The summer is probably one of the best times to begin the college search whether you are an incoming freshman, sophomore, or soon to be junior. The summer gives you time to actually book a tour, check out the campus, look into the different majors they offer, and make a decision of whether you like the school or not. Now, don’t get me wrong. You certainly do not have to choose a college or university right there and then. All I am saying is that it gives you a better insight. It helps you determine what you like and don’t like. It helps you understand yourself, and what you want in the future. Maybe you want a smaller school, or maybe you want something bigger. Maybe you want a school that offers more majors, or maybe you want something that that is more specific. The summer gives you enough time to figure all of this out. It also give you time to get your act together before school starts. If the college you are interested in is looking for a higher GPA, you now have a whole year to do so. So let’s take a look, at what colleges really want.

 We will start out with what is known as the most obvious part of getting into college: your grades. Colleges and universities really put a great level of emphasis on your academic abilities. They will look at where you are ranked in your class, the type and level of classes you take. Colleges like to see prospective students challenging themselves, especially in high school. They want to see you taking honors, AP or IB courses. If you’re dropping a subject like a language or history class, they want to see you fill it with another academic class like math or science. Colleges also like to see you doubling up in a subject. It shows that you are committed and hard working. Colleges will also look to see how consistent your grades are. They consider your time in high school as a reflection of how you will act at their college. If you can maintain a decent GPA throughout your 4 years in high school, you will be ready to go. Think about where you want to apply. Look on line to see what their requirements are. Look for what they expect of you for you SAT’s and GPA’s. Knowing this information will help you to achieve your goals better and more efficiently.

 Now getting into the standardized tests. The SAT and ACT are 2 very important parts of your college application. Although many students only take the SAT, it is better to take both tests. They can really increase your chances of getting into the school you want. Start studying because these tests can really make all the difference. I am really trying to stress how important they are; however, there are some colleges that are compromising with students. Rather than looking at SAT and ACT scores, colleges are putting more weight on grades. Don’t get me wrong here. It is highly recommended that you take these tests just in case. The great thing is that if you aren’t happy with your scores, you can retake them until you are satisfied. Colleges and universities may not look at these scores as strictly, but they still do look. If you have a good score, all the better. For the schools that don’t look at them at all (and yes, there are many), they usually ask for a graded paper, teacher recommendations and even a personal interview to get to know you. It is better to take them just to be safe, rather than sorry.

 Let’s pretend that your grades are not the best. Well, let’s hope that you have been getting involved. They will not make up for your poor marks, but they will certainly look good on a college application. People from the admissions office really want to see you getting involved. If you have quality grades, it makes you stand out even more. Get involved in sports. Try out for the track team, or soccer, or even golf if your school offers it. Go for clubs like yearbook, the debate team, or even drama club. If you seem to excel in more than one subject, try going out for the academic decathlon. If you excel in one subject, like French, try going out for French Honor Society. Colleges really like it when you join academic clubs. Volunteering is also highly recommended. Most high schools require a certain amount of community service hours in order for you to graduate. Exceeding this minimum requirement will make you stand out even more. Help out at church fundraisers. Try tutoring underclassmen at a subject that you excel in. Community service shows leadership, maturity and shows that you are a good team player, which are really what colleges like seeing. 

 These are all what colleges are expecting from you, however, you need to figure out what you are looking for. These are the last 4 years, (or maybe more if you decide to go to medical school or law school) before you begin your life. Make them count. You want to go to a school that you will love. Look at the scenery. Look at the students; can you see yourself fitting in? Is it diverse? Diversity is another thing you should pay attention to. America is full of diversity. It is good to get comfortable with working alongside other people of different races and religions.  Do they offer the majors you are interested in? How far away is it from home and is it affordable? Does this school offer financial aid and scholarships? It is really important. If this school offers scholarships, take them. You could end up saving yourself a lot of money. Does this school guarantee housing all 4 years or will you have to find an apartment your last 2 years? What is the acceptance rate? What is the size? Will you be okay with large classes or do you prefer smaller classes? Can you see yourself going here? These are all important questions you need to ask yourself and your tour guide.