Introduction – Getting into College
So here we are, the ULTIMATE GUIDE for college. That’s right, it’s for sure, 100% ULTIMATE. This one post contains everything you need to know about getting into college from the cost of college to what you should be doing on a daily basis.
Since it truly is ultimate, it contains many sections, so use this table of contents to easily find what you are looking for. If you want to read the entire article which I highly recommend start from the beginning. We arranged it in order that we feel is most beneficial to our readers 🙂
Enjoy it, and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!
Table of Contents
- Section One: Grade Point Average
- GPA Explained
- Weighted Vs. Unweighted
- Link to Hacks to Achieve Better Grades
- Brief explanation to better grades
- Section Two: Classes to Take
- College Credit
- Section Three: College Admission Tests
- The importance
- Link to studying guides
- The cost
- Pre-SAT and ACT
- Section Four: Extracurricular Activities
- Letter of Recommendations
- Possible Leadership
- Possible Scholarships
- Something to write about in your essays
- Section Five: Leadership
- Something to write about in your essays
- Some colleges will ask what you have been a leader in
- Sort of required
- Section Six: Volunteering
- Shows you care about the community
- Shows leadership
- The Fine Print
- Always read the fine print
Section One:Grade Point Average
Possibly the most important of all aspects when applying to colleges is your grade point average (GPA), considering it shows your work ethic to universities. I assume everyone knows exactly what their GPA is, but if not, here’s a brief run down.
Each letter grade is assigned a point value, e.g. A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0, and the average of your points is calculated at the end of each semester. You grades are also cumulative across all other semesters. For instance, your first semester you get straight A’s so your GPA is a 4.0, and the following semester, you get all A’s, but a B in one class. So, your cumulative GPA or current GPA is a 3.93 (13 A’s x 4pts … + 3pts for the B = 55pts/14 classes).
You may have heard the terms weighted and unweighted GPA as well. It works the same way as above, but honors or college courses get a higher point value. For instance, an A in a honors class is equal to the point value of 4.5. Thus, your highest GPA you can earn is a 4.5 (weighted), however, many colleges do not consider your weighted GPA, but only your unweighted GPA. Keep this in mind when you are looking at your GPA and how you stand. A 3.8 GPA (weighted) seems great, however, if that equals out to a 3.1 (unweighted), it’s not as great.
*Grades may vary depending on your state*
Forward, the number one question you may be asking is, “Okay, I get how I need a good GPA, but how do I do it?!” Well, luckily for you, I created a post about it! Link Here. To give you a quick summary, basically keep proactive in your classes (study, study, study) and seek help when you need it! I guarantee you will do well as long as you do not procrastinate and stay pro-active.
Section Two: Classes
This section has to deal with the type of classes you should take and also what to do when you are in a tough class.
You should always strive to be in at least honors classes. It is my personal opinion that anyone can succeed in honors classes in most cases (they are not much different than your regular coursework). Sometimes honors classes may be at a faster pace, but if this is the case they usually do not go as deep into the material. In other words, you learn and study what you need to know for the test and move on.
Furthermore, honors classes have more hardworking and mature students, which means you will be making friends with them! Surround yourself with the people you want to become, right? Remember that feeling at the beginning of the school year where you say to yourself you are going to do your best this year and try really hard? Then, at the end, you are just hoping to pass? Do yourself a favor and set yourself up for success when you are registering for classes the previous year by asking for honors.
On another topic, you could even go above honors classes and take college credit courses or dual enrollment courses. In my personal experience, I have found dual enrollment (a.k.a. community college courses) to be much easier than AP courses or AICE, or even IB courses (whichever program you have at your school). AP/AICE/IB classes require an exam to be taken at the end of the year for you to get college credit and they always seem to be much more difficult than the regular community college courses you can take as a dual enrolled student.
Some high schools may not have dual enrollment options, and if that is the case, do not worry. Take the college credit courses your school offers and try them out. If you do poorly, you can always switch to honors classes. There’s no sense in ruining your GPA in trying to get a college credit when you are not ready for it.
Just remember, colleges are looking for those more difficult classes and in reality, they are not as painful when you make friends in the class. Not to mention, if you take dual enrollment, you are getting a FREE college education!
Section Three: College Admission Tests
Part of the big three items colleges look into when you apply is this one. Now I would like to say that colleges do not just always look to your numbers, but your work load and extracurriculars too, but I cannot say that it is always the case. So what shall you do? Have the best numbers you possibly can!
Now, I made the mistake in high school thinking I did not need to study for my SAT or ACT. I mean they are based off of everything you have been learning since kindergarten right? WRONG. Please study! I beg you to study! It can only help. And let me tell you the best way to study. Study on how to take the tests, do not waste your time trying to study all of the material. That will take too long and you will wear yourself out. However, if you study strategy, you can use your strengths to overcome our weaknesses. For instance, I knew reading was not my strong suit by taking a small practice exam. What did I do? I practiced how to read the articles faster and be better at finding the answer in the passage. The typical example is to make sure answer every question. If you’re running out of time, then bubble in the rest and check what you can! Try to get as many points as possible. Another example could be you take a practice test, and you figure out math is not your strong suit. Well, look for the problems that trip you up and make sure you have a plan if you are faced with those ones again, either for how to solve it, or if you should just move on.
One of the best strategies that is often overlooked is moving on from a question when it’s difficult. I am very guilty of this when I took my standardized tests the first couple of times (I took them 5 times each). You are allotted a certain amount of time and I can guarantee you it is not enough for you to finish all of the questions unless you are a nerd, but if you get stuck on a question, it is better to just move on so you have more time to answer those questions you do know. But, do not forget to bubble in an answer if it is the ACT and come back to it if you finish early. (Side note: if you do finish early, go back and check your work!!!)
Lastly, we need to cover when you should take your ACT and SAT. So many people wait to the last minute and this IS NOT okay. I repeat, DO NOT WAIT. The sooner you attempt it, the sooner you find out your scores, and the more time you have to study and retake the test if need be. So when should we take it? Well, I recommend taking the tests the summer between your sophomore and junior year. This will set you up to be able to have plenty of time to study and retake them if need be, because remember, you need to apply to colleges between your junior and senior of high school.
Concluding on this section, buy some study books from Barnes and Noble or look into your school library or public library. They are definitely worth the investment. Moreover, your school may offer free or cheap pre-sat or pre-act tests. Look into those your freshman and sophomore year, as the are vital to getting used to the sat/act water.
Here are the links to the SAT website and ACT website so you can check out what they have to offer. I suggest exploring their websites as well. Some may have a question of the day or free practice tests.
Here are more links to great studying material that I have used in the past!
Section Four: Extracurricular Activities
The number one thing I want you to take away from this section is GET INVOLVED! There are so many pros to getting involved with an organization related to cons. Not to mention, this is something colleges want to see! They understand if your GPA suffers a little because of your many activities, but if it starts dropping quite a bit to where you are not competitive with your favorite colleges’ GPA averages, you may want to reconsider your activities.
So here are the pros of getting involved: First of all, you’ll make friends. I find this pro to be most beneficial. Making friends believe it or not is the most important aspect of high school. It makes you a personable person and friends can help you with your classes or when you are going through a tough time.
Secondly, extracurriculars help you gain leadership and the feel for what it is like to be apart of a team. Universities definitely like to see leadership and teamwork. Showing that you were on the soccer team and national honor society tells admissions to schools that you are a team player, and have leadership qualities, especially if you have been playing soccer since freshman year of high school or longer.
Thirdly, extracurricular activities open you to more scholarship opportunities. Colleges may give you a scholarship if you are good soccer player, or you may get a scholarship from a private donor if you are the president of your national society.
Next to last, we have recommendation letters as a pro. Recommendation letters are another requirement of most college applications. Most require you to get letters from each teacher of the four main subjects and then either one or two from a person outside of school. E.g. your soccer coach, or your church leader. If you are not in an extracurricular activity, it will be that much harder to get into your dream college.
The last pro we will discuss is: it will give you something to write about in your college applications. This is so very vital for a great application that admission committees are going to like. Not to mention, you can even use it in interviews, or use your team to organize a volunteer day.
I can go on and on about pros of getting involved. But when it comes down to it, get involved, there is no excuse why you should not be involved with some activity. I am not even going to go into cons because is my eyes, there are none besides possibly having less time to study. Besides, would you rather just go home everyday after school and study, OR get to be with your friends after school everyday to do activity you like?
Section Five: Leadership
So we kind of skimmed leadership in the last section, but leadership deserves it’s own section. Let me start off with saying, leadership qualities breed a successful career. Leaders show initiative, caring for other people, and hard work. In a lot of cases, a true leader is often times something that you are born with, however, it doesn’t mean you cannot become a leader or work hard at being someone everyone looks up to.
It is quite obvious why colleges look for leadership positions in applications, as I said before, leadership shows initiative, caring for other people, and hard work, so I do not feel I have to explain why you should become a leader. Instead, I will explain how to become a leader so you can mark it on your application!
Here’s how… Dedicate yourself to an organization you love. If you love boy scouts, be in boy scouts and stick with it. If you love dancing, then dance! Just remember, keep with it and do not leave it. Continuing, start showing initiative. You can do this by making fundraisers for your organization, or for a charity, or you could even help tutor other students! It’s easy! You just have to tell yourself one day you are going to do it and then do it!
Second to last, after you have dedication, and showing initiative, complete the most important part. Whenever someone needs help, be there for them. Help others like you would want someone to help you. For example, while I was in high school I was involved in the Police Explorers. As a leader in the post, I showed that I cared by giving to others needs. If someone wanted a leadership role in the post, I told them ways they could get there from my personal experience. On the other hand, if someone was having a bad day, I put on my good mood and sat next to them. It is the little things that matter as a leader. Often times, it takes knowing people to know their needs so make friends with everyone and care for them.
Finally, finish strong, always work hard. Make yourself sweat. You will not only show how hard you work to others, but the work you do can make you feel good! Apply this step in everything you do.
Section Six: Volunteering
Volunteering should become a habit. It is something you should always do and continue doing as you go through life. The famous Arnold Schwarzenegger said in his speech on being successful that the last step is to give something back. (See speech here) And he is right, not only should you give something back after you become successful, but continue to give throughout your life. Giving shows that you care about another person and when that happens, the magic of networking comes into play.
If you are not familiar with what networking is, imagine you have a real-life Facebook, so your friends are actually people who think you are awesome (not those typical Facebook friends that are just there). Then, a mutual friend pops up. So, if you make one person happy, by donating your time, odds are you will meet someone that has heard of the great things you do and are more willing to help you out when you need it.
Besides the networking, volunteering helps you earn scholarships for college and in fact get into college. Some college admissions and high schools require that you have volunteer hours! Therefore, it is HIGHLY recommended that you volunteer. But do not just volunteer anywhere, volunteer in places where you would like to be. If you like picking up trash off the beach, then do that. However, if you do not like it, then don’t! I can not express how important it is to volunteer with an organization that you love, because that is what is going to keep you volunteering and what is going to matter to the college admissions. Not to mention, it makes for great stories for interviews!
Icing on the cake:
- Here I found a great tool for you to look at any college statistic you should be most interested in. From cost, to average GPA, to student-faculty ratio.
You are welcome 🙂
- I 100% recommend that either you, or your parent read this book. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read it. “Debt-Free U” By Zac Bissonnette
So there you have it. The ULTIMATE guide to getting into college. Now remember, this guide will be constantly updated, as there is no way I can express EVERYTHING you need in one session of writing, but stick with me and visit back to see our changes! Comment below your thoughts, and subscribe to stay updated! Do not forget to read the fine print! (hint… it’s below)
Please do not take my website nor this article to be suggestive that you should always try to get into your dream university or go to a university in general. College is not for everyone, and it is expensive. You can always go into the military to get a free education after you come out, as well as, start off in a community college then transfer to a university. I actually recommend you do one of those two things as it will save you a lot of money and save you from going into too much debt.
Do not be afraid to start your own business immediately after high school or even in high school either. It can be done. You can mow lawns, clean houses, wash cars, and much more. You can even make it a decent living if you grow the business! Heck, you could make all three!
All I want to show you is there are options besides going into college right away or even at all. Your high schools always tell students you need a college degree, but if you check out my blog here you may learn you do not always need one if you are going to become your own boss. However, college degrees are very important if you want the average job as most applicants for jobs will have bachelors and if your own business fails, you may want a degree to have as a backup plan. If you are more interested in the opportunities besides going to college read this book: “Choose Yourself” By James Altucher
Last statement, check out CollegeInfoGeek.com. Thomas Frank has great resources to help you in college and even in life. He is even the one that helped me get this website going.
** Marty Roewer Addition: If college is not your cup of tea… Consider technical school.**