The journey to college acceptance is one best told by the experts: high school seniors who've just completed the process. Learning how others got into college can help inform your own effort, so we asked students from the Class of 2011 at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., to relate their experiences, tips, and observations.
Janet Henkai wants to study both physical therapy and environmental issues. She applied to—and got into—seven schools: Smith College in Massachusetts, the University of Wisconsin, Boston University, Ithaca College in New York, Xavier University in Ohio, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of Pittsburgh.
An athlete with a long history of playing field hockey and basketball, she has spent much time in PT offices herself. During a particularly inspiring stint she experienced at age 12 for an ankle injury, her sessions overlapped with a woman who was learning to walk again after a car accident. "It's not only physical, it's psychological, having a physical therapist say you can do this," she says. To keep costs to a minimum, Henkai opted for Pitt, which awarded her full tuition.
GPA: 3.55 unweighted
SAT scores: 600 math, 560 critical reading, 600 writing
Extracurriculars: Team captain for field hockey and basketball, volunteer on local conservation projects and as a coach at sports camps, National Honor Society
Essay topic: Balancing her sexual orientation and religious beliefs
Sacrifice: Gave up basketball as a senior to pursue scholarships and other aid
One hook: Racked up a total of nearly 1,000 hours in community service
[Read about 6 scholarships that award leadership.]
Words of wisdom: "It seems easier to write about yourself, but in the end it's a lot harder."
Advice: Apply to a variety of schools, including small, larger, rural, urban, so you don't get stuck with a choice of just one type.
On visits: "On paper, Wisconsin seemed like the perfect place, but when I stepped on Pittsburgh's campus I knew I wanted to go there." Take a tour with a student, and better yet, request a guide who is pursuing the major you plan on declaring.
Heads-up: It doesn't end once you turn in the application; expect requests for information, and anticipate snafus.
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