How to successfully apply to college

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Applying to college is one of the most important and life-changing tasks you will complete. How can you make sure you’ll get accepted into the college you really, really want to go to? I’ve chatted with the admissions counselors at UW Oshkosh and got some exclusive tips for you on what gets students accepted to or rejected from UWO.

Here’s a list of the Do’s and Don’ts of applying for college.

DO:

Meet deadlines. Missing a deadline can be the difference between getting accepted and not even being considered. Make sure to have all application deadlines clearly marked in your planner.

Be Proactive. Plan ahead. Understand the different decisions you can make when applying to colleges. Take campus tours and complete research before the applications are due – knowing more about the college can help when you’re writing about how you’ll fit into the campus. Being proactive will help when it comes to filling out paperwork that follows being accepted, too.

Be Unique: Write about what makes you different from the other thousands of applicants. Really think about this one. How did your experiences as an athlete define who you are? Just saying you were in a sport might not be enough.  Same for musicals… community services… part-time jobs. Think big picture. What puts you ahead of the crowd? What experiences set you a part from others?

Submit Letters of Recommendation. While letters of recommendation are not required for UW Oshkosh, they are a helpful option for students that may be “on the fence” for admission. Having a recommendation can show you’re right for UWO and increase your chances of being accepted. It is important to make sure these letters are from professionals in your life, like teachers, not from family, friends and non-academic coaches. Letters of recommendation are great for students that may have an average GPA or ACT score.

Go Beyond Standard Explanations. Everyone, or at least most people, probably wants to attend to college to pursue a degree, get a good job, meet new friends and be successful. Go beyond that standard explanation. Take the time to understand what attending college truly means to you and what you could mean to UW Oshkosh. What things do you hope to accomplish for yourself and the community?

Be Sincere. Admissions counselors read thousands of applications. They can tell if you’re being sincere in your explanations. If you had a bad semester, sincerely answer why your grades fell. Our counselors understand that “life happens.” If there was a reason for your drop in grades they want to know why. You don’t have to get overly personal, but if you don’t address your grades or other academic issues in your personal statement, counselors can only assume you just stopped trying or didn’t care.

Provide All Information Requested. If you took AP classes or enrolled in classes at a university for credit, make sure to send all that information to the Admissions Office. This includes AP test scores and transcripts from the colleges where you took classes. Also, don’t forget to list the courses you plan on taking senior year. Basically, just don’t leave anything on the application blank.

DON’T:

Don’t Mistake Quantity Over Quality. When looking at involvement counselors are interested in the quality of your involvement, not the quantity.  It’s better to have held leadership positions in a handful of clubs than have been a member of 30 different organizations. Likewise, it’s fine if you weren’t involved because you had to work 30-40 hours a week. Just remember to share what you learned from your experiences.

Don’t Forget About The Core Requirements. Many students are not accepted because they don’t meet the core requirements. When your counselor insists that you need four years of English and three years of Math, Science and Social Science, they aren’t joking. Make sure you complete the requirements and that all your classes count towards them. Sometimes students take a journalism class their senior year instead of an English class. Typically, journalism classes will not count towards the core requirements and then students don’t meet the minimum standards. If you are ever questioning if a class counts towards the core requirements, call our office before enrolling. We answer questions like that all the time.

Don’t Be Vague. Details, Details, Details! Be specific in your applications. Details are what will set you apart. Counselors want to get to know you; details will help them get a better picture of who you are.

Don’t Slack Your Senior Year. A big part of reviewing applications is looking at the student’s curriculum. Counselors would rather see that you challenged yourself senior year and received B’s, over someone that took easy classes and received A’s. Don’t be afraid to take college courses and get ahead. Remember your senior year is your last year to “practice” before college academics. Don’t take a break.

Don’t Get Your Applications Mixed Up. One of the biggest mistakes our counselors see is a student using the wrong university name or mascot in their essays. Make sure you double-check what applications you’re sending to what universities. While making this mistake might not prevent you from getting admitted, writing you can’t wait to be a ___________ (insert incorrect mascot) isn’t going to impress anyone. If you plan on applying to a bunch of schools with a slightly tweaked application statement, your best bet is probably to leave university names and mascots off your applications.

Don’t Think Words Speak Louder Than Actions. Students constantly write statements like, “I’m going to work really hard in college,” “I’m ready for college,” “I have a lot to offer,” “I now know how important grades are and that they should come first,” etc., But, as you’ve heard time and time again, actions speak louder than words. Share stories that prove you have these qualities or you’ve learned something. Don’t use cookie cutter statements you think admissions counselors want to hear.

Don’t Forget About Grammar. Have your friends, family and teachers proofread your essay. Make sure to look over your essay numerous times. Check for spelling errors and incorrect word use. Don’t spend forever writing the “perfect” essay and slack off on the details toward the end.

 

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