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College: How to get in after putting it off

As incoming college freshman head off to school, students who decided to put off school for a year or two will still have plenty of their own homework, trying to plan for the future. Here's what you need to know if you still want to go to college... just not right this second. 

The class of 2015 is gearing up to begin college this fall, with acceptance letters in hand. If you decided to put off school until next year or somewhere else down the road, it's still important to get the process started now.

Here to help are Robin Mamlet and Christine VanDeVelde, the authors of the newly released book "COLLEGE ADMISSION: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step." Mamlet spent 23-years in college admission as Dean of Admission at Stanford, Swarthmore, and Sarah Lawrence and Christine VanDeVelde is a parent who offers success tips on navigating the process of getting into college.



What are the challenges someone might face by putting off college for a year or two after high school?

The biggest challenge is applying to college without direct access to your high school support system -- the counselors who can guide you, and the teachers who write your recommendations.

Students who do not apply to college directly from high school will have to reach out to their high school counselors -- even if this has to happen long-distance -- to obtain their guidance and involvement. Chances are, they will be pleased to help and happy you are taking this step.

To get recommendations from high school teachers, give them as much advance notice as possible. Provide them with a short, but thorough letter, reminding them who you are, when you took their class, and what you got out of it. We have an entire chapter on recommendations in our book.



Will they need to take the ACT and SAT over again?

Applicants typically are not asked to retest if their scores were reported in the last five years. Even past five years, many colleges will say it’s not necessary. Requirements will vary from college to college so check with each school to which you're applying.

How has the admission process changed in the past few years? Is it more difficult for adult students to go back to school?

Applying to college has become more competitive in general in the last few years. But we believe adult students will find the welcome mat is out. We do encourage you to be sure the colleges that interest you are “adult-student friendly.” Look for signs such as attendance rates of adult students; opportunities for evening and weekend classes, especially if you will be attending part-time; and availability of married-student housing.



What is the most important thing to remember when trying to get accepted into college?

One of the refrains in our book -- which applies to all applicants -- is "Authentic, authentic, authentic." The most important thing to remember is that colleges are seeking to understand who you are. So, colleges will be very interested in hearing your story -- in particular, your reasons for transferring or returning to college after a break of a few years.

Both returning adult students and transfer students should also remember applying to college takes a considerable amount of time and they will need to plan for that.

Does "no" always mean "no?" Should you try to get into a college again if you've been rejected once?

Certainly you can apply someplace again if you really want to go there. Typically, colleges that said “no” before will be looking for evidence of your growth in the interim – whether that growth came from outside of the context of school, through a job, military service, or travel experience, or from going to another college for one or two years and raising your academic performance.

But make sure you apply as well to schools that have either admitted you before or where the "numbers" -- your grades and test scores as compared to those of their admitted classes -- suggest you have a good chance of being accepted. In our book, we discuss how to evaluate your academic record so you can understand your likelihood of being admitted at different kinds of schools

To about how many schools should someone apply?

We
encourage first-time applicants – whether traditional age or older adult
– to apply to eight to ten colleges. Transfer students are generally
best served by applying to three to five.

What if you want to change schools in the middle of your education? What are some things to consider?

This is a very good time to be applying to college as a transfer student. There is a greater awareness that transfer students add an important element to the campus community, bringing new ideas and a little more experience than a typical first-year student. Many colleges have more spaces allotted for transfers than ever before.

Find more on getting accepted into college on EducationOption.

 
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