The College Admissions Process: A Journey of Self-Discovery in 6 (Not So Simple) Steps

When we ask high school students how they envision the college application process, we typically get the same answers. Students frequently refer to the process as “stressful,” “anxiety-provoking,” “time-consuming,” and “competitive.” But there is more to this process than compiling a list, taking a test, writing a few essays, and filling out applications. 

The college process incorporates more than one year of high school. It is a holistic process that starts during a student’s freshman year of high school, as students pick their classes, start to join clubs and sports, and immerse themselves in extracurricular activities and part-time jobs. 

And while the college process might be stressful, anxiety-producing…you get the point, it is also a huge learning opportunity for students. It is a process of self-discovery and a process of skill-building. Moreover, if executed effectively and efficiently, students will be able to manage stress and anxiety. 

How can students execute this process effectively and efficiently? While each student has different overall needs, interests, and journeys, here are 6 steps to help high school students launch their college admissions journey. 

  1. Take challenging classes. Students should take the classes that are the most challenging for them. This does not have to be the most challenging class offered. However, regardless of the level of the class, students must be prepared to commit to the class. Don’t attend classes passively; become immersed in everything that you are learning. 
  2. Go for extra help and get to know your teachers. Even in 9th grade, it is extremely important to develop meaningful relationships with your teachers. Teacher support is intrinsically linked to student success, but to get that support, students must engage. Let teachers know that you are interested in what they are teaching. This will not only help students with the specific class or teacher, it will help them to learn to work with diverse personalities, to accept constructive criticism, and to ask targeted questions so that they develop a deeper understanding of concepts. 
  3. Get involved, discover your passions, and build skills. Join extracurricular activities that motivate you to step out of your comfort zone. Students should join activities that teach them to network, manage, lead, and motivate others. Remember that every activity does not have to become a lifelong commitment, but should be an opportunity to contribute to something meaningful and teach them about themselves. 
  4. Stay organized. Whether students are managing homework assignments, club meetings, or college visits, it is essential to stay organized. Keep track of tasks on a google sheet or by using a free version of Evernote, Todoist, or Trello. Students should manage and organize their time and information, which will allow them to gather knowledge over a longer period of time. By keeping information organized, students will be able to readily refer back to it as they prepare essays and applications.  
  5. Set reasonable and realistic goals. Students should not overschedule or overcommit. It is important to be involved, but students do not have to be involved in everything. It is better to become deeply invested in meaningful activities rather than putting your name down as a member of seven clubs with which you do not have a genuine interest or connection. While students should take challenging classes, they should take classes that challenge them rather than taking the most difficult classes available. Finally, when students are putting together a list of colleges that interest them, they must consider a range of schools and should consider some schools with significantly higher admissions rates. 
  6. Be a turtle. Remember that slow and steady wins the race. The college process is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Throughout high school, students’ interests will evolve and change. By starting this process early, students will recognize the path that they are taking to the finish line. This path is a significant part of their story, the story that students want to tell college admissions officers. 

These 6 steps should help students effectively and efficiently launch their college admissions process, while managing stress and anxiety. If your student needs help building his/her/their resume, figuring out which classes to take, building a college list, brainstorming and editing essays, prepping for interviews, choosing teachers for recommendations, communicating with colleges, and/or application support, contact GAMECHANGERTUTORING.COM to connect to one of our right fit college advisors. Whether students need an hourly consultant or help from the first day of 9th grade until the day they commit to college, GAMECHANGER Tutoring Connection has something to accommodate every student’s needs and budget. 


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