Dr. Jeff & Dr. Brian Haig - The Experts in College Planning and Student Success.

Developing a Back to School Winning Game Plan

We hope you had a great summer. As the school year is now back in session, it’s important to develop a strategic game plan that will help you to become as successful as possible. The goal is to develop a plan that will earn you acceptance into the college of your choice, with as much free money as possible.

To help you develop a strategic game plan for the school year, it’s important that you know which areas to focus on. Here are five key areas that can make a big difference in how you are viewed by college admission officers:

1) The Numbers – The “numbers” part of your college application is still going to be the most important part to focus on. This includes taking the most rigorous courses possible and performing as well as you can in your core academic courses. The other big part of your numbers game plan is to have the highest SAT or ACT score possible. Having a strong academic GPA with a high SAT/ACT score is going to really help set you apart from the competition.

2) Extracurricular Activities – Outside of the “numbers”, a key area to focus on is your extracurricular activities. It’s not about quantity, but quality. Focus on a few key areas where you can develop leadership, depth of involvement, meaningful contributions, and key outcomes. You should also develop in your major and career area if possible so that you can highlight to college admissions officers how your background aligns with their specific departments and programs.

3) Teacher Recommendations – Admissions is not only what you write about yourself in your college applications; it’s also how others view you. A lot of colleges require one or more teacher recommendations. The ideal year to get teacher recommendations is 11th grade. You might also have a teacher for more than one year, or one who knows you outside of the classroom—your club advisor, for instance, which can be an additional bonus. Teachers should highlight your academic strengths, intellectual curiosity, leadership, and initiative, to name a few. Teachers can help you stand out in the admissions process.

4) Counselor Recommendation – It’s not just teachers who can be your cheerleader, but also your counselor. Your counselor will give colleges important information about you in relation to the rest of the student body. Your counselor can also further support your application by sharing meaningful information about you such as leadership, initiative, and contributions to the school. Get to know your counselor and share with him/her your passion for learning, eagerness to grow as an individual, and contributions to the school.

5) Demonstrated Interest – Many colleges are starting to place more emphasis on a student’s interest in their college. Showing a demonstrated interest in a college is a way to stand out and to let colleges know you are really serious about them. Key ways to show a demonstrated interest is to visit the college, talk to an admissions representative, attend a college fair, and more. The key is to be much more than a “paper application.” Let colleges know you are really interested in attending their college, which can oftentimes be a deciding factor in the admissions process. 

It’s important to start taking action on the steps necessary to make your college game plan as successful as possible. Follow these five steps and you will have a solid foundation for the competitive college admissions process.