Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Chapter 1
In spite of the fact that most colleges are fairly easy to get into, many people feel a sense of accomplishment when they get accepted to a college that doesn't take "just anybody." Getting accepted to a competitive college feels good. It makes you feel like all your work up to now has been worth it. If that is you, then I say, "Go for it." Setting a standard and goals for yourself is a fine idea. But there is a more important reason that positioning yourself to be accepted at a competitive college is important.
People worry so much about how they are going to get into college that few of them put much thought into how they are going to get out of college. When it comes to getting into college, your chances are quite high. However, when it comes to getting out, it's a different story. Many students who start college never finish at the place they started, and many never finish at all. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 23 percent of students entering college will wind up transferring, and only 54 percent of students will actually graduate within six years. We put a lot of emphasis on getting in, but the real issue isn't getting in, it's finding the right fit.
When it comes to getting the most out of college, fit is everything. Fit will determine your happiness, your success, and even whether you will graduate. A bad fit is a bad thing. Finding the right fit, however, can be tricky. Because of this, it's important to have choices. The more choices you have, the better your chances of finding the right fit. The best students, those who are real contenders for highly competitive colleges like Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern, and University of Chicago, have lots of choices. They can pretty much pick any school they want. And, as a result, many of them pick a college that is a good fit. Granted, these kids are good students anyway, but don't underestimate fit. I personally know many top students who transferred out of their original choice or dropped out completely. Students who get admitted to competitive colleges tend to graduate at much higher rates than other students.
So, the moral of the story is that the more choices you have, the better your chances of finding the right fit. And, if you can make yourself a contender for competitive colleges, the number of choices you have will grow substantially.
When I applied to colleges, I wanted to get accepted to a competitive college. I had the odds stacked against me because I was a terrible student, but I had to prove to myself that I could get into a place that didn't take everybody. Based on my academic record, I shouldn't have been accepted at any competitive colleges.
Some might argue that my academic record made me a questionable choice for even non-competitive colleges. But somehow I stumbled upon the techniques in this book and wound up getting accepted to competitive colleges.
Despite getting accepted at competitive colleges, I decided to attend the University of Kansas (KU). (At the time, University of Kansas was not very competitive.) I chose KU because when I went to visit, it felt like the right place for me. All the competitive colleges I visited just didn't seem like a place where I'd be happy. KU was great. I went to lots of parties, made lots of friends, and learned lots of things (both inside and outside of class). I changed so much after a couple of years at KU that my prep-school friends no longer recognized me. I was a changed man, and I have never regretted rejecting the colleges to which I had so dearly wanted to be accepted. KU was the right fit for me, and you should search for the right fit for you, regardless of how "competitive" the college may be.
Colleges Wwant You
Popular media would have you believe that colleges are awash with quality applications and are becoming more competitive than ever. The hype tells you that colleges can have their pick of the litter when it comes to students and unless you're a hotshot with a resume a mile long, you will never get in. There are thousands of colleges that can provide an extremely solid education. They want you; they are looking for you every day. Colleges actively reach out to students and try to entice them to attend. They spend millions of dollars on marketing and hire armies of people to figure out who and where you are. They set up huge scholarship funds to help you pay your way. They hold networking events across the country in an attempt to stimulate referrals. Colleges are after you this very minute. Colleges don't go through this effort just to reject you. They want you to show up ready to learn and ready to participate in all they have to offer.
The colleges that are actively looking for you aren't bottom-feeders. They are great colleges. Even Stanford has admissions counselors who are combing the globe for the right students. Competitive colleges, especially highly competitive colleges, are among the most aggressive marketers. In fact, that's a big part of what makes them competitive. It's not just the quality of educationthat makes them competitive; it's also the quality of their marketing efforts. Better marketing leads to more applications, which leads to competitive admissions. Rest assured, they want you-they really want you! In fact, it's quite strange that so much of college admissions has been built up to seem like a big test. It's as if getting into college is some kind of rite of passage. It isn't. Going to college may be, but getting in doesn't have to be.
As you get closer and closer to applying to college, it gets harder and harder to change your academic and extracurricular record. When you're a senior, you can't say, "Oops! I need to play a freshman sport!" It is for this reason that people freak out so much about essays, recommendations, and the dreaded standardized tests. With application due dates crashing down upon them, they begin to fear that they didn't do all they could do to be good college candidates. You may think that essays, recommendations, and standardized tests can make or break you in the college admissions process. If you think this, then you are reading the right book, because while essays, recommendations, and standardized tests are important, there are much more important things you can do to make the difference.
If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of students hankering for a shot at a competitive college, you are reading the right book. The ideas in this book will dramatically increase your chances of getting into the college of your choice, just like they did for me. No matter where you are in your high school career, if you start these things today, the chance you will get into the competitive college of your choice will improve.
The ideas in this book are pretty straightforward and none of them are really that hard to implement. However, this is not a book of tricks. The ideas are designed to actually transform you into the type of applicant colleges are out there trying to find. Colleges need more unique students who will add diversity and flair to their campuses. The concepts in this book are based on my research and experience as the cofounder of Cappex.com and the founder of College Peas, as well as my real-life experience as a terrible student who managed to stand out and get accepted to many competitive colleges.
If I were the average kid, I would have been thrown to the wolves in college admissions, but I stumbled upon a few things that made the difference. The good news is that my mistakes can become your strategy. Even if you just squeaked by in high school, the ideas I'll show you will give you a second chance at a competitive college. Not all colleges are competitive, so you really don't have to worry that much about getting in, but if you want to get into a competitive college, I can show you how.