5 Ways to Have More College Options

Before you cross out your “reach schools” and pricey universities, read these 5 ways you can have more options for college.

1. Apply for scholarships in your junior year.

There are millions upon millions of dollars of scholarship money up for grabs each year, yet many students don’t take the opportunity to apply for them. Why? Quite simply: it’s extra work. I get it, you’re busy. You have SATs, AP exams, college apps, sports games, community service and lots of homework and exams.

College is likely the most money you’ll ever spend in your life aside from purchasing a house. Do yourself a favor and get some of the cost down by winning money. Being busy hurts more when you’re at work and know that half your paycheck is going to your student loans.

Find a way, not an excuse. Plus, scholarships may require an essay, which makes students less likely to apply for them. If you plan ahead, you can write a scholarship essay that fits in with your Common App (or other college essay), so you can write one and use it for two separate applications.

2. Apply early.

Some Colleges allow you to apply early to get a decision early. If you have your heart set on a school (make sure you visit it first), then consider applying early decision or early action. Early decision means you plan to attend a school if your application is accepted; early action means you will find out the school’s decision earlier.

Knowing early allows you to make more informed choices. If you get accepted to a school that you plan to attend and know early enough, you can save time and money.

3. Introduce yourself to admission officers.

If an admission officer visits your school, strike up a conversation with him or her. Ask questions, and tell him about your goals and interest in his school. Be mindful during presentations: remain quiet and present and be sure to keep your phone away. Make a solid first impression.

Also, if you are wait-listed at a school, sending a thoughtful e-mail about your interest in the school and what you believe you can offer can go a long way.

4. Write a stellar admission essay.

By your senior year, you can only do so much to raise your GPA and SAT scores. Spend ample amount of time developing an admission essay that tells admission officers about you, the person, rather than you, the student. Check out my other articles for help.

5. Get outstanding letters of recommendation.

There are only two parts of your application where admission officers can’t graph you and compare you with other applicants: your admission essay and your letters of recommendation.

Letters of recommendation should come from core subject teachers (math, English, science or social studies). Having a supervisor, coach or grandparent write a letter can certainly speak on your character, however, your letters should be able to highlight your academic ability to succeed in college.

An adult’s perspective on you as a student is a powerful addition to your application, so choose wisely and act early. If you know whom you’d like to write you a letter, aim to ask over the summer or in the beginning of the school year while she has time to craft one. If you can, sit down with the person who will recommend you, and tell her what your goals and aspirations are.

Happy Writing!

This article was written by Jaclyn Corley, the founder of The College Essay Captain, a private tutoring company that develops online courses and runs workshops for the writing components of college admissions. Jaclyn Corley founded her company to be a resource for students, and she has made it her mission to empower thousands of students to tell their stories.

The College Essay Course is available at