How to Get into a Good College: 17 Proven Tips

The college admission phase can be a daunting one, especially if you aspire to get into a reputable institution to try and secure a better future.

Besides the high expectations, you’re also competing against a huge number of students hoping to secure the limited number of spots available.

To help you set a solid strategy and maintain unwavering dedication toward your goal, I’ll show you how to get into a good college by sticking to 17 tried and true tips. Let’s dive right in!

1. Start Planning Early

One of the most common things that everyone ends up saying during the college admission phase is “If only I had more time”. 

The journey to college starts long before you submit your first application. As you go through this guide, you’ll find tips that you can work on from as early as your freshman year.

Make being early a staple strategy in everything you do when it comes to getting into a good college. 

This gives you ample time to prepare for every step and helps you avoid deadline stress that can cost you real opportunities.

This doesn’t only go for planning, but also the application process itself. You want your application to be processed early, as it boosts its chance of acceptance by up to 30%, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

2. Take Care of Your Academic Record and GPA

Your academic record serves as a cornerstone of your college admission process, which makes it one of the most crucial aspects if you want to get into a good college.

This is because your GPA is tangible evidence of your academic aptitude, perseverance, and ability to handle rigorous courses, which is necessary in many elite colleges.

While your GPA doesn’t have to be 4.0 to land a good college, you still need to keep it as close to 4.0 as possible to stay ahead of the competition.

Remember, achieving a high GPA isn’t about perfection as much as it’s about consistent effort, seeking guidance when needed, and utilizing the available resources you have. 

Attend your classes regularly, participate actively, do your assignments on time, and treat your school journey as a marathon rather than a sprint, so focus on the long-term results and manage your time effectively.

3. Impress the Admission Committee with a High SAT/ACT Score

Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT play a significant role in the college admissions process, and achieving good scores in them is like the icing on your good grades’ cake!

Start by familiarizing yourself with the exam format and work your way through various mock tests. 

Since you can retake the exams as many times as you want, start early by signing up for the exam during your junior years. 

This way, you can avoid exam stress and retake the test until you’re satisfied with the results (retakes will cost you extra fees.)

4. Distinguish Yourself with Extracurricular Activities and Community Service Work

While your grades are essential for your admission to most colleges, they’re not the sole determinant of admission. Extracurricular activities and community work can greatly boost your application as well!

These activities are a perfect display of your engagement in society and help you stand out in aspects where high grades on their own can’t.

Whether it’s sports, art, or volunteer work, remember to always go for things that you’re passionate about or experienced in to truly shine. 

Joining contests and winning awards in these activities can also be a great boost, as they increase your chance of getting a scholarship as well!

5. Consider Little Ivies

While Ivy League universities are considered the top of the pile, admissions to these schools can be incredibly difficult and costly, and that’s where Little Ivies come into play!

Little Ivies is an unofficial group of small colleges that mirror the Ivy League’s rigorous academic standards while being more affordable and fairly easy to join.

These smaller colleges also excel at maintaining a more interconnected learning environment due to smaller class sizes, although they also have limited curriculums in comparison.

Consider Little Ivies

6. Keep Your Spare Time and Vacations Productive

I’ve previously established that having ample time to prepare yourself is one of the best strategies to put yourself ahead when you’re applying to college.

One of the best ways to ensure that your grades aren’t affected is to do some of that work during your spare time. 

Make sure that you also dedicate a portion of your summer vacation and spring breaks to work on your extracurriculars, attend courses, get a job to bolster your resume, etc.

7. Craft a Compelling Personal Statement

The personal statement is your chance to shine and showcase your unique personality, experiences, and aspirations while applying to college.

This is because it gives you the opportunity to connect with the admission committee on a personal level and show them why you belong at their institution, so make sure that you craft your statement with utmost care.

While writing a statement, make sure that it highlights your experiences, values, defining moments, and sense of purpose to resonate with the committee. 

8. Create a Resume and Earn Some Real Work Experience 

There are tons of advantages that come from this step, and it has been a real eye-opener for me. 

For starters, having real work experience and early professionalism will look good on your college application, as it displays remarkable qualities like commitment, dedication, and leadership.

But on a personal note, having work experiences through job shadowing and internships will give you a whole new perspective on the kind of career you want to lead. This can have a massive impact on the colleges you want to apply for.

9. Make a Tier List of Target Colleges and Schools

One of the keys to securing a good college is to find the right balance between setting realistic expectations and going the extra mile for your preferred choices.

A good way to make sure that your extra effort goes the right way is to set a tier list of colleges and institutions you’re applying for.

This list should include different tiers of colleges based on your shot of being accepted at them, including highly competitive ones as well as safety options, which includes the colleges you’re fairly confident of joining if your target college seems out of reach.

10. Research Your Options and Study Requirements for Admission

Speaking of colleges and applying for the right ones, you want to conduct diligent and thorough research of all the colleges that you aspire to get into.

Utilize online resources, and college guides, and attend college fairs to gather information about the institution you want to enroll in.

Every college will also have unique prerequisites for admission, and you can also learn a lot from the experiences of its students available online. 

This includes GPA expectations, standardized test scores, and any specific essay requirements or supplemental materials you need to provide while applying.

Additionally, consider researching the college’s acceptance rate to set realistic expectations of your opportunities based on your scores and competitiveness.

11. Don’t Limit Your Application Options

Although you should try your best to get into the college of your dreams, it’s always best to keep your options open by applying to a wider range of colleges with different acceptance rates.

This doesn’t only increase your chances of landing a good college, but it also helps you stay confident and less stressed while applying to the colleges you prefer because additional options will give you a “safety net” feeling.

At the end of the day, confidence can go a long way while navigating through a stressful time like the college admission phase.

12. Be Aware of Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Self-awareness is a crucial ally during your college application process. When you have a good understanding of your strongest suits, you’ll be able to highlight them perfectly in your application and personal statement.

On the other hand, keeping up with your weaknesses will help you work on ways to improve them and work your way without shedding plenty of light on them during the admission phase. 

Take your time setting a list of your top attributes and compare them to the aspects that increase college acceptance rates, such as academic achievements, extracurricular involvement, personal qualities, etc. 

Be Aware of Your Strengths and Weaknesses

13. Build a Strong Connection with Teachers and Tutors

Cultivating positive relationships with teachers, tutors, and educational mentors can provide you with invaluable guidance and support throughout your academic journey, as these connections can help you in a variety of ways.

In addition to enhancing your learning experience, your teachers and tutors could give you personalized feedback to help you understand your points of strength and weakness.

Additionally, having a stronger network of connections can unlock potential opportunities that you wouldn’t have known about on your own.

14. Secure Strong Letters of Recommendation

Although not all colleges require a letter of recommendation as part of their college application, most of the highly sought-after ones do.

Having a well-crafted one from a reliable individual can be a remarkable asset to put you forward on the acceptance priority list!

15. Work on Your Interview Skills

Similar to the letter of recommendation, many colleges will conduct interviews with potential students after the initial screening phase.

For that reason, you shouldn’t rely alone on what’s written in your documents and work on your interview skills.

That’s where many of the tips mentioned above come into play, such as having work experience and applying to various colleges. 

This is because self-confidence is one of the essential aspects you should maintain in these interviews, all the while showing enthusiasm about joining the college in question.

16. Get the Right Help During Admission Phase

It’s no secret that the college admissions process can be quite overwhelming, as it’s filled with forms, deadlines, and essays, and the most difficult part is that you need to make a lot of decisions in a short period of time.

This can weigh heavily on a person doing it all alone, so remember to always seek help when you need it and utilize resources that can help you make your life easier.

Help here isn’t only limited to family members, friends, and teachers, but it also extends to modern tools like helpful websites and tools to streamline your efforts and organize your process.

17. Stay on Top of Your Online Presence

Although this one is fairly new, your online presence is becoming more and more relevant to how people perceive you.

Since it’s the admission officer’s job to choose the most eligible candidates for their colleges, it’s common for them to check your social media as part of their screening efforts, especially the professional part of it. 

Regularly review your social media profiles, including Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and remove any inappropriate or potentially damaging content that could hurt your chances of getting accepted into reputable colleges.

Final Thoughts

Getting into the college of your dreams can be quite a challenge, but it’s also an exciting phase where you can learn a lot about yourself.

Success in college admissions requires a combination of academic excellence, extracurricular involvement, great personal qualities, and a strategic approach to the application process, all with a touch of lady luck!

In the end, remember to always start early, seek assistance, keep your options open, and embark on your journey with a solid plan.

Saundra J. Blake

At 32, my life's far from a success story. Instead, it's filled with crumbs and chaos. Yet, I believe it'll get better. Life's like the weather, sometimes stormy, sometimes clear. This blog chronicles it all.
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