Focus on 7 Strategies to Get Into College

Measuring up in the admissions game calls for early preparation and using common sense.

Choosing the right courses in high school can be a balancing act.
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He recommends staying in touch with the admissions office and making clear that you'll attend if you're accepted, then sending in new grades and honors and even visiting again.

7. Be true to yourself: All through his time at High Tech High International in San Diego, classmates and teachers kept telling Nathan Roberts that he should aim for the Ivy League. So he put Harvard and Yale University on his list, even though he sensed he'd be happier at a smaller liberal arts school.

After visiting Carleton College, Roberts realized it was the ideal place for him, with its excellent neuroscience program, small classes, personalized attention from professors, and focus on providing need-based financial aid. "I knew I could get just as good of an education there as anywhere else," says Roberts, who was wait-listed at Harvard and Yale University but withdrew once he visited Carleton, where he's now thriving as a junior.

[Learn how to pay for college.]

As for Kira Gressman, she spent the week after getting her rejections moping around and feeling sorry for herself. She then took another look at her only option—the University of Colorado–Boulder honors program, where she's now in her second year—and realized that it was actually a great match.

She saw that there would be "lots of opportunities for me to succeed and to make a contribution to the world at Boulder." And that, she says, is "what I really want from my college experience."

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