It comes as a surprise to many prospective college students that the admissions process is slightly different for each university. One of the best methods for determining what the college is looking for in their admissions policy is to call several key people in the admissions department, and ask them specific questions.

In fact, you may want to have an itemized list on hand to ask the admissions department about the criteria they use to accept students. Get this list in writing if possible, and check off each item in the list as you encounter it.

Most lists should contain the following items:

• SAT test score
• Grade-point average, or GPA
• Extra-curricular activities
• Essay writing skills
• Financial need

Test Scores

If your college of choice requires an SAT score, you will need to prepare diligently for this test. Different institutions have different policies regarding the importance of the SAT test. It is easy to find out how important the score is to the admissions department of your college of choice. Just call them, and ask. It really is that simple.

Extra-Curricular Activities

Some colleges place a lot of importance on the extra-curricular activities of each prospective student. These activities will tell the institution a lot about your interests and your personality. Admissions officers want to accept students that will contribute to student life at the university. If you are a working student, your job may qualify as an extra-curricular activity, especially if you assert in your essay that this is what you are doing.

Essay Writing

The essay demonstrates your communication and writing skills to the admissions officers. Always use the active voice in your essay writing, and check your sentence structure, spelling and grammar. You need to build a strong case. Articulate your plans for the future, and state how your goals will be enabled by acceptance into their program of study. Be proactive, and strive to create the impression that your goals already align with the existing environment at their institution. Speak their language, and conduct some research. Learn what kind of words may cause your admissions officer to react positively towards your case.

To do this well, you will need to know some background information about your audience. Look up the biographies of the main administrators of the institution. Your application may be reviewed by several people, so it is important to create an application that speaks to the interests and concerns of these people in particular. In other words, your application should reflect the values of the individuals who are assessing your application. Avoid sounding self-centered in your writing. At the same time, you need to generate a sense of confidence about your ability to speak to others in a way they can easily understand.

Financial Need and Scholarships

Financial need is a critical area in the admissions process. The financial aid office has direct influence over the amount of aid that will be available to you. Financial matters are extremely important, and if you want to get accepted into the college of your choice, you are going to need to construct a plan to pay for it.

The Federal Application for Financial Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the place where every student must start. Look up your school code, and provide this code in the relevant section of the FAFSA. You will need detailed financial information as well. Always meet the deadlines for every part of the application. Scholarships are available from many different sources. Ask your college about any internal scholarships they offer. Groups you are involved with may offer them, but your parents might also be members of organizations offering scholarships for college.

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