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.
A budding entrepreneur, Theodore 'Teddy' Bremmer started his school's investing club, makes totes out of recyclable materials, and managed Blair's student-run federal credit union.
He applied to three local schools—Towson University, "reach" Georgetown University, and his "dream" school, the University of Maryland, where he'll head to study finance next spring. (He got into Towson and withdrew his Georgetown app after hearing from Maryland.) Acceptance requires him to first get some core credits in the summer and fall, which he'll do at the local community college.
GPA: 2.96 unweighted
SAT scores: 550 math, 650 critical reading, 470 writing
Extracurriculars: Stock investing club president, volunteer at U.S. Botanic Garden and summer camps for kids, intern at Montgomery County Taxpayer Services
Essay topics: How U.Md. will help him; his favorite fruit, grapes.
Best move: "Befriending a teacher." A connection with an entrepreneurship teacher gave him a chance to meet the Maryland comptroller and testify before the state legislature on making financial literacy classes mandatory in Maryland schools.
Biggest surprise: Not as stressful as he'd imagined. "In 500 words you have to be interesting. The rest is just paperwork."
Tip: "You can't just do it in one day." You have to give people notice so they write recommendations and send transcripts on time.
[Read 5 tips for securing recommendation letters.]
Mistake: Taking seven AP classes. If he had it to do over, he'd stick with four. The best idea, he thinks, is to focus on getting the highest unweighted GPA.
Helpful tech: The school's Naviance system, which reveals how previous graduates (and their stats) did getting into various colleges. Also, College Confidential, with its glimpses of life at schools.
More Montgomery Blair High School student profiles:
Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of Best Colleges.