Four smart tips to successfully apply to college

Connie Jacobs

Many high school seniors have begun applying to college. As a career readiness counselor with the Irvine Unified School District, nothing makes me happier than seeing them accepted into the schools of their dreams. Here are some tips on how to successfully navigate the process.

What has changed in the admissions process?

Admissions offices today are more focused on the parts of the college application that give insight into a student’s story beyond their GPA and courses taken. Students’ stories, projects, extracurriculars and letters of recommendation provide valuable insight and context for admissions officers.

Any advice on finding scholarships?

Be diligent. Free scholarship search tools, including, allow students to search a variety of options. Once you find scholarships for which you are eligible, apply! A significant amount of scholarship money goes unclaimed each year.

How should you choose a university?

What problem do you want to solve in the world? Does a university allow you to pursue your passion through authentic learning experiences? Does it offer leadership opportunities in your major? Does it offer internships and experiential learning? Employers value the social-emotional skills you learn through these experiences.

What about community service projects?

Universities consider community service as a way for students to develop leadership, build relationships and become involved in something they are passionate about. Did you participate in several projects with minimal participation – or one or two projects where you held leadership roles, facilitated meetings and organized events that had a positive impact on those involved in the project? These are important considerations.