How to Get Into College Guides

Read comprehensive guides on how to get into college.

How to Get into College: An Insider’s Guide to the College Admissions Process 

Getting into college isn’t easy. If you’re wondering how to get into college, you’re not alone. This guide will walk you through how to increase your chances of getting into a top college. 

In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about how to get into a good college. We’ll also offer plenty of college application tips along the way. But first, let’s start with five steps to get into college:

  1. Start early. The college admission process starts far before senior year. Start your research early.
  2. Find a “hook.” Find what makes you unique, and emphasize it in your college application process.  
  3. Build a strong college list. A key part of how to get into college is crafting your college list. Getting into college takes a lot of work, so you want to be excited about your options!
  4. Be yourself. Authenticity is key in the application process. 
  5. See your application as a whole. Your application should tell a cohesive story. 

Of course, the college application process is a lot more detailed than these five steps. If you want to get into top colleges, you’ll need to start early and form a structured plan to guide you through the college application process. It’s a lot of work, but if you put in the time and effort, you can increase your odds of getting into top colleges. Use the guides below to discover our school-specific advice on how to get into college.

How to get into Amherst College—General Information Amherst College is a private liberal arts college located in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1821 and has remained one of the […]

How to get into Barnard—General Information Barnard College is a women’s liberal arts college located in New York City. Founded in 1889, Barnard College was the first college in NYC […]

How to Get Into Baylor – General Information  Baylor University is a private university located in Waco, Texas. The world’s largest Baptist university, Baylor was founded in 1845 and has […]

How to Get Into Boston College – General Information Boston College is a private Jesuit research university in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1863. The total Boston College […]

How to Get Into Boston University – General Information Boston University is a private university located in Boston, Massachusetts. BU was founded in 1839 and has a total undergraduate enrollment […]

How to get into Bowdoin—General Information Bowdoin College is a private liberal arts college located in Brunswick, Maine. The student population at Bowdoin is just over 1800. With small class […]

How to Get Into Brandeis—General Information Brandeis University is a private liberal arts university located in Waltham, Massachusetts. The university has an undergraduate enrollment of 3,591 students across more than […]

How to get into Brown University—General Information Brown University is an Ivy League university in Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1764, Brown University is a private research university. The undergraduate […]

How to get into California Institute of Technology (Caltech) – General Information California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a private university in Pasadena, California. Caltech was founded in 1891 and […]

How can I get into Carnegie Mellon University — General Information Carnegie Mellon University is a research university located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The student body of the university at large […]

How to Get Into Claremont McKenna College—General Information  Claremont McKenna College (CMC) is a small liberal arts college located in Claremont, California. Claremont McKenna was founded in 1946 and is […]

How to get into Colby College Guide–General Information Colby College is a private liberal arts college located in Waterville, Maine. The school was founded in 1813, making it the 12th […]

How to get into Colgate University – General Information Colgate University is a private university located in Hamilton, New York. Colgate was founded in 1819 and has a total undergraduate […]

How to get into Columbia University — General Information Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university located in New York City, New York — specifically, the Morningside Heights […]

How to get into Cornell – General Information Cornell University is a private research university located in Ithaca, New York. The student body of the University at large is just […]

How to get into Dartmouth—General Information Dartmouth College is a private Ivy League research university located in Hanover, New Hampshire. It was founded in 1769, making it the ninth-oldest higher […]

How to get into Duke University-General Information Duke University is a private research university originally founded by Quakers in 1838 before it was relocated to its current home of Durham […]

How to get into Emory University—General Information Emory University is a private university in Atlanta, Georgia. It was founded in 1836 as Emory College and has a student body of […]

How to get into Georgetown – General Information  Founded in 1789, Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit private research university in the US. Its campus, fondly referred to […]

How to Get Into Georgia Institute of Technology Guide – General Information Georgia Tech is a public research university located in Atlanta, Georgia. The Georgia Tech enrollment is 44,000 students […]

How to Get into Harvard—General Information Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university located in Cambridge Massachusetts. It was founded in 1636 as Harvard College. The student body […]

How to get into Harvey Mudd—General Information Harvey Mudd College is a private college in Claremont, California, and is part of the Claremont Colleges, a group of prestigious colleges that […]

How do I get into Haverford — General Information Information Haverford College is a private college located in Haverford, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. Founded in 1833, the total Haverford […]

How to get into Howard University – General Information Howard University is a private research university located in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1867 and is now one of […]

How to get into Johns Hopkins University: Johns Hopkins University is a private research university located in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, it was America’s first research university, named after […]

MIT is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1861 as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Society of Natural History. The student body […]

How to get into Middlebury College – General Information Middlebury College is a private liberal arts college located in Middlebury, Vermont. It was founded in 1800. The student body of […]

How to get into NYU—General Information New York University is a private college in New York City, New York, with additional campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. The New York […]

How to get into Northwestern University- General Information Northwestern University is a private research university located in Evanston, Illinois. The student body in the university at large is just over […]

How to get into Ohio State – General Information Ohio State University is a large public research university located in urban Columbus, Ohio. The overall Ohio State enrollment is approximately […]

How to get into Penn State—General Information Penn State, or the Pennsylvania State University, is a public research university in Pennsylvania. Founded in 1863, Penn State was Pennsylvania’s first and […]

How to get into Pomona College—General Information Pomona College is a private college in Claremont, California. It was first established in 1887, and in 1925 it became the first of […]

How to get into Princeton – General Information  Princeton University is located in Princeton, New Jersey. It is a private Ivy League research university founded in 1746. Princeton’s entire student […]

How to get into Rice University—General Information Rice University is a private research university located in Houston, Texas. Rice is home to just over 4,000 students and is one of […]

How to get into Smith—General Information Smith College is a private women’s college located in Northampton, Massachusetts. Founded in 1871, it stands today as one of the largest liberal arts […]

How to get into Stanford – General Information Stanford University is a private research institution that has given rise to 20 living Nobel laureates. Located in Palo Alto at the […]

How do I get into Swarthmore– General Information Swarthmore College is a private liberal arts college located in suburban Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1864 by the Quakers as a […]

How to get into Texas A&M – General Information Texas A&M is a public research university in College Station, Texas. It was founded in 1876 as the state’s first public […]

How to get into UCSD — General Information The University of California – San Diego is a public research university located in San Diego, California. It was founded in 1960 […]

How to Get Into USC – General Information  The University of Southern California is a private university located in Los Angeles, California. USC was founded in 1880 and has a total […]

How to get into University of Washington—General Information The University of Washington is a large public research university in the heart of Seattle. Founded in 1861, it is one of […]

How to Get Into UW–Madison – General Information When thinking about how to get into UW–Madison, you want to consider all parts of the UW–Madison application, especially the UW–Madison application […]

How to get into Tufts—General Information Founded in 1852, Tufts University is student-centered research university in Medford, Massachusetts. Tufts has an undergraduate population of almost 6,000 and a total population […]

How to get into UC Berkeley—General Information The University of California Berkeley is a public university located in Berkeley, California. It was founded in 1868 and has been a center […]

How to get into UC Davis—General Information The University of California-Davis is a top-ranked public university in northern California. Its 5,300 acres of sprawling greens make UC Davis the largest […]

How to Get Into UC Irvine–General Information The University of California, Irvine is one of the ten campuses in the University of California public school system and one of nine […]

How to Get Into UC Santa Barbara–General Information The University of California–Santa Barbara is one of the colleges in the University of California public school system. The UC system is […]

How do I get into UCLA — General Information University of California – Los Angeles is a public university located in Los Angeles, California. UCLA was founded in 1919 and […]

How to get into University of Chicago—General Information University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1890, its main campus resides in the Chicago neighborhood […]

How to get into UF—General Information The University of Florida is a land-grant research university located in Gainesville, Florida. Its campus is home to almost 35,000 undergraduate students and nearly […]

How to Get Into UIUC Guide–General Information The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) is Illinois’s largest and most well-known public university. It was founded in 1867 and is […]

How to get into the University of Michigan — General Information The University of Michigan is a public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was founded in Detroit in […]

How to Get Into UNC – General Information The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is a public institution that was founded in 1789. It was the first public university […]

How to get into UPenn—General Information The University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League research university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1740 as the College of […]

How to get into University of Rochester—General Information The University of Rochester is a private research university founded in 1850. It’s located two miles south of downtown Rochester, New York. […]

How to get into UT Austin—General Information The University of Texas at Austin is a public research university founded in 1883. The school is located in Austin, Texas. It is […]

How do I get into the University of Virginia? -General Information The University of Virginia is a public research university in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was founded in 1819 by Thomas […]

How to get into Vanderbilt – General Information Vanderbilt University is a private university located in Nashville, Tennessee. The school was founded in 1873. The total Vanderbilt enrollment is over […]

How to Get Into Vassar – General Information Vassar College is a private university located in Poughkeepsie, New York, 75 miles north of New York City. It was founded in […]

How to get into Wake Forest—General Information Wake Forest University is a private liberal arts university located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Founded in 1834, Wake Forest has become one of […]

How to get into WashU—General Information Founded in 1853, Washington University is an elite private university in St. Louis, Missouri that is home to almost 8,000 undergraduates from over 100 […]

How to get into Wellesley College—General Information Wellesley College is a prestigious women’s college located in Wellesley, Massachusetts. A small liberal arts institution, the Wellesley College total enrollment figure is […]

How to Get Into Wesleyan University — General Information Wesleyan University is a private university founded in 1831 and located in Middletown, Connecticut, overlooking the Connecticut River. The total Wesleyan […]

How to Get Into the College of William and Mary—General Information The College of William and Mary is a public research institution that has been around since 1693, making it […]

How to get into Williams College—General Information Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1793 with funds from the estate of […]

How to get into Yale — General Information Yale University is a world-renowned Ivy League institution founded in 1701. The campus is located in New Haven, Connecticut, and is home […]

Understanding the college admissions process

If you want to know how to get into college, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll break down how to get into top colleges. The college application process is complicated, and getting into college looks different for every student.

As you plan how to get into college, remember to center your own needs. Every student has their own background, interests, and goals, and each school has their own set of college admissions requirements. 

If you’re wondering how to get into MIT, know that the college admissions process there will look different than if you were wondering how to get into Duke. If you’re wondering how to get into Yale, note that this process will also have its own nuances. Every school is unique. As you begin the college application process, keep this factor in mind. 

Ten steps to get into college:

One of the most important steps to get into college is to create a timeline for your college application process. This timeline will look different for different students. However, the earlier you start planning for the college admission process, the more likely you are to succeed. 

As you build your timeline, keep university admissions deadlines in mind. Also, note that the college application requirements might differ between schools. That being said, the broad steps to get into college are largely the same. Consider the following ten steps as you make your “how to get into college” plan.

1. Earn strong grades in challenging courses. 

When strategizing for how to get into college, your top priority should be to get high grades that surpass the average college GPA requirements. University admissions officers want to see that you are prepared for a challenging course load. They’ll also look for an upward trajectory in your GPA. 

2. Research colleges for your college list.

Before you figure out how to get into college, start building your college list. You won’t start writing essays or filling out applications during your first few years in high school. However, you should use your first few years of high school to learn as much as you can about different schools. This will also help you understand any college application requirements. 

Visiting campuses in person is always ideal. However, you can also use virtual tours, informational webinars, and Q&A sessions to learn more about the schools on your list. 

3. Take standardized tests. 

College admissions requirements for standardized testing have changed, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, many university admissions offices no longer require SAT or ACT scores. However, test-optional colleges will still review any scores you send. 

High scores can boost your application, especially if you have a lower GPA. So, if you’re wondering how to get into top colleges, you should still plan to take the SAT or ACT. 

4. Ask for recommendation letters.

Nearly all college application requirements will include recommendation letters. These letters are a crucial part of the college admission process. Nearly all university admissions offices will request a letter from your guidance counselor. Other requirements will vary by school. For example, if you’re wondering how to get into Georgetown, the university admissions office specifies which teachers you should ask based on your intended major. 

Recommendation letters are most helpful with your “how to get into college” plan when you choose your recommenders intentionally. Getting into college is hard, but your teachers can help. Letters that help you get into top colleges will highlight what makes you special beyond your grades. 

5. Finalize your college list and choose your intended major.

Getting into college starts with a balanced college list. Ideally, you began with a list of at least 20 schools when starting the college admission process. As you determine what you want in a college—size, location, major offerings, campus environment, affordability, etc.—take notes and narrow your list. 

You should aim to fully complete the college admission process for about 12 schools. However, this number may vary depending on your needs—remember, the college admissions process looks different for everyone. 

6. Review the college application requirements for each school on your list. 

Whether you want to know how to get into USC, how to get into Columbia, or how to get into Harvard, you need to familiarize yourself with the college application requirements. These often take the form of a checklist on the undergraduate admissions page of the website. 

Getting into college has a lot of steps, so start planning early. If you leave out any college application requirements, your application will not be reviewed.

7. Map out a strategy & timeline.

Getting into college requires a lot of deadlines and timelines. Many schools have different application deadlines, so your college application process may look different for different schools. 

If you are wondering how to get into a top college, check if they offer an Early Decision or Early Action deadline. Often, top schools have higher acceptance rates in the EA/ED cycle than in the Regular Decision cycle. So, if you’re wondering how to get into top colleges, check out EA/ED programs.

8. Find your hook.

Want to get into top colleges? Find what makes you stand out among the rest. Many students will meet the requirements to get into college. So, to set yourself apart, you’ll need to do more than match the average college GPA. 

Determine what makes you unique, and showcase it in your applications and essays. If you’re wondering how to get into top colleges, this hook will be especially crucial. You want to show the university admissions officers at every school why you’d enrich their campus. 

9. Write and revise your essays. 

When determining how to get into college, your essays are key. Plus, unlike the average college GPA or other college application requirements, you have full control over your essays during your senior year.  Well-crafted essays are the key to a successful college admission process. So, remember to proofread and revise. 

If you want college application tips that will teach you how to get into a top college with strong essays, click here.

10. Decide where to attend. 

So, you’ve learned how to get into college, and you’ve done it—you’ve received your college acceptance letters. At the end of your college admission process, you’ll decide where you want to attend. 

Once you complete the college application requirements for each of the schools on your list, you should have options for where to matriculate. If you are deferred or waitlisted, write a letter of continued interest as an additional step in your college admission process. 

What does the college application process involve?

As you think about getting into college, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. Approach the college admission process with forethought and strategy. The earlier you start planning, the more likely you are to succeed.

The college application process doesn’t have to feel daunting. Here are some key tips to get into top colleges:

  • Start by exploring colleges, earning strong grades in your courses, and getting involved in activities outside the classroom. 
  • Then, narrow down your interests, study for standardized testing, build relationships with teachers, and begin formulating a theme or “hook.” The hook is particularly important if you want to get into top colleges. 
  • Finally, select colleges for your final list, write supplemental essays, complete the college admissions requirements for each school, and decide where to attend.

Of course, the college application process is more complicated than three bullet points. However, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. If you’re feeling stuck, personalized advising can make a huge difference. Check out our CollegeAdvisor.com reviews for more details on how advisors can help you get into top colleges. 

College admissions requirements: what do schools want to see?

Wondering how to get into a good college? Let’s dig into some college application tips and unpack the different college application requirements. This will help you if you’re wondering how to get into Princeton, how to get into UCLA, or how to get into any top college. 

On paper, the college application requirements might seem fairly straightforward. And in some ways, they are—to get into a good college, you need to get high grades, show depth in your extracurriculars, and write strong essays that showcase your identity.

However, to get into top colleges, you must do more than meet the college admissions requirements. Try to bolster every part of your resume, including your grades and extracurriculars. You should also aim to complete any optional college interviews, essays, or supplemental materials. This will impress university admissions officers.

If you don’t quite meet the average college GPA requirements, high standardized test scores can help. If you want to get into a top college, submit strong scores to bolster your profile.

However, test scores won’t matter if you’re wondering how to get into UCLA or another UC school. Colleges in the UC system will not consider SAT or ACT scores for university admissions decisions.

Is college admissions getting more competitive?

It feels like the college admission process is getting more competitive. Acceptance rates are lower than ever, whether you’re trying to figure out how to get into Yale or how to get into Stanford. More students are completing the college admissions process for a greater number of schools. So, to get into top colleges, you need to stand out. 

Getting into college might feel like an uphill battle. However, while the college admissions landscape has shifted, many of the college application requirements remain the same. As you plan, make sure you meet the requirements to get into college. Then, try to boost your resume with impressive grades and engaging activities. 

How to get into a top college?

Everyone wants to figure out how to get into a good college. But, the answer to “how to get into a good college?” will change depending on where you want to attend. Some students set the goal of getting into colleges in the Ivy League. Others focus on getting into colleges that meet their needs in other ways. 

When thinking about how to get into a good college, set yourself up for success with a clear timeline. Think about the requirements to get into college—strong essays, high grades, stellar recommendations, and more. Getting into college, especially top colleges, requires a strong application narrative. Find your “hook,” and make sure it shines through. 

Want some college application tips? Start by thinking about your college application process as an exercise in persuasion. Show every school on your list why you belong at their institution. Remember, the question of how to get into college boils down to mutual “fit”—you want to show colleges that you’re right for them, but those colleges should also be right for you. 

If you’re trying to figure out how to get into Harvard, think about more than the average college GPA and other data. Figure out the story your application tells. Does it convince the reader to admit you? If you’re stuck, think of your application and essays as a college interview on paper. By reading your application, university admissions officers should get to know you. 

The requirements to get into colleges in the Ivy League vary little from those for how to get into a good college. However, they are more likely to admit students who have a “hook.” They also often include multiple supplemental essays in their college admissions requirements. Many of these schools also require college interviews.

How to get into a college with a low GPA?

Want to get into top colleges? First, know that the average college GPA requirements for many top schools will be close to a 4.0. So, strive to show a track record of strong grades. If your freshman year grades weren’t as high as you hoped, you can still get into top colleges. Colleges value growth, so aim for an upward trend in your grades. 

However, it’s not quite enough to just earn strong grades if you want to know how to get into a top college. You should also challenge yourself by taking the most rigorous schedule that you can balance. If your school offers AP, IB, or Honors classes, take them. Colleges would rather see slightly lower grades in challenging courses than straight As in the easiest courses that your school offers.

Admissions teams will review your application in the context of your school. So, you should take advantage of opportunities and show your strengths in the college application process. However, you won’t be penalized if your school offers fewer advanced courses. 

Click here for more college application tips if your GPA doesn’t meet the average college GPA requirements. Remember, there is a lot more to your college application requirements than any college GPA requirements. So, if you don’t have the best grades, don’t get discouraged—just show off what makes you special in other college application requirements instead. 

Choosing the right schools for you

Let’s discuss some more college application tips. 

As you think about how to get into college, you should focus on finding the right schools for you. Don’t just think about “how to get into a good college”—instead, think about what a “good college” really means for you. There’s no point in researching how to get into Duke or how to get into MIT if you can’t see yourself on those campuses. 

You should also be mindful of any specific college application requirements. These may vary by academic program. Some college admissions requirements ask that you take certain classes in high school. Others have overarching college GPA requirements. 

Getting into college is step one, but at some schools, you’ll also need to be accepted into your school or major. So, make sure you look at any additional college admissions requirements for your major. 

College admissions requirements almost always ask you to select your intended major. Sometimes, your “hook” will connect to your intended major—another important factor in the college application process. 

Choosing your major can be difficult. When planning how to get into college, note whether and when you can change your major. College GPA requirements may also restrict major or college transfers. So, depending on where you’re applying, the major you declare on your college applications may or may not have a major impact on you. As with all aspects of the college application process, do your research

Your intended major should also make sense alongside your extracurricular activities and experience. The college admissions requirements also differ when choosing between liberal arts and and pre-professional colleges

Finally, as you build your college list, keep finances in mind. You can find plenty of useful college application tips in this area here. Overall, make sure that you understand financial aid and the cost of attendance at each school. 

College application requirements: What to expect in your college applications

Now that we’ve broken down the broad steps to get into college, let’s discuss each of these steps in detail. By understanding every aspect of the college admissions process, you can increase your chances of getting into top colleges. 

Getting into college takes careful planning and preparation. It’s a process most students only do once. So, be sure to follow these college application tips throughout your college admission process. 

The 3 pillars of college applications

There are three pillars that factor into your plan for how to get into college.

  1. Academics
    1. GPA – Both your weighted and unweighted GPA are important.
    2. Test Scores – Research the school’s standardized testing policy.
    3. Class Rank – Some high schools do not rank, and you will not be penalized for it. 
  2. Essays
    1. Personal statement – This essay will go to almost all of your colleges. 
    2. Supplemental essays – Each school may require you to write supplemental essays. Try to tailor your essays to each school. 
    3. Portfolios – Some schools allow you to submit supplemental arts or major-specific portfolios.
  3. Extracurriculars & Recommendations
    1. Extracurriculars – Colleges value how you spend your time outside of your academic courses. 
    2. Recommendations – In their quest to learn who you are, colleges rely on teachers and counselors who know you personally. 

Types of college applications

When researching how to get into college, you should first determine which kinds of applications you will complete. Keep in mind that the college application requirements may differ for different application portals. Once again, as you think about how to get into a good college, make sure you do your research. 

There are four categories of applications for getting into college:

  1. Universal applications: There are two universal applications for getting into college, the Common App and the Coalition App. On these, you will fill out your information and then complete a supplement for each school. For more on how to ace the Common App, click here. Getting into college requires a lot of work, but the Common App makes it a lot more efficient.
  2. State-specific applications: California uses the UC and Cal State applications, while Texas uses ApplyTexas.
  3. School-specific applications: Some schools, like Georgetown, ask you to submit your application through their own systems. 
  4. International applications: If getting into college internationally is one of your goals, they will have their own systems. 

Candidate profiles

Wondering how to get into a good college? It takes a lot more than researching the average college GPA requirements, university admissions deadlines, and college application tips. To get into top colleges, you’ll need a standout candidate profile. 

Your candidate profile is essentially a three sentence description of who you are, what you do, and why colleges should admit you. A strong candidate profile will help you get into top colleges. So, as you plan how to get into college, keep this factor in mind. 

University admissions offices seek students who show depth in their involvements. Contrary to many college admissions myths, you don’t have to do a little of everything when planning how to get into college. Instead, tailor your extracurriculars to your applications to maximize the impact of your leadership, involvement, service, and other activities.

College Application deadlines

To succeed in the college admission process, start early. If you plan for college admissions well before your senior year, you’ll be prepared to complete all college admissions requirements. 

As you plan, you should keep college admissions deadlines in mind. If you’re wondering how to get into colleges with lower acceptance rates, deadlines are even more important. By pursuing EA/ED programs, you can increase your odds of getting into top schools. 

There are three categories of deadlines for getting into college. 

  1. Early: When planning how to get into college, you can apply in late October/early November to have your decision back by late-December/early January. Early Decision deadlines are binding, but Early Action deadlines are not. Sometimes, applying by this deadline boosts your chance of getting into college. 
  2. Regular: Regular Decision applications are typically due at the beginning of January. You will receive your decisions back in late March or early April.
  3. Rolling: Some schools admit students on a first-come first-served basis, so their official deadline for getting into college would fall in the summer before the academic year begins. However, the earlier you apply, the earlier you’ll receive a decision. 

When researching how to get into college, don’t forget that the college application process is designed to help schools get to know you. So, tell your story to every college admissions office. The answer to how to get into a good college really is a question of mutual fit. 

Tips for completing your college applications

We’ve broken down what the college application process looks like and offered some guidance on how to get into top colleges. Now, let’s break down the requirements to get into college even more. 

Of course, figuring out how to get into college can feel overwhelming. However, getting into college is an exciting process. In this section, we’ll discuss how you can plan ahead for the college admission process. This will increase your chances of getting into top colleges. 

Once you have a clear “how to get into college” plan, you can break down each part of the college application process into simple steps. Then, you can thoroughly research each of the steps to get into college and execute every part of college admissions with confidence. You can also create a “how to get into college” plan, which makes the steps to get into college manageable. This will reduce your stress as you work out how to get into college.   

In the next section of this “how to get into college” guide, we’ll explore the academic steps to get into college. Almost all college admission teams look for a strong academic record. So if you want to get into top colleges, take this part of college admissions seriously. 

Academic requirements for college

Want to know how to get into a good college? Getting into top colleges starts with academic achievement. If you look at the college application requirements for top schools, you’ll notice that many elite colleges value academics above any other aspect of your college applications. So, getting into college requires top-tier grades and scores. 

So, when it comes to academics, what do college admission offices look at? Let’s help you build your “how to get into college” strategy with some expert tips. We’ll talk about the following factors used in the college admission process: college GPA requirements, SAT and ACT scores, high school coursework, and pre-college courses. 

1. College GPA requirements

If you’re wondering how to get into a good college, you’ve likely thought about college GPA requirements. Some schools have specific college GPA requirements, but most do not. However, to see how your grades measure up to your peers, you should research the average college GPA at every school on your list.

The average college GPA is 3.1 nationwide. So the average student who makes it through the college admission process achieves primarily Bs in their coursework. However, if you want to know how to get into a good college, note that Bs likely will not be enough. 

So, as you think about how to get into college, keep your grades in mind. Boost your GPA early in high school, especially if you want to get into top colleges. 

There are two parts to meeting college GPA requirements: the rigor of your coursework and the grades you earn. An A in an AP class will boost your GPA more than an A in a regular class. So, choose difficult classes in which you can achieve good grades. This will help you satisfy the college GPA requirements and exceed the average college GPA.

You may ask—is exceeding the average college GPA an essential part of how to get into college? You can still get into college with a lower GPA. In this sense, there are no true general college GPA requirements. However, if you fall below the average college GPA, you’ll need to prove yourself through other college application requirements. 

2. Standardized tests

Since the emergence of COVID-19 in the US in 2020, standardized tests are no longer part of the college application requirements for some schools. However, they’re still an important thing to consider as you plan how to get into college. 

Similar to the college GPA requirements, college admissions use your standardized test score to compare your academic abilities to others. So, getting into college often requires high scores. 

Want to get into top colleges? Follow these college application tips on standardized testing:

  • Use test prep materials to study the material ahead of the exam
  • Leave yourself time to take the exam more than once
  • Submit your highest score to college admissions offices

If you want to get into top colleges, you’ll need high scores. Your scores will also matter more if your grades fall below the average college GPA. So, study effectively, and start early.

Note that due to the pandemic, many college admissions offices have become test-optional. However, if you can take the tests, we highly recommend including them in your “how to get into college” game plan. Getting into college is competitive, and strong scores can help you stand out to university admissions.

3. High school coursework

Your high school coursework determines your GPA. In addition, college admissions will look at your transcript to see what classes you have taken throughout high school. If you want to get into top colleges, choose tough classes. You should expect university admissions to look for challenging courses on your transcript.

As such, selecting the right courses is one of the first steps to get into college—a core part of your “how to get into college” plan. As you think about how to get into a good college, plan ahead in your courses. Make a four-year course plan that gives you room to explore your interests and achieve high grades. 

Most high schools offer regular classes, honors classes, and AP or IB classes. Want to know how to get into a top college? Take as many AP and honors classes as you can while exceeding the average college GPA. 

4. Pre-college courses 

In some cases, you may have the chance to take pre-college courses. These are courses taught on college campuses, either during the summer or during the academic year. These courses are not a crucial part of getting into college—in fact, attending a pre-college program at a given university does not in any way bolster your chances of getting into that school. So, if you don’t have the chance to take pre-college courses, don’t worry—it won’t make or break your “how to get into college” plan. 

That said, pre-college classes may bolster your resume and help you get into college, especially if you pursue coursework that interests you and accords with your application narrative. However, a one-off pre-college course on a subject that does not interest you will not necessarily boost your “how to get into college” strategy. 

Pre-college classes can help you:

  • Further your studies
  • Pursue topics not taught in your school
  • Get used to the college environment 

Remember, pre-college courses are not necessary to get into college. However, if you’re interested in exploring these opportunities, research pre-college or college courses taught online or in your area. If the material interests you, make signing up part of your “getting into college” plan. 

Pre-college courses can show initiative and college readiness to university admissions. They can also help you get used to a university environment. This may help you as you build your college list and begin the college admission process. However, once again, don’t get too hung-up on pre-college courses—they are not one of the college application requirements. They also may not be affordable for some students, so try to focus on other aspects of the college application process. 

College application essay tips

Another key part of getting into college? Your college essays. 

The college application process includes two major forms of essays: the personal statement and supplemental essays. You can find many college application tips online to make this part of getting into college as straightforward as possible.

If you want to know how to get into a good college, take this part of your “how to get into college” plan seriously. When it comes to getting into top colleges, your essays are key. 

Let’s start by discussing the personal statement.

Personal Statement

The personal statement is one of the college application requirements you will need to complete if you are using the Common Application or Coalition Application. . 

A powerful personal statement is one of the keys to getting into college. As such, it is a crucial part of your “how to get into college” plan. If you want to know how to get into Georgetown or how to get into Yale, the answer lies in a strong personal statement. 

Not sure where to start? Let’s break down how to write a personal statement that will help you get into top colleges. Here are some college application tips to help your personal statement shine. 

1. Brainstorm

First, if you want to get into a top college, or any college, it’s vital to brainstorm essay ideas

Want to know how to get into a good college? Aim to provide information in your essay that can’t be found elsewhere in the college application process:

  • Elaborate on an extracurricular
  • Tell a story about yourself
  • Share parts of your background
  • Talk about anything else that will give college admissions insight into who you are

2. Write 

Once you’ve brainstormed, it’s time to start drafting. Most schools’ college admissions requirements include several essays. This means that college admission officers read thousands of essays as part of the college admission process. Help yours stand out with vivid storytelling. If you’re wondering how to get into a good college, strong essays are crucial. 

Also, read examples of essays that have impressed university admissions. However, your college essays should be your own work and reflect your unique voice. Use essay examples as a guide—not a blueprint.  

3. Proofread

Once you’re done writing, proofread and rewrite several times. Strong essays don’t happen overnight, so don’t be afraid to rewrite your full draft or change your topic entirely. 

You should also make sure your essays don’t have any typos. If you want to impress college admission officers and get into college, your essay must be free of errors. 

4. Show your essay to someone else

Once you are done editing, recruit help from family members or teachers. Ask for their feedback. Does your essay make sense? Is it compelling? Does it contain any typos? 

The personal statement is one of few parts of the college application process where you can show your individuality. So, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine—this is key to getting into college.

Supplemental Essays

Many schools’ college application requirements also include supplemental essays. Supplemental essays are specific to each college application process. Your “how to get into college” plan should include research into the college application requirements for each school on your list.

As you think about how to get into college, make a list of every school’s supplemental essay prompts. Then, start brainstorming and drafting so that your essays shine. This will help you stand out and get into top colleges. 

Let’s take a look at the essay requirements to get into college for some of the most popular universities:

1. Harvard University

Wondering how to get into Harvard? Harvard asks for three supplemental essays, two of which are optional. You can read our breakdown for writing successful Harvard essays here.

2. Yale University

Students who want to know how to get into Yale can familiarize themselves with the essay requirements on Yale’s website. Yale asks for five extended-form essays and four short-response essays. Read our guide.

3. Princeton University

Wondering how to get into Princeton? Princeton asks students to discuss, in 250 words, why they selected their intended program. Research extensively so that you can tailor your response to Princeton’s offerings. The university also asks for responses to five shorter essays. Read our guide for how to get into Princeton.

4. Stanford University

Curious how to get into Stanford? Stanford asks for three 250-word essays. Stanford is known to seek intellectual vitality in these essay responses. So, be sure your topics show off your love of learning—this is how to get into Stanford. Read our guide to writing the Stanford essays.

5. Columbia University

Want to know how to get into Columbia? Columbia requests three essays of 200 words. In addition, Columbia college admission asks three questions with a list format response. If you’re wondering how to get into Columbia, read our guide to Columbia’s essays.

Writing Supplemental Essays- General Advice

Now that we’ve looked at the college application requirements for some of the top university admissions, let’s dive into writing supplemental essays in general. 

1. Research

Remember our steps to get into college? They start with research. As you think about getting into college, make sure to look up every school on your list. This is key to your “how to get into college” plan. 

For example, MIT asks applicants to pick their intended field and discuss why they selected this field. If you want to optimize your “how to get into MIT” plan, it’s vital to prove that you’ve done your research. 

Do enough research to make your supplemental essay responses entirely unique to each college. If you’re wondering how to get into UCLA or how to get into USC, for example, you shouldn’t write the same essays for both. While these schools may seem similar, you should highlight what makes them each unique in your essays. So, if you want to know how to get into USC, the answer is to tailor your application to the school’s programs. This way, the college admission team knows you didn’t simply copy and paste from another school’s supplemental essay. 

2. Personality

Our second tip for getting into college is to imbue your essays with personality. Along with a college interview, essays are one of the college application requirements where you can show individuality. This is a key part of the college admission process. 

Many students write the essays with formality and rigidity—this is not how to get into college. Rather, treat the supplemental essays closer to a nonfiction creative writing sample than an essay.

Remember, college admissions officers read thousands of essays. If you’re wondering how to get into Duke, for example, one of the college application requirements is to detail a part of your background in 250 words. Duke receives 37,000 applicants yearly. So, a vital step to get into a top college, or get into college in general, is to make your stories resonate with the reader. This is how to ace the college admission process.

3. Read success stories

The last of our supplemental essay college application tips for getting into college—read examples of essays that have succeeded in the college admission process. For example, if you’re wondering how to get into Georgetown, look for successful Georgetown essays. While you should never copy another student’s voice, seeing what has worked in the past can help you get into a top college. 

Additional information essays

The last of the written college admissions requirements is in the optional “additional information” essay. This is not one of the college admissions requirements for everyone. In fact, many students leave this section blank. 

When should this section be part of your “how to get into college” plan? When you want to tell college admissions something about your background that doesn’t fit anywhere else. This may include challenges, experiences, or accomplishments.

This section is not a mandatory part of how to get into a good college, or how to get into college at all. So, only write something if it will help a college admission officer understand your circumstances. 

How to request top-notch recommendations?

Another part of the college application process is your letters of recommendation. If you want to know how to get into a good college, make sure these letters feature in your “how to get into college” plan. 

Often, one or two teachers will write your recommendations. The college application requirements for these letters differ by school. So, as you build your “getting into college” plan, familiarize yourself with the college admissions requirements of the schools on your list. 

Decide which of your teachers knows you the best, and approach them early—usually in the spring of your junior year. This gives them time to write thoughtful responses. Be polite; after all, you are asking for a favor.

As part of your “how to get into college” strategy, you should build authentic relationships with your teachers. 

The more your teachers know you as a person, the better they can vouch for you in your recommendation letters. Having strong, personal  letters of recommendation is a key part of how to get into a good college. This is not one of the college admissions requirements to overlook!

Preparing for interviews

At some schools, the requirements to get into college will include a college interview. As such, if you want to know how to get into a good college, make college interview prep one of your key steps to get into college.

Often, the college interview is not one of the requirements to get into college. At many schools, these interviews are optional. However, as we outlined in our college application tips, the optional components of the college admission process can help you stand out. This includes interviews that aren’t part of college admissions requirements.

To prepare for your college interview, research the school and have a clear response to why you’re applying. In addition, think of a few thoughtful questions to ask the college admission interviewer.

Finally, remember the interview is a conversation, not just one of the college admissions requirements. The interviewer wants to know who you are. The more relaxed and conversational you can be, the better you can speak to your achievements.

College application process: When to get started?

Getting into college can feel overwhelming. So, if you’re wondering how to get into college, follow our college application tips. The most important of these college application tips is to start early. 

You can start thinking about how to get into college as early as your freshman year. As you begin high school, try to meet/exceed the average college GPA and find extracurriculars that interest you. 

As for the college admission process itself, we suggest your “how to get into college” plan follows this timeline

  • Tour colleges in your sophomore/junior year
  • Assemble a list of schools you want to apply to
  • Start working on applications in the summer before your senior year
  • Ramp up your application prep as deadlines approach

CollegeAdvisor Success Stories

Getting into college can be tough. CollegeAdvisor has helped thousands of students optimize their “how to get into college” game plan. With a team of over 300 University Admissions Experts and previous university admissions officers, we help students across the nation get into top colleges. 

Our CollegeAdvisor success stories show how getting into college can be successful, straightforward and stress-free. Read more about how we helped our clients simplify the college admission process, submit their college admissions requirements, and get into college in our CollegeAdvisor.com reviews. 

How to get into college: Final thoughts

In this “how to get into college” article, we’ve given you the key steps to get into college.  We’ve also covered the following college application tips for how to get into college:

  • Research the college admissions requirements early
  • Start preparing for getting into college in freshman year
  • Complete all parts of the application, even if it’s not one of the requirements to get into college
  • Show your personality to college admission officers wherever possible

To get into a good college, you’ll need to work hard. However, we know that getting into college is hard, and we believe no student should have to do it alone. 

Figuring out how to get into college takes strategy. With a team of 300+ Admissions Experts and former Admissions Officers, we have the college application tips you need to get into top colleges worldwide. Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272. You can also read more about what our clients have to say in our CollegeAdvisor.com reviews.