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College Admissions Checklist: A step by step guide

What does it take to get into college and are there things you or the students in your life can do to avoid the headaches that can often come with the process? ...

What does it take to get into college and are there things you or the students in your life can do to avoid the headaches that can often come with the process?

With application deadlines looming we asked admissions professionals and new college freshmen about what it takes to find success.

“In total I applied to eight schools, Trinity, Syracuse, Northwestern, Northeastern, University of Chicago, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, UNH, and the University of Maryland,” said Trinity College Freshman, Adam Minahan.

Karen Garcia found the process can be a challenge for the entire family, “They were very stressed because I dropped the bomb on them that I wanted to go out of state,” says fellow freshman, Karen Garcia.

So what can you do to limit the stress and hopefully find success?  Courtney Roach is on the admissions team at Trinity College, we asked for her advice no matter where you’re applying.

“If students pace themselves throughout their entire high school experience, and really break the process into small bits, then it really is a manageable experience,” says Roach.

Roach says high school freshmen and sophomores should be paying attention to the clubs and activities they are involved with and the classes that they are taking to stand out. Roach encourages juniors to consider more challenging courses and says while you don’t need to do a thousand things new opportunities outside the classroom are key.

“From a high school junior, I think it is a time where they should really ramp up their involvement in their clubs and extracurriculars, take on a leadership role or explore something new.”

This is also the time to start looking at schools. “Not necessarily specific schools, but looking kind of at broad general, so looking at schools by size, or by location, or by department, not necessarily narrowing down the list Really quickly, but thinking broad,” says Roach.

Author Paul Tough wrote, "The Years That Matter Most:  How College Makes Or Breaks Us."  Tough says there are other questions to consider in finding the right fit, “I think anyone making a choice about higher education, about college needs to think About graduation rates, they need to think about expenses, they need to think about whether it’s better to stay close to home or go far away and those answers are not always clear.”

And Minahan says looking to others for advice helps. “The moment I started talking to teachers and students who have been through this process before, I felt 10 times more relaxed,” says Minahan.

Senior year is all about finalizing your list, staying organized, and putting your best foot forward. “Just be yourself, try to be as meticulous as you can and try not to stress over whether they are going to like you or not,” says Garcia.

Roach also encourages applicants to stay in touch, “People often view admissions officers, as not human or that we are just robots behind a computer screen, but we want to engage with students.”

Seniors are reminded that applications are about showing your passions, not perfection. “I think there is often this myth, the colleges are looking for the well-rounded student, I think there really isn’t a student you can do everything perfectly, it’s very idealistic,” says Roach.

So where does all of this leave the moms and dads who can often hover over the college process with good intentions? Minahan says he found a good balance with his parents.

“They would give their input when they thought it was necessary, But they realize to let off the pedal a little bit when I was in the moment, says Minahan.

Roach says adults should support the college application process but not take the lead, “It’s often very transparent for us if we feel a student isn’t being genuine or if it is not their voice that is coming through in the application, or the visit experience process.”

The bottom line, take a deep breath and be yourself, Keep calm keep your mind open, at the end everything will be OK. You just have to ride it out.”

Commonapplication.com and Collegeboard.org are two good sites for parents and students to check out.

We want to know what worked in your own family. Send us your suggestions, what works for you to share61@fox61.com