Extra Edge

They say it’s never too soon to start planning for your future, and when it comes to higher education in this day and age and economy, that couldn’t be more true.

With many colleges and universities, both private and public, reporting record-breaking numbers of applicants and record-low rates of admission, getting an early edge on their admissions process is something that all students considering college might want to start thinking about long before their senior year.

Getting started goes above and beyond academics, however, with carefully planned timing playing a crucial role.

As early as their freshman and sophomore years in high school, simple efforts by students – like exploring their college options and getting an early start on tests in case they need to retest – help to make more competitive college applicants.

“We see far too many students who still aren’t sure where they want to apply to well into their senior years,” says Jason Jessie, assistant executive director of enrollment management at Northeastern State University.

“This will not only delay where they apply to, but ultimately, other important decisions will get made later. If a student waits until the last minute, universities may make admissions offers to those students who are more committed earlier on.”

“One thing we like to see from our students is an actual activities resume…”

Although successful grades in required coursework and good test scores are still the heaviest hitters when it comes to getting in, it never hurts to get involved in extracurricular activities for that extra edge.

“One thing we like to see from our students is an actual activities resume, this way we can see what all they’ve been involved in,” says Michelle Lockhart, senior director of admissions at Oklahoma City University.

“They should make sure that it’s in order and easy to understand how those activities can be applied to their college education.”

In the age of on-demand information, this newest batch of college recruits coming in – the Millennials – is more adept at research than any previous generation, and their parents can also be credited for more active participation in the college decision-making process than parents in the past.

In fact, it’s almost rare now that parents aren’t involved on some level.

“Parents are there to guide them through the process, but it’s important for them to remember to serve as guides and not as the people actually conducting the whole admissions process. Students really need to be the ones doing it themselves,” Lockhart says.

As part of this proactivity, students are advised not to be afraid to contact their admissions counselor on their own, and not to expect their parents to do it all for them.

“Parents play a huge role in the admission process,” Lockhart says. “With a lot of students, we talk to their parents more than we actually get to talk to them – and that can be ok, but it’s helpful for them to be the ones to start the conversation and be active along the way. We really want to hear directly from the students.”