College prep planning: everything you wanted to know about admissions part two

Last week we brought you our first installment of our college prep planning series. Most of us remember how daunting the college admission process seemed. Interviews and essays and applications might have you asking yourself, What do I do?

Good news! We have answers! Once again Sno-Isle Libraries is partnering with Andrea Main of Main Education Consulting to provide a series of free college preparation planning programs at the Granite FallsLake Stevens, Monroe, Mukilteo, and Snohomish libraries this spring. In advance of the college preparation programs, Sno-Isle teens brainstormed their best questions about college admissions and Andrea answered them. Each week we feature new questions to help you better understand the college admission process. This week we’re focusing on essays, AP and Running Start and extracurriculars!

What do college admission officers actually look for in an essay? What appeals to them?

What do they look for? They are looking for a well-written essay that fully answers the prompt. What appeals to them? In a word: authenticity: be yourself and write in your own voice. College applications often require different types of essays. Personal statements give you a vehicle to tell the college more about who you are—so, be confident, tell a story that engages, use personal details, stay away from clichéd subjects and predictable stories. Write the story only you can write.

What is your best advice in writing college essays, particularly for the Common Application?

My best advice in writing college essays is to know the prompt, then write from your heart and edit from your brain. What I mean is, write an essay that is authentically you (from your heart); write (or record yourself telling the story). Once complete, edit it thoughtfully (edit from the brain) for structure, tense, grammar, syntax, storyline, and ensuring it fully answers the prompt.   Note: You can submit your essays to the Writing Lab on our Brain Fuse Help Now resource and have a tutor edit it and provide feedback. All you need is your library card!

How importantly are extracurricular activities viewed in the admission process?

The level of importance and scope of extra-curricular activities varies from college to college. Generally, colleges are looking for students who engage in activities beyond their high school academics. They look to see how each applicant might contribute to the fabric of the college. Colleges do not look for any one specific activity—they look to see how students become involved in their own activities and how the skill they develop in those activities might transfer to the campus.

How do colleges view Running Start and College in High School courses?

Running Start, College in the High School, Advanced Placement (AP) courses and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs are ways for a student to pursue a higher level of course rigor and college readiness while in high school.  Colleges value students who are willing to challenge themselves, work hard, and are intellectually curious.

What is the ideal amount of AP classes for a creditable university?

The ideal amount of AP classes is the number of classes where you can challenge yourself academically, maintain a strong GPA, keep a balance with other aspects of your life (family, friends, jobs, hobbies, sports, and other commitments) and are happy. Academic achievement and happiness are both very important. Allow some time in your high school curriculum to use different parts of your brain and explore new skills (music, arts, physical activity, cooking, woodwork…).

Next week Andrea will answer questions about college visits and interviews. Want to learn more before then? Andrea will be offering a class called “Researching a College,” on Saturday, March 24th at the Mukilteo Library.

You can find more college resources on our Life After High School page, including bookliststest prep, and more!

Andrea also answered questions about financial aid last fall:

College preparation planning: all about the FASFA part one

College prep planning: all about the FAFSA part two

College prep planning: all about scholarships

College preparation planning: how do I know if I qualify for financial aid?

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