By Tony Losongco
Over the years, college-bound students and their parents have often asked me how to get into college. But they had different ways of asking that question, giving me clues as to what they considered the secret to college admission. Was it a 5.0 GPA? Was it a 2400 SAT score? Was it being president of 12 different clubs? Was it all of those things?
For these people, I never had an answer that was both quick and satisfying. I could give them two basic pieces of advice that I believed would help them for whatever their dream college was. How they chose to follow that advice, however, was up to them. So if you do nothing else to prepare for college, decide for yourself how you should follow these two pieces of advice:
1) Pursue your passion.
2) Use your resources.
Pursue your passion
Find out what you really love to do, then just start doing it. It could be academic or non-academic, on-campus or off-campus. But by the time you apply to colleges, you should be able to establish that you had a passion for something and tried to pursue it. Of course, your passion could shine in your transcript as an A in a class. But it could also shine in your teacher recommendations, personal statement, or admissions interview. You say you don’t have a passion? I suspect you already have a hobby or interest and just don’t realize yet that you could major in it or do it for a living.
Use your resources
Resources can be anything: AP classes, clubs, sports, internships … whatever helps you grow as a student and person. Everyone’s set of resources is different. You can’t control what resources you were given. But you do have total control over how you use your resources. And if you run out of resources at your high school, look off campus. When you apply to colleges, your counselor will send off a “school report” that describes your high school and community. Make sure you’ve used the resources you’ve been given, especially if they align with your passions. If you tell colleges you want to be a doctor, yet you never participated in your high school’s nationally recognized health academy, that’s a problem. But I’d applaud the future doctor who took the one AP class offered at her high school because it was in biology, THEN took community college and online classes to keep learning!
Your dream college is different from your high school in at least two ways: 1) It has a larger platform for you to pursue your passions, and 2) It has a larger set of resources. Colleges want students who are in the routine of pursuing interests passionately and using their resources. They have the desire to get the most out of college, graduate, and do something with their degree. If you’re not used to using your high school’s resources, what makes a college think you’ll use its larger set of resources? So the advice is there: pursue your passion and use your resources. How you follow that advice is up to you.
Tony Losongco is a Yale graduate in the master’s in counseling program at California State University, Fresno. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter by searching for “TLC4college.”