you look at the calendar it will almost be your senior year of high school and you will need to start looking for and applying to the college you want to go to. This can be a difficult task, but doing the right things to prepare can make this entire process a breeze.

From the very first day of High School you should take your academics seriously and challenge yourself as much as possible. When I was in high school I always tried to fill my scheduled with the most difficult classes such as AP, IP, and Honors. Colleges really like to see that you can handle many difficult classes at one time, because that is essentially what college life is like.

On the topic of showing your college you have what it takes by filling your schedule, make sure you get tons of extracurricular activities and volunteer hours. On every college application I filled out, there were usually 5 short essays where I had to give example of my sports, volunteering, school clubs...etc. That was one thing that gave me a hard time when filling out college applications, because throughout high school I never really thought those things were important. If I would have done more of those things my college applications would have been much stronger than they were.

Finally another key to making getting into your favored college a breeze is to never be afraid to ask for help. Whether it be an academic questions, a poor grade that you want to try and redeem, or even talking to the counselor. These people are being paid to help you out, and most of them love to see a student really trying to make something out of them self.

To this very day I still have multiple teachers and even my guidance counselor that I email and keep updated because of the relationships I made with them in high school. Without those people I may not have ever made it to the school I wanted to go to.

Thinking about your future can be a scary and very exciting thing. No matter what grade you are in preparing for college is never a bad thing to do. If you can follow my advice, the advice of your counselor, and your own common sense of what is the right thing to do, you can stay ahead of the curve and college application time will be a breeze. The day will come when you open that first acceptance letter and jump for joys and get to brag to everyone. Believe me it is truly a prodigious feeling.

Thanks Murdock for sharing the lessons learned for your college admissions experience. Glad to hear that you keep in touch with those teachers and counselors who helped yu be successful. Best of luck to you.

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Your Dream School Is Within Your Reach!

by Zoe Caballero
(Houston, TX)

How many hours have you spent listening to your school counselor break down your college choices into these three categories - your dream schools, your reach schools, and your safety net schools? For me it was countless. Every assembly, every open house, and at every individual conference my counselor had to re-iterate this hierarchy.

A dream school is just that a dream. The school you would most like to attend but sadly are not qualified in some way to be accepted into. Or you may meet the schools criteria, but so do hundreds of thousands of other applicants who view this as their dream school as well. Acceptance into your dream school is thus viewed like a game of chance. It's a numbers game. Will you be lucky enough to win the prized slot in the dream school lottery?

A reach school is a school that is just beyond or at the very top of your reach. You are the lowest scoring student that they usually admit. Or you may score below the average scoring student that they admit. You can apply there and you might get in but it would be unlikely. Therefore, it would be a reach.

A safety net school is a school that you meet or exceed all the criteria for. You would be very unlikely not to get accepted into a safety net school. So students are advised to apply to a number of these types of colleges.

Don't be afraid of these definitions. There are ways you can better your chances of getting accepted into your dream school. Research your dream school online. Look at the profile of its students. What do they have that you have? What have they done that you have done or that you could do? Reach out to your admissions counselor. Let them know how much you like their school and would love to attend there. Ask them if they have any helpful advice for you to help you get accepted. Email professors in the area of your major. Express to them your interest in their program. Ask them what you can do to better your chances of getting in.

Improve your grades and your SAT or ACT score. Know what you need to have and try to get there. Join a club or two. Find something you are passionate about and volunteer your time. Become a leader. Look for ways you can be in charge of a program or an event. Get a part-time job somewhere and prove yourself to be a good employee. You may not have the time or ambition to do all of these things. Just pick one or two that you can excel at. These will pad your resume and make you a more desirable candidate.

If your dream school comes to an event in your area, go and speak with their representatives. Go to their campus for an open house or a college tour. Speak with everyone you can including admissions counselors, financial aid, professors, and deans. Any of them could have a suggestion that could open the door for you.

You will never know if you could have gotten into your dream school if you don't try. If you follow this advice you will be at a better advantage to get in. You might get accepted and become more well rounded along the way!

Thanks Zoe for sharing Your Dream School Is Within Your Reach! It is important to apply to all of these types of schools, but yes it is possible to get into your dream school. Best of luck to you.

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