Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges

College Admissions Advice on a Budget

We’ve heard about families that spare no expense in creating unique opportunities for their children to shine in the competitive college application process. Parents on a budget are at a loss as to what they can do to help their kids stand out if they lack the funds to send their child to Botswana for preservation work to demonstrate their passion for the environment, or to swim the English Channel to show their perseverance. There are free and inexpensive ways to enable your child to demonstrate value to a college. Through planning, parents can maximize any budget to turn their high school student into a stand out applicant.

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College admissions strategist and author of Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges, Greg Kaplan, advises to:

  • Create a community service or interest group: Colleges seek leadership, dedication, and entrepreneurship in future students.  Starting and growing a service or interest group will allow your child to demonstrate that she is a leader at no cost.
  • Enroll in a niche sport like crew or squash: Admissions officers scramble to find enough applicants to fill their teams for niche sports making athletes skilled in these highly desired sports.  There are so few kids playing these sports, that clubs and teams offer steep discounts and financial assistance to families to attract youth athletes.
  • Earn recognition: Admissions officers try to understand how an applicant will add to their college.  Recognition help put an applicant’s talents into context.  An aspiring English major with a knack for creative writing should enter writing contests or seek opportunities to publish her work in local newspapers or publications.  No matter how small they are, winning a prize or award demonstrates that an applicant takes her passion seriously and is a high achiever.
  • Be strategic with the applications: Recognize that colleges seek to balance genders and backgrounds in different majors and schools and applicants that provide that balance are more valuable to a selective college.  For example, women earn over 57% of all bachelor’s degrees, but only 19% of engineering degrees.
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