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13 Things You Must Do in 2013 to Ensure You Get Into College

13 things you can do in 2013 to get into collegeWill the envelope be fat or skinny? Will you get accepted, wait-listed, or (gasp!) rejected? College admission can be harrowing, especially when so many factors feel out of your control. But there are a number of things you can control in the college process. Take at look at 13 things you can do in 2013 to ensure your college news is good news.

1. Keep your grades up.
Junior and senior years of high school are not the time to start coasting. If you had good grades early on, commit to finishing strong; colleges do not look favorably upon a steadily declining academic performance. If, on the other hand, your grades were less than stellar at the start of high school, theres still time to turn things around. Everyone loves a good comeback story.

2. Enroll in challenging classes.
Its great to get an A in ceramics, but admission officers will not be impressed with a full plate of fun or fluff courses. A B in calculus will go further than an A in finger painting any day. That doesnt mean you should load yourself down with a ton of AP courses, but try to pick a few AP or upper-level courses that will interest as well as challenge you.

3. Get to know your college advisor.
Not only will your college advisor write you a recommendation letter, he or she can also be an invaluable resource throughout the college process. This is someone you want in your corner. Tip: Dont just pop into the college office when you want something signed or faxed. Make an appointment to talk about your goals, and be sure to follow through on what you say youll do.

4. Pursue a passion.
Joining 15 extracurricular activities just so you can add your name to the roster is a mistake. Yes, colleges want you to get involved, but not just for the sake of involvement. Take time this year to explore something that actually interests you, such as environmentalism, student government, religion, sports, music, theater Joining your schools debate team and hating every minute of it wont earn you points in the college admission game.

5. Assume a leadership role.
Once you figure out where to get involved, go all in. Dont just be a participant in the horticultural club; throw your name in the hat for a leadership position. Leadership experience not only looks good on your college application, it also provides invaluable character-building opportunities and preparation for life after school.

6. Prep for the SAT.
Going into the college admission test cold is a bad idea especially when there are so many tips, tricks, and strategies out there that can help you learn the test and boost your score. Take as many practice tests as you can, and if your score is subpar, consider taking an SAT prep class or at least buying an SAT prep book. SAT scores arent everything, but they still carry plenty of weight in the college admission decision.

7. Cultivate relationships with teachers.
If youve been a good student, you already have an in with your teachers, but youll need more than good grades to secure solid recommendation letters. Visit your teachers in their offices to get extra help and learn more about the subjects that really interest you. And dont forget to participate in class teachers need to hear your voice to know who you really are.

8. Come up with realistic college choices.
Make a list of the colleges that interest you, and spend time learning about what it takes to get in. If the average entering freshman at a particular school has a 3.9 GPA and your GPA is 2.5, consider the possibility that the school is out of reach. Dont go too broad, either. If you limit the number of your college applications, you will be able to focus your energies on a few schools that are a better fit.

9. Do mock interviews.
The college interview is still a key component of the admission decision, and its wise to prepare for this important conversation. Get together with a friend and take turns being in the interviewee hot seat. Better yet, ask an adult if he or she would be willing to practice with you. You can even record the interview so youll have a better idea how you look and sound.

10. Volunteer.
Colleges want to see that you have interests outside the classroom, but theyre also looking for students with strong character. Volunteering in your community (e.g., church, homeless shelter, after-school tutoring program) demonstrates a willingness and commitment to spend your time and energy on others. Volunteering is also an excellent way to combat self-absorption and expand your worldview.

11. Manage your online presence.
Anything you post on Facebook and Twitter is in the public domain, and pages filled with alcohol and profanity will not make your case to college admission officers. While most colleges will not go looking for this kind of information, if it is brought to their attention, they will take note. On the flip side, do post things youre proud of (e.g., articles youve written, pictures youve painted). Use social media to highlight your strengths, not partying and relationship drama.

12. Make the most of your summer.
Colleges are interested in how you spend your time, and they tend to favor applicants who are diligent and hard-working. So dont just sit around all summer long. Get a job, take a college class, volunteer, get an internship show colleges that you are a productive citizen who will do more than take up space on their campus.

13. Start a journal.
If youre not much of a writer and youre dreading college application essays, start small by keeping a journal. Not only is journaling a great habit to get into youll love looking back at your ponderings years down the road! it can also help you organize your thoughts and brainstorm for your essays. Carry your journal with you so you can jot down ideas as they come, and even let out steam about the frustratingly glorious college process.