Rules for Success

Rules for Success in College Applications and Scholarships

There are a few simple rules to consider when applying for college to help make you a successful candidate.

Find the College that Matches Your Needs

To begin with, students need to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, and their own commitment level in order to understand why they are going to college.  Look for a university or college that matches your needs.
Use the comparison of selecting a college to that you go through when buying a vehicle.  Just like you buy a vehicle that suits your needs and budget, you can also do so when selecting a college or university.  The most outstanding students with top ACT or SAT scores and near 4.0 GPAs should not restrict themselves to their budgets as they will likely be able to have scholarships to pay for much of their studies.  The best students should not eliminate the most prestigious universities until they have exhausted all their resources in terms of scholarship searches. If you are not able to receive the scholarships to pay for your favorite college, see whether the tuition is still in the range of you and your family’s budget.  If not, you will have to either take out student loans and graduate with the burden of a large debt or attend an in-state public college or university which is much more affordable.


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Gather College Info Systematically

Second of all, be systematic when gathering information about the colleges you are thinking of attending. Students should utilize every small bit of knowledge and also resource available to them: school fairs, websites, secondary school counselors, instructors, family friends, university admissions personnel, campus visits, guidebooks, university brochures, video tutorials, and compact disks.  The student should bring the parents into the planning picture to gain their support of the colleges being considered.

Understand the Admissions Requirements

Third of all, students should remember that many colleges have competitive admissions requirements.  In some cases only 14 percent of the applicants are accepted.  Be prepared for rejection and have contingency plans.  Discuss with your parents the number of colleges for which you wish to apply and work with your parents.  List the colleges in order from your favorite choice to secondary, third, fourth, fifth place choices and so on.  Be realistic about your expectations.  Students whose GPAs in high school are less than 2.0 and whose SAT and ACT test results are not very high will likely want to attend a community college in order to gain study habits and work with professors and counselors to have effective time management skills to help them become successful college students.  Successful community college students can transfer credit to a four-year institution.  If this is your goal, make sure to approve the course curriculum in advance with the college to which you’ll be transferring.  Understand the advantages of community college vs. the disadvantages of community college before making your decision.

Keep Track of College Application Deadlines

Another point to consider is the college application process.  College applications have deadlines; often require essays, interviews, references, test scores, and transcripts.  When you write a list of all the colleges to which you’ll be applying, jot down notes that include the deadline and all requirements to be accepted.  When letters of reference are required, approach your references once with the details for all the colleges rather than each individual time.  Your references will appreciate your efficiency and you won’t be running around so much.

Visit College Campuses When Possible

Additionally, whenever you can, visit the campuses of the colleges to which you’re applying.  If you receive acceptance letters to more than one college and haven’t checked out the campus yet, make sure to do so since it could influence your final decision.  If you’ll be living on campus, this means a visit to the dormitories as well. Speak with professors in your field of study, talk to alumni in that field and learn the benefits of each college to help you make your final decision.

Recommended Reading for College Success

College Success Guaranteed: 5 Rules to Make It Happen

How to Win at College: Surprising Secrets for Success from the Country’s Top Students

Keep Organized Notes on College Scholarships

Finally, keep a list of scholarships and apply for all of the ones for which you are eligible.  Scholarships have different deadlines, so you will want to create a scholarship deadline calendar.  Don’t forget to apply for college grants as well.  Many college grants are there to help low-income students pay for college, but others are designed for specific fields of study such as the sciences, teaching, or nursing.    Some scholarships are for small amounts and help with books.   You’ll find many scholarships in the range of $250 to $500.  Many scholarships are available for $1,000. Yet other scholarships are for large amounts of money, or even full tuition.  Remember, scholarship recipients must generally maintain a high GPA in college or they risk losing the scholarship.  For that reason, it is a good idea to start out with easier classes and take the minimum to be considered full-time.  Once you’ve established a high GPA in college, an occasional C won’t put such a dent in your overall GPA.