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The Path to College, Pt. 1: Getting Accepted (Ep. 109)

The College Info Geek Podcast with Thomas FrankYou know how Peter Jackson and Co. managed to take a short book and somehow pad it out into three ultra-long movies?

Yeah, that’s what we’re doing starting this week. Welcome to The Hobbit of podcasts. A couple weeks ago, Martin suggested an episode that we’d call “How to Get Into College and Pay for It” – for which I was game.

So we created an outline and started doing research… and we soon had one of the biggest podcast outlines in the history of mankind. It turns out the process of getting into college is pretty detailed – who woulda thought?

As a result, we decided to create a three-part series that will attempt to cover a large swath of the whole “getting into college” thing.

Here’s a breakdown of the episodes:

  • Part 1: Getting in – choosing a college, applying, and getting accepted
  • Part 2: Paying for college – grants and loans, payback options, cutting the cost, finding scholarships
  • Part 3: Becoming college-ready – being emotionally prepared, assuming more responsibility and freedom, dealing with stress, time management

Parts 2 and 3 will be released over the next couple of weeks, and I’ll come back here and link to them when they’re out.

Here in Part 1, we’re diving deep into all the details surrounding choosing a college and getting accepted. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you’ll find in the episode.

First, we go through a few practical tips on how to choose a college. Both Martin and I recount our own experiences choosing our respective colleges, but – spoilers – neither he nor I had a crazy selection process.

While many students, along with their parents, will research dozens of colleges, visit many of them, and ultimately apply to more than one, each of us had just one college in mind. Also, neither of us had much help from our parents during the whole process.

That being said, I think our experiences contain some good nuggets of wisdom. We build upon them with extra tips we’ve learned through lots of research, my experience as a student orientation coordinator, and the featured book below.

After that, the majority of the episode goes through the process of applying to colleges and increasing your chances of getting accepted. Now, before I outline the sub-sections, I’d like to share a finding from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA:

“More than 3/4th of students get admitted to their first choice college.”

Yup, you read that right – more than 75%!

Keep this statistic in mind when you’re applying; if you’re trying to get into an ultra-selective college, you definitely want to put a lot of work into polishing your application – but in most cases, you’re going to get accepted to your school of choice as long as your academic performance is good.

With that being said, here’s a list of the topics we’ll be covering in this section of the episode:

  • A general timeline of events and deadlines in the application process, from 9th to 12th grade
  • A breakdown of the academic factors that go into an admission decision
  • The importance of Honors and AP classes
  • A look at non-academic admission factors
  • The “Superstar Effect” and how it can affect your admission decision
  • Early Decision/Early Action pros and cons
  • Tips on acing admissions interviews

Hopefully you find this episode helpful!

Featured Book

College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by StepWe went over a lot of information in this episode, but let’s face it: Getting into college is a complicated process. We simply can’t pack all the details, rules, exceptions, and all the other related bits and bobs into a podcast episode – and it’d be insane to try.

Personally, I was able to manage my entire college application process by simply gathering information from my chosen university – via their website and from flyers/papers I got during my campus tour – and staying very organized. However, if you’re applying to multiple colleges or just want to be more informed about the whole process of applying to college, I’d recommend picking up College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step

This book was co-written by Robin Mamlet, a former dean of admission at three different universities, and Christine VanDeVelde, a journalist. I consulted it during the research process for this episode, and I think you’ll find it helpful if you need a more detailed walkthrough of the whole college application process.

Other books mentioned in this episode:

Non-booky things mentioned in this episode:

Want more cool stuff? You can find all sorts of great tools at my Resources page.

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The Path to College, Pt. 1: Getting Accepted