Start Early: Secrets to Success for College Admissions

February 20, 2015

University students on campus

The college admissions process may be wrapping up for current seniors, but for juniors and underclassmen, college prep is in full swing – or at least it should be. Many students may have the “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it” attitude about preparing for the admissions process, but that mindset wastes valuable time and resources.

The best tip I can give college-bound students and their parents is to start as early as possible. There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing for college. From standardized tests to extracurricular activities to taking the right classes, it’s not enough to wait until the start of senior year to get serious about applying to college.

As I’ve said before, research is one of the most important facets of college admissions, and it’s crucial in order to find and gain admission to your top-choice college. In today’s digital age, there are many resources and tools to help students prepare for college and learn more about colleges, majors, and career prospects.

Virtual College Visit Tools: The best way to get to know a school is to visit it, but what if you can’t make it out to your dream school this spring? Tour the campus without leaving your living room with virtual campus visit tools. Many colleges, like Emory University, University of Alabama, and University of Missouri, offer their own virtual campus tours right on their websites. Additionally, there are a variety of other virtual visit tools out there, like Quad2Quad and YouVisit, which allows students to take digital guided tours, and even explore colleges based on cost, location, and more. Some schools, like Harvard University, even have campus tour apps for smartphones – allowing students to hold campuses right in the palm of their hand!

Admissions Apps: In addition to visiting a college on a smartphone, many colleges, like University of Georgia, University of Virginia, and Stanford University, have comprehensive smartphone apps that provide information on the school, the admissions process, campus news and events, and more. These are great for gathering more information on the school and its culture – giving students an inside look using the technology they’re most familiar with.

LinkedIn’s Higher Education Tools: College research is tedious, especially when trying to find best-fit schools in a sea of college and university options. Luckily, LinkedIn’s University Finder helps students identify possible colleges based on course of study, intended career path, and companies they’d like to work for. Students can also assess ROI and career prospects through the Field of Study Explorer and University Rankings. Interested in a school but want to get some feedback on its academics, fit, and more? Add it to your Decision Board and see what your connections have to say about it. You can also use the Decision Boards to bookmark prospective colleges and come back to do more in-depth research alter.

Net Price Calculators: Cost is often a critical decision factor for families when it comes time to decide where to enroll, so it’s helpful to know what a dream college may cost even before applying. While many families may look at the listed tuition for an institution, that doesn’t tell the whole story. This is where net price calculators come in. By utilizing net price calculators directly on university websites, or through other calculators like The College Board’s, families can get a better idea of what it will actually cost to attend to ensure students find colleges that are not only good academic fits, but also financial fits.

Other social media channels: Social media is great for connecting with schools, students, and alumni in order for applicants to get a better sense of the school, but that’s not all social media can be used for. Colleges’ social media pages also great places to conduct research, demonstrate interest, and stay informed on campus and admissions news. Follow the schools you’re interested in, and check back regularly for updates, news, and more. That being said: Be smart online. You’re not the only one watching – admissions officers are also looking at applicants online (35% according to Kaplan’s most recent survey), so be mindful of what you post.

There’s a lot that students can do now to prepare for college without ever leaving their living room. Digital tools are making the college search process more accessible, and it’s critical for students to utilize all resources at hand to make smart, informed decisions and help enhance their chances of finding and gaining admission to their best-fit college.

Photo Credit: moodboard Premium -