Updated: Oct 26, 2021
There is an incredible wealth of information online, but sifting through it all can be a daunting task, and it’s very difficult to know whether you come across good advice. Luckily, there are better tools available. The best resources you have for getting into college is right in your own backyard, and, most likely, you’re hardly tapping into it. It’s not sleek; it’s not fancy; it’s not new. The best resource at your disposal is that age-old, tried-and-true phenomenon: wisdom.
Start with your counselor
Wisdom comes in many packages, but the one you’re likely neglecting might be the most obvious: your school counselor. When I was in high school (“back in the 1900s,” as my middle son once told me), I sadly could not have even told you the name of my school counselor. I certainly never made it a point to get to know her or to heed her advice. I went it alone, and I ended up with a lackluster resume which did absolutely nothing to set me apart from other students. As a result, I limited my college applications to two schools, and I even passed on the more prestigious school, because I was excited to move farther from home. I knew nothing about the school I opted to attend, really - I had no clue what the student/teacher ratio was, whether it was good for my major, whether it was destructive to my values, etc. Just about the only thing I did right was maintain a good GPA, and, if not for my ACT score, I would not have received a single scholarship. “Back in the 1900s,” I was smart, but I was extraordinarily unwise, and I did not take advantage of what was probably the best resource at my high school.
How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! Proverbs 16:16
Think about a typical day for a high school counselor. In addition to identifying students’ social or learning challenges and creating plans to overcome them, counselors spend much of their time helping students find scholarships, better their test scores, complete their FAFSAs, and get into their preferred colleges. Much of what your counselor does is centered around furthering students’ success, and any experienced counselor will have helped hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students plan their futures. Likely, your counselor will have also built relationships with universities and local companies. As such, they will be able to connect you with officials, students, and alumni at colleges all around the state of Oklahoma (and many schools throughout the country) or help you land an internship or a job. If you have a person in your life whose job is to provide resources to help you succeed after high school, don’t discount that person.
Ask for Advice from the People Around You
Your counselor is an excellent resource to start with, but you shouldn’t stop there. Many students probably don’t realize it, but most of the adults in their lives love to be asked for their advice. People generally enjoy the opportunity to help others; plus, it’s flattering when someone asks you for advice. Without a doubt, there are some very wise people around you, and it would be foolish not to take advantage of their experience. Look to your parents, your older siblings, your teachers, and your coaches, but also reach out to students who graduated before you.
If you don’t know any recent graduates, talk to a friend’s sibling, or look online – nowadays, it’s incredibly easy to find alumni groups on Facebook and Instagram, and I can almost guarantee you will be able to find someone who will sit down with you and tell you about his/her experience (especially if you’re willing to pony up for a cup of coffee).
Ask Your Future School
If you have narrowed your list to a few schools, reach out to the schools for advice. I promise this will not hurt your admissions chances, and it will almost certainly help (see my article on Demonstrated Interest). College recruiters and admissions officers will likely be extremely candid about what the school is looking for, and they will probably offer to host you for a visit. Once you’re on campus, you will undoubtedly encounter a number of people who will happily give you advice. Don't be timid, and definitely don't fall victim to the idea that you will "look stupid" if you ask others to share their wisdom; I can assure you the truth is quite the opposite - the ones who "look stupid" are those who don't ask.
Wisdom comes from experience, and you don’t have it, so listen, take lots of notes, and heed the advice you receive.
- Randy Biggs
Owner, Heritage College Prep
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