Applying to college can be stressful, scary, exciting, confusing and so much more. I know this well from working as assistant director of undergraduate admission at Northwestern University for five years.
Since any bit of advice can help provide some mooring through the process, I went to the Lyons Township High School College Fair last night and asked 10 admission officers for their No. 1 tip.
Each one offered different but equally excellent advice, from proofreading essays to visiting campuses before you make up your mind.
- “Start looking early—what they’re doing now. They want to make sure they have options.” — Rob Walton, senior assistant director of undergraduate admission at Northwestern University
- “You want to challenge yourself as much as possible with AP and honors classes, as well as extracurricular activities. That’s what’s going to really stand out—someone who’s making the most of things.” — George Klemic, alumni admission ambassador for Case Western Reserve University
- “Be aware of deadlines. If you don’t have a calendar, get one. If you’re asking for letters of recommendation, ask ahead of time—teachers don’t live at school.” — Emma Adebayo, undergraduate admission at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- “Articulate well what makes you special.” — Ron Taylor, alumni representative for Harvard University
- “Anytime you contact an admission office, try your best to do your own research first. That’s what college is all about—finding your own answers.” — Torrey Eason, admissions counselor at University of Arkansas
- “Make sure you proofread your personal statement and have the right school in there. That’s the one thing that’s not set in stone. Your test scores are set. Your grades are set. The essay is the one place a student can really stand out.” — Matthew Gruger, senior college recruiter at University of Illinois at Chicago
- “Keep an eye on the classes you take during high school. That’s probably the No. 1 thing we look at, the college prep curriculum.” — Aubriex Cason, regional recruitment manager at Ohio State University
- “Apply early on so the student can maximize opportunities with scholarships and admission to competitive programs.” — Jennifer Troupis, assistant director of admission at Purdue University
- “Come visit. Visits are when you’re really going to know. It’s when it really sinks in and when you’re going to figure out what’s the best fit.” — George Scholtz, Chicago regional admissions representative for University of Missouri
- “Be honest, no matter what your story is." — Brittani Ferguson, alumni representative for Denison University