Getting into (and Paying for) a Good College
By Megan, age 16, Colorado
One of the most stressful periods of our lives as high school students is the college application process. Whether you're striving for the Ivy League or praying to get into your state university, simply getting into a college is something that means a lot of pressure and hard work.
For this reason, I would like to make things a little bit easier for you. Seeing as my mother is a college junkie, I've heard of every application strategy out there - in fact, we even hired a "College Coach" as an extra advisor. But here's the deal: colleges read so many applications that they are simply dying to see individuality and originality. Thus, instead of spending all of your time worrying about your grades and SAT scores (which are still important!), put some time aside for community service and extracurricular activities.
Yes, a 4.5 GPA with a 2300 SAT score looks good on paper, but the college admissions board sees so many of these cookie cutter profiles. What YOU need to do is be unique. What you need to do is find a consistent way to demonstrate community service. Volunteering at the soup kitchen, at nursing homes, for church, etc., will be more than worth your time. Make sure that you go at least once or twice a month, so that you can rack up the hours and show dedication and determination.
Next, get involved! Almost every school out there offers a huge variety of clubs so that students can each find something that interests them. And, at least in my school, if a club you want does not exist, you can create your own. Some of my friends last year got together and started a school-wide Quidditch Team which is now extremely popular. Clubs look really good for college, especially because you are being active in your school community, and it proves that you aren't just going home and messing around every day.
The fact of the matter is that colleges realize how flawed standardized tests and GPA systems can be. They know that some schools have exceptional students that get a C once in a while, and other schools have easier courses where all of the good students easily obtain straight A's. While you should still strive to do your very best in school and on the tests, also try to get in some community service and extracurricular activities in order to illustrate how well-rounded and dedicated you are as a person.
Finally, once you get into these colleges, the only issue that remains is finance. I haven't completely tackled this obstacle yet, but I do know some great websites that offer a multitude of scholarships. Zinch.com and FastWeb (fastweb.com) both will actually email you when they find a scholarship you are eligible for. In fact, even though I only joined about a week ago, I have applied to more than $10,000 worth of scholarships!
So, don't just sit around and hope to get into a good college. Do something. Even if you are an underclassman, you can still apply for scholarships. And most of all ... GET INVOLVED!!