by Neil Chyten
Life is a series of choices. Choices are limited by the opportunities you receive in your life. In other words, you can’t make a choice unless there is a specific opportunity for you to choose. Also, you cannot make a choice if you are unaware of an opportunity. While not every opportunity on earth is available to every person on earth, every person has a multitude of opportunities to choose from within their sphere of existence. So, no matter where you live or go to school, you must seek out the opportunities that exist and then make wise choices with respect to those opportunities. After all, it is the choices you make in life that ultimately determine where you will go to college.
As much as you may think that colleges favor students who have engaged in expensive internships, summer pre-college courses, or who have hired personal coaches to help improve their athletic skills, the truth is that the same colleges will give equal consideration to a student whose choices were limited by his economic standing, but who persevered and found other enrichment opportunities within his community. Simply stated, colleges not only like talented students, they like students who maximize their opportunities. So, weather you come from a wealthy family or a poor family, the ability to identify and take advantage of opportunities is a key metric in your college admission profile. The most important point here is that you either must take advantage of your opportunities or make your own opportunities. To do either of these things requires advanced planning.
Advance planning is critical to college admission success. You cannot wake up and say I will do an internship today. You cannot change the world without a plan. You cannot nurture excellent recommendations simply by asking your teachers. You must earn them over time. You are unlikely to be accepted into a top ranked finance program unless you have engaged in activities that are relevant to finance. You are unlikely to be accepted into a highly ranked technology school unless your selection of courses and extracurricular activities matches the requirements and expectations of the school. I could give you example after example, but I think you get the point. Elite college admission is earned over time. It is earned through the choices that you make, through the opportunities make or take advantage of, and by the record of accomplishments that you amass.
Overall, there are at least 5 to 10 factors within your control that will determine whether or not you are accepted at a highly ranked college. Of course, you will need high grades. This alone may require 10 to 20 additional decisions made along the way, such as which courses you will take, how you will study for exams, when you will do your homework, and how much effort you put into the class. You need high test scores. Again, a series of decisions may make this outcome more likely. Also, you must have proof of your ability, passion, and perseverance, which can come in the form of clubs, internships, work, taking college level classes, acing AP tests, along with several other factors.
The time to accomplish the types of things that get you noticed, or to make the decisions that will lead to positive outcomes, is not during the application period; it begins well before that. The most meaningful accomplishments are those that have occurred over the two to three years leading up to the time you submit your application. This all points to one indisputable fact: the advantages of long-range planning for students are significant. When it comes to college admission, a multi-year calendar is your best friend. Your planning for college admission should begin early in high school. You should seek out opportunities that differentiate you from the other applicants. You should utilize your free time to engage in opportunities that are both fulfilling to you and impressive to college admission committees. Lack of planning for college admission is just like driving down a dirt road at night without your headlights on. You cannot see all the twists and turns that are ahead. Conversely, if you just turn your headlights on, you can successfully navigate the college admission landscape and have amazing experiences along the way.