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Saturday, August 2, 2014

As we approach Aug. 1, which is the opening date for the Common Application, I have been receiving questions from high school freshmen and sophomores who are “thinking/planning/scheming” about the best way to prepare for the application process.

It’s never too early to start on college prep work




First of all, let me congratulate you on being ahead of the rush. When it comes time for you to apply to college two or three years from now, your classmates will be envious.

If you are applying to college this August, I have to admit there is not a great deal you can do to improve your application. You have already completed the first three years of classes and extracurricular activities. These are the years that colleges count most. There is not much you can to do to improve your scholastic record. However, if you are applying two or three years from now there are several things that you can do to improve your chances of getting in to the college of your choice.

Start by developing an ironclad strategy for completing the next few years of high school. Here are a few suggestions:

Show leadership

The most impressive extracurricular activities are the ones that show leadership. Win academic competitions, lead a team, develop a reputation for being the “go to” person in any situation. Be someone your classmates can count on in a crunch. That reputation will filter around to teachers and recommenders.

Think outside the box

As I have written many times before, get involved in non-school activities. The fact that you have built a non-profit organization or have been promoted on a part-time job tend to be weighted more heavily by colleges than school-sponsored activities. Do something that shows you have the ability to think on your own and are not dependent on someone else to make decisions. Many students must work part-time jobs after school and can’t participant in school activities. If you have received a promotion on the job or have managed others, it will impress admissions officials.

Dominate the SAT/ACT

This does not mean trying to increase your test scores to 2100 on the SAT or 30 on the ACT. That used to be the minimum. No more. To be realistically competitive at top colleges 2250 SATs and 34 ACTs are the norm.

Study for these tests as if you were preparing for boot camp. If you don’t have that attitude, you won’t make it. Fear of failure is a great motivator. Fear of not breaking the 2250/34 barrier is a real motivator!

To be successful in raising your test scores, you have to do the work. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying.

Students should study a minimum of two hours per day, seven days a week for a total of five weeks. That includes one two-hour session each week with a personal tutor. The other six days a week students must self-study for two hours a day.

Be sure that your tutor has scored perfect 800s on each test they tutor. If they can’t prove it by showing official copies of their test scores, then do not hire them. Five weeks out of your life is not too high a price to pay to be admitted to the college of your choice.

Keep a study journal

This is the only way you can be honest about how much you study. Every day you need to note how many hours you studied and how many practice tests you did. I know from tutoring students that if you don’t write it down you will be fooling yourself.

I have tutored the SAT for more than 20 years and this is the only formula that has consistently helped students increase their scores by 200 points or more on each test. There is no substitute for hard work. If you put in the “blood, sweat and tears” you will succeed.

In short, take the most difficult classes that you can during your high school years, show leadership skills, and get high scores on your entrance examinations. If you do all three, your chances on getting in to a top college or university are outstanding.



When applying to college, you'll need to complete an essay as part of your application process. Contact Jerry Bradshaw, an US College Consultant who can answer your questions while guiding you into writing something that propels you to the front of the line of the selection committee.

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