“I don’t think applying for college should be someone’s extracurricular activity.”  That is the advice Emily Almas, Director of Admissions at Washington University in St. Louis, offered parents and students who signed on to our recent webinar, The Latest in College Admissions. She collaborated with SMU’s Elena Hicks, SMU’s Dean of Admission, and John Latting, Dean of Admission at Emory University, to take questions about getting admitted to college.  

That guidance was especially noteworthy for middle and early high school students. The panelists agreed that 7th – 10th graders should be exploring what makes them happy and engaging with their community. Be focused on learning about themselves as people – not getting into college. Here are some other key take-aways: 

  • High School Rigor: don’t take an excessive number of AP or other college-credit classes. It is essential to take challenging courses and do well, especially in subject areas they may want to study in college, but no one should take 20+ such courses. Instead, take five or six and use these classes to help understand which topics are most attractive to the student.
  • Connecting with Colleges: the virtual environment of the past year has provided students with opportunities to connect with schools they might not have in earlier years, Hicks said. Students can take the opportunity to explore outside of their state or region, and colleges and universities have made accommodations to interact with more students and families during these times, a trend panelists believe will stick.  
  • Standardized Teststhe reduced requirement to take ACT, SAT and other college entrance exams has generally encouraged morstudents to apply to more colleges. Applicants have become more diverse, Latting said. Schools are focusing on students’ information that they do have, not what they don’t have.  As noted by Latting, standardized tests’ future is still uncertain, but he believes they will continue to play some role at institutions.  
  • Self-Reflection: students getting ready to apply to collegshould evaluate themselves and asfamily members and friends what they see as their strong points. Panelists agreed self-reflection is an important skill and something students should spend time thoughtfully engaging in to help guide their college-going decision-making process.  
  • Many Pathsremember there is not one right school for students, but several. “It will turn out all right.” 

 For more great tips and information from the experts, watch the full webinar here.

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