Getting Accepted: Expert College Admissions Tips

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March 30, 2016

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


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Table of Contents

With the college admissions process becoming more intense every year, we sought out two major players in the college advisory field for some of their best tips for students and parents who may be confronting this process for the first time.

We also asked them about the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success—a brand-new platform in which a large coalition of diverse public and private colleges and universities are working together to improve and streamline the experience of applying to college for all students.

How can college-bound students and their parents benefit from the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, and what are some other tools and winning strategies for students to put their best foot forward in the college admissions process?

What is the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, and how does it benefit aspiring college students and their parents?

Sonja Montiel headshot
Sonja Montiel

About 90 admissions directors from across the country got together wanting to change the landscape of the application process. They wanted to create a platform that was streamlined for all students.

I stress the idea of ‘all students,’ because no matter your circumstance or background, you will have a platform to submit applications that will present you in the best light.Sonja Montiel, MA, College Confidence

How early do students need to begin this process?

Hans Hanson headshot
Hans Hanson

When you say ‘process,’ that is the key thing. This a process you need to start early. I equate it to a football game. Sometimes people want to wait until the two–minute warning and just play the last two minutes, but that’s a mistake.

This game of college applications can start as early as eighth, ninth or tenth grade.

That’s what the Coalition is pointing out—that you can start to create your own advantages in early high school or even middle school. Be proactive, get involved, and become engaged in this process as early as you can. Hans Hanson, Total College Advisory

How else does the Coalition help parents who want to help their students with the college admissions process?

You can receive feedback from admissions counselors on how to strengthen your application. —Sonja Montiel

Students need to embrace that college admissions officers are on their side—not only waiting for you to apply, but way before that. They want to be your mentors as a teen and as a prospective applicant. The Coalition provides a unique platform where you can actually receive feedback from these college admission counselors on how to strengthen your application. Or you can share any doc or media file to ask for feedback. This is something unique that the coalition is creating, and I encourage teens to really take advantage and use that platform. — Sonja Montiel, MA, College Confidence

What are some more top tips for prospective students and their parents?

Become known to colleges long in advance of applying. —Hans Hanson, Total College Advisory

Take a first-things-first approach. The first step is to build a list of colleges that match a student’s qualifications and interests, along with the parents’ interests and needs. And secondly you have to create a personal marketing package—an email, a video, and a student profile sheet. I recommend that seventh graders and up have a student profile sheet so they can record their achievements.

Students will be taking ownership of their own future at a young age and become accountable for their own performance. The student profile sheet is a magnificent way to do that.

Now you’re on the path. You’ve created a college list, you’ve created a personal marketing package, and then you start communicating with the colleges. You can do that in ninth or tenth grade with a simple email to get into their system. Don’t be a stealth applicant. Become known to colleges long in advance of submitting applications. Those are the keys to winning preferred acceptances and maximizing scholarships. — Hans Hanson, Total College Advisory

What are some of the tips that parents come to you and say, ‘I wish we knew this ahead of time'?

Ask your student, ‘Where do we fit in as parents? How can we help you?’ —Sonja Montiel

I think parents crave a role in the process. When a teen waits until the last minute, parents start having panic attacks. It’s because they don’t know what their role is.

I recommend parents really engage with their teen and say: ‘What does this process look like for you?’

They can help in those steps of creating the potential-college list, helping their student find good fits and asking, ‘Where do we fit in as parents? How can we help you?’

For instance, maybe they can help their student in creating great videos—because I think quality of videos is important rather than uploading just any kind of video file.

So, to keep it short and simple, I would tell parents to engage in a really great conversation with your child as early as middle school or ninth grade and say, ‘We want to support you.’ And let the teenager become the team captain. — Sonja Montiel, MA, College Confidence

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