The time has come. You have a teen who is about to apply for college. The process can be overwhelming, emotional, challenging but also rewarding. The good news is that knowledge of the ever-changing college admissions landscape can be a game changer. We had a recent chat with Lissa Steele, admissions advisor at One Goal Prep, a local advisement firm that works closely with students in order to help them to build a comprehensive admissions strategy.
2024 College Admissions Tips from One Goal Prep
1. Be Aware of the Current Cultural Climate
One major change in college admissions today has a lot to do with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent affirmative action ban, which has been widely debated for many years. Steele says the industry is in “new territory” now with this ruling which goes against the use of race in the college admission process. It will have a major effect and lead to big changes for most colleges but also challenges the programs at the most selective institutions like Harvard University, which is under fire for favoring children of alumni. That said, Steele stressed the importance of potentially taking a stand on the issue within a college essay.
“Adding an essay that’s focused on identity can add a new opportunity to bring race and bias back into the equation,” she stressed. “Essays require digging deep and avoiding cliché topics that you think will impress readers.”
2. Start Early
Steele said that she often begins working with students on their college admissions process as early as 9th grade. She says this helps her to be able to get to know the student right away which is beneficial in helping to guide them towards the right balance of classes and extra curriculars.
“Don’t underestimate the journey and get in early,” Steele said. “That way your student can feel confident about themselves when it’s time to apply. There’s so much less stress when we can build that early on.”
3. Be A Doer Outside of the Classroom
It’s important to keep in mind that colleges look for kids who have a strong narrative inside and outside of the classroom.
Steele said it’s important for students to have depth in their activities during the high school years. Colleges look for students with dedication and consistency in order to have an advantage in the admissions process. Steele says it’s not about doing all the things, but rather choosing one or two passions and diversifying how you carry out those passions. Maybe you start a club at school or partner with a charitable organization, she suggested.
“If you think of college admissions as community building, that’s really what it is about,” Steele said. “They need to identify who you are right away to see if you are the right fit.”
4. Be Mindful of Class Choices
Steele says that when you’re choosing class schedules in high school, it’s important that they are a well thought out combination.
“Make sure your junior and senior year performances are your best yet, and do remedial work as needed before then so you’re not behind,” she said.
5. Take the Tests
While some schools continue with their “testing optional” mandate which began during the pandemic, Steele says she believes in the importance of taking the SAT or ACT, no matter what.
“Testing is still important, especially depending on demographics,” she said. “Decide factually whether you favor the SAT vs. ACT, don’t go based on feel. If you do well and are in range for what the schools are looking for it can tip the scales a bit and offer great results.”