Congratulations! If you are picking up this book, then you (or someone close to you) must be a high school student getting ready for college. Perhaps you have been anticipating and looking forward to this moment for years. Or maybe you find the thought of college visits, applications, essays, and interviews about as appealing as taking a math test “just for fun.” Wherever you fall on the spectrum of college-planning excitement, rest assured that this book will arm you with the tools you need (including the occasional pep talk!) to land at the school that is right for you.
I have been helping high school students apply to college for over a decade. I first became interested in the application process after I graduated from college and took a position in the admissions office at Dartmouth, where I had been a student. When I left to attend graduate school a few years later, families began to approach me with questions about navigating the confusing maze of college admissions and financial aid. Since that time, I have shepherded many students and parents through the application process and have seen firsthand how stressful it can be. Some people think I am crazy for picking a career path that requires me to go through the college application process every year! However, I wouldn’t trade one minute of it for the profound satisfaction I experience when my students are accepted to schools that will truly allow them to thrive. Every time I get updates from students about college experiences that opened doors for them, I know that all the application stress was worth it.
With competition for admissions to college at an all-time high, the media consistently publishes gloomy articles about how students need a perfect GPA or a perfect jump shot to get into a decent college these days. In turn, guidance counselors and college-prep books often focus on the academic superstars, the straight-A students who have their sights set only on the Ivy League. But what about the good students—the ones who go to class, do their homework, get good grades, and still want to have a life that doesn’t completely revolve around school? What happens to students with Bs or even the occasional C on their transcript? If you are feeling disheartened or even doomed when it comes to getting into a good college, this book is for you. Who Is This Book For?
I wrote this book because I want every college applicant to have fantastic college options and the know-how to put together a winning application. Forget everything that you’ve read about how impossible it is to get into college these days. You do not need to be superhuman or well connected to go to a good school. There are literally hundreds of colleges for students like you just waiting to be discovered.
Is this book only for students with B+ GPAs? Of course not. When I talk about B+ students, I am referring to students who work hard and do well in school but may not have a “perfect” transcript or a 2400 on the SAT. These capable students sometimes feel discouraged by their guidance counselors or the media, even though they get good grades. You don’t have to be in the running for valedictorian to complete a college application that shows what you have to offer. How to Use This Book
The following chapters cover everything a high school student needs to know about applying to college. I start by discussing some of the different paths that students take to find the colleges that are right for them—the best names, the best deals, and everything in between. Don’t know what you want to study or what type of academic environment is ideal for you? Don’t worry. This book has lots of advice on how to identify your college priorities and find colleges that will truly allow you to flourish. Want to go to an Ivy League school but don’t think that a student without a 4.0 can get in? Relax. This book gives you the scoop on how to bypass the ultracompetitive admissions processes at schools like Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania through their under-the-radar programs, which are easier to get into, cheaper to attend, and still award you that big-name degree.
Once you have identified the full range of terrific college options at your disposal, this book will walk you through the application process so that you can understand how colleges make admissions decisions and how to maximize your chances of putting together an application that showcases what you have to offer. Confused about whether to apply early decision and early action? No clue how to write a compelling college essay? Need to painlessly beef up your extracurricular profile? If so, keep reading. These pages will answer all of these questions and more with helpful worksheets, questionnaires, and “action steps.” The last chapter of this book also provides some tips for parents. The appendixes offer a detailed college admissions timeline for high school juniors and seniors, suggestions for getting into a top college through a “side door,” and a list of colleges to consider.
Just because your transcript isn’t perfect does not mean that you can’t find the “perfect” college that will allow you to thrive. Let the journey begin!
Excerpted from B+ Grades, A+ College Application by Joie Jager-Hyman. Copyright © 2013 by Joie Jager-Hyman. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.