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How to Prepare for College Applications

Preparing for college applications can seem like a daunting task but remember: JB Tutoring is here to help! Below you will find a list of things to keep in mind when it comes to college applications as you make your way through high school, along with a DIY list of tasks for college application preparation. We also explain how, when, and where we can help throughout these steps. If you’re someone who likes to see the whole scope of a project, start with the “Do-It-Yourself” section. If you’re someone who is overwhelmed by the mere thought of tackling big projects on your own, skip down to the ”How We At JB Tutoring Can Help” section.

**Note: It's important to remember that the college preparation process starts long before your junior or senior year of high school. Here you’ll find tips and strategies for how to prepare for college applications, not just in your last two years of high school, but throughout the entirety of your high school career.**

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Overview - What to Keep in Mind Throughout High School

College Admissions Criteria

In order to set yourself up for success in the college application process, it's important to have a clear understanding of what colleges look for in their applicants. Although every college is different, there are some common factors all colleges consider important in the admissions process, including:

● Academic record (grades, rigor of coursework, test scores)

● Extracurricular activities (sports, volunteer work, part-time jobs…)

● Essays/personal statements (writing sample, traits, values, interests, voice…)

● Letters of recommendation (what do teachers, coaches, employers, think of you?)

● Demonstrated interest in the college (why are you interested in a particular major/college?)


One of the most important factors for college admissions is your academic record…your GPA and the rigor of your coursework. For that reason, it's important to take challenging courses and maintain good grades all throughout high school, not just in your junior and senior years. This shows that you have a strong work ethic and are capable of handling the demands of college-level coursework.

In addition to your grades, standardized test scores (such as SAT or ACT) can also play a role in the admissions process. For that reason, it's a good idea to start preparing for these tests early (as early as the summer after your sophomore year), and to take them multiple times to achieve your desired score.


While academics are important, colleges also want to see that you're a well-rounded person with a variety of interests and experiences. This means it is important to participate in different extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, band, volunteer work, community service, or part time jobs. You should pursue activities that align with your interests and seek opportunities to demonstrate leadership and initiative within the activities you select. Colleges value students who demonstrate sustained commitment to a particular area of interest or talent, so try to stick with at least some of your activities, in some way, for a year or more. For example, you can participate in competitions, attend summer programs or camps, pursuing independent research or creative projects, and so on.


Now that you have a sense of what criteria colleges consider when making their admissions decisions, let’s get into what you can do NOW to prepare for college:

1. Research colleges and universities

The first step in preparing for college applications is to think about what you want out of your college experience. What’s important to you? Is it a specific major or area of study? Public vs. private? Big or small? Hot climate or warm climate? Use your unique criteria to guide your research on colleges and universities. Make a list of the schools that appeal to you, and then research each school in further detail. Look at the school’s website, read student reviews, and schedule a campus tour! All of this can help you gain a better idea of if that school is the right place for you.

2. Determine admission requirements

Once you’ve identified some schools that you are interested in, check out their admission requirements. What’s the average GPA for admitted freshman? What about average SAT/ACT score? This information will help you to ensure that you’re taking the necessary steps to meet that college’s requirements. Admission requirements can include things like test scores, essays, letters of recommendation, variety of extracurricular activities, and more. Make a list of each school’s requirements, and make sure to keep track of deadlines to ensure that you don’t miss any important dates. You can also keep these admission expectations in mind when making academic and extracurricular decisions throughout your time in high school so you are sure to meet the standards of your desired schools.

Remember, participating in extracurricular activities can help to demonstrate your skills and interests and make you a more competitive applicant. These activities can also help give the admissions team insight into who you are, your passions, and values. These activities and experiences can also provide you with stories for your essays. This is why it’s important to choose activities that you’re passionate about, and commit to them for a significant period of time.

3. Take standardized tests

Most colleges and universities encourage applicants to take standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT, but many colleges have now made it an optional component of the application process. College readiness exams like the SAT and ACT are intended to assess a student’s academic abilities and potential for success in college. It’s important to take these tests seriously and prepare for them in advance. Consider taking a test prep course to review relevant concepts and skills, and definitely make sure you take practice tests to familiarize yourself with the format and content of the exam.

4. Write an essay/personal statement

Many colleges and universities require applicants to write a personal statement essay. This is an opportunity to showcase your personality, skills, values, interests, and accomplishments beyond your GPA and test scores. Take time to reflect on who you are, what’s important to you, and what you want for your future. All these things can help you craft an essay that is authentic and compelling.

Essay Preparation

One of the most important components of your college application is your essay or personal statement. This is your opportunity to show colleges who you are as a person and what you can bring to their college community. Here are some tips for preparing your essay:

Start early: Give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm ideas and draft your essay. This will help you avoid feeling rushed or overwhelmed as the application deadline approaches.

Reflect on your experiences: Jot down ideas and stories that relate to who you are as a person and what you're passionate about. This might include a challenging experience you've overcome, a volunteer project that's important to you, or a hobby or interest that's shaped your identity.

Keep track of your activities: As you participate in extracurricular activities, keep track of your involvement and any leadership roles or accomplishments within those activities.

Study examples: Read examples of successful college essays online to get a sense of what works and what doesn't. This will help you understand the tone, style, and structure of a strong essay.

Seek feedback: Ask teachers, mentors, or other trusted individuals to review your essay and provide feedback. This can help you identify areas for improvement and make your essay as strong as possible.

**Check out our blog posts that specifically focus on this topic and learn how to write a strong college essay

Secure letters of recommendation

Most colleges and universities require applicants to provide letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, or other professionals. It’s important to give your recommenders plenty of notice and to provide them with any necessary information, such as deadlines and submission requirements. Choose recommenders who know you well and can speak to your strengths and accomplishments.

Prepare for interviews

Some colleges and universities require applicants to participate in an interview as part of the application process. This is more rare than common. However, interviews are an excellent opportunity to showcase your personality and demonstrate why you’re a good fit for the school. Research the school’s interview requirements and prepare for the interview in advance. This can include practicing common interview questions, researching the school, and preparing thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer.

How We At JB Tutoring Can Help

We at JB Tutoring specialize in providing guidance and support to young people as they navigate the college application process. Seeking a tutor to support you can be hugely beneficial in terms of saving time and reducing stress. With our years’ of experience, expertise in what colleges and universities are looking for, and familiarity with the important deadlines and annual schedules of tasks, we can help simplify the process immensely at every stage.

For example, instead of beginning your research step from scratch, we can listen to what type of university or program you’re looking for and often point you in the right direction.

The primary advantage of working with us for this college admission process is our extensive knowledge and experience regarding what admission committees are looking for in a successful applicant. We can help you understand the specific requirements of each college or university, and offer guidance on how to best showcase your strengths and accomplishments. This can be especially helpful for anyone who is unsure of what classes or activities to pursue that relate to certain majors or programs. A tutor can also be immensely valuable in helping students figure out what to include in your personal statement or essay and how to organize it.

In addition to providing guidance on the application process itself, we can also help you stay organized and on track throughout the process. We can assist with creating detailed to-do lists, tracking deadlines, coaching in how to ask for letters of recommendation, and ensuring that all necessary materials are submitted in a timely manner. This can be incredibly helpful in terms of reducing anxiety and ensuring that you are able to submit the strongest application possible.

Another key benefit of working with us is that we can help you access the best possible resources for your college applications. This includes narrowing down the information overload present on the internet, providing access to the best SAT/ACT practice tests and test prep materials, pointing you towards the most helpful online resources, and even connecting you with alumni or current students at the colleges or universities you are interested in. By having access to these resources, you will be better able to prepare for the application process and present yourself in the best possible light.

So if you’re preparing for college applications, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to do it alone. We can provide any and all of the support, guidance, and resources you need to navigate the process successfully and confidently. By combining the strategies outlined above with the expertise and experience of a trusted tutoring or mentoring service, you can give yourself the best possible chance of success in your college applications!


Applying to college can be a daunting task, but with the right preparation, it can be a manageable, even exciting, process. It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to do it alone. We value providing the support, guidance, and resources you need to navigate the college admission process successfully and confidently. By combining the strategies outlined above with the expertise and experience of a trusted tutor, you can give yourself the best possible chance of success in your college applications!

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