Profile: Making In-State School Work for You

Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet High School grads tell their stories, dish out admissions tips.

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John Young was offered a free ride to Tennessee State, where most of his family attended school, but at first he was wait-listed at Tennessee, his top choice. He thinks he knows why: This year, he says, "so many people applied to UT because of the economy." Plenty of in-state schools did want him, though. Along with TSU, Middle Tennessee State and the University of Memphis both accepted him. In the end, he got the green light from Tennessee. And on the plus side, it came with enough aid and scholarship money to fully cover his first year.

GPA: 2.6 unweighted

SAT/ACT scores: 510 math, 500 critical reading, 600 writing/23

Extracurrics: Work, music, and event planning

Essay topic: His father

Advice: "Surround yourself with a group of supportive people."

Organization strategy: Bought a briefcase with several dividers to keep his papers sorted by college.

Tip: Don't apply to too many schools; the application fees add up.

Biggest surprise: Getting wait-listed at Tennessee. He thought he was in for sure.

Trump card: His guidance counselor

What schools want: Well-rounded students looking to succeed

Chill strategy: Writing and listening to music; "I'm a rapper."

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