Last week I shared my thoughts on some important basics needed for families beginning the college admissions process. The first five of these "commandments" were:
1. Thou shalt know thyself. Students should spend some time understanding who they are, what they want and where they'd like to be in the future.
2. Thou shalt not fall prey to stereotypes. Families shouldn't fall prey to preconceived notions about certain colleges.
3. Thou shalt not fail to visit colleges. Families should start visiting campuses early in the process and do more than just attend the required information session and take a campus tour.
4. Thou shalt not fail to perform to the best of your abilities. Students should challenge themselves with a rigorous course load.
5. Thou shalt be active in your community. Get involved and keep track of your specific involvement.
Today, I offer commandments 6-10:
6. Thou shalt honor yourself in your essays. Be true to who you are. Write what you care about, not what you think college admissions officers want to read.
7. Thou shalt make your summers count. Do something over the summer that no one else in your high school is doing. Summer activities are a great opportunity for students to set themselves apart. Show colleges what you care about, what's important to you.
8. Thou shalt demonstrate leadership. Here's the caveat: Not everyone is destined to be a leader. But if you have the confidence and people skills, use them. Leadership is the single most transferrable characteristic from high school to college. Follow your passions and get involved in clubs and activities that you really care about, not ones you think will look good on your resume.
9. Thou shalt create a reasonable list. Don't panic and overapply. You're better off doing your due diligence up front. Determine why each college needs to stay on your list. Have a balanced list with reach schools, target schools and safety schools. Understand that you could be happy in a variety of settings.
10. Thou shalt encourage perspective from everyone. This means both parents and students. This isn't a life and death scenario. You CAN be happy at a range of schools. That isn't to say you shouldn't have a top choice, but recognize how fortunate you will be to have choices and carry that perspective as you move through the process. This means families shouldn't stress about standardized tests; plenty of amazing colleges and universities are test-optional.
Navigating the college admissions process can be stressful, but try to take these "commandments" to heart as you make your way through, because it can also be an incredibly enlightening experience and a wonderful bonding opportunity for parents and children.
Lee Shulman Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. Visit her website College Admissions Strategies.
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