Setting Your Course to College!    by Patti Brugman

Just a few days ago, (July 2013) my brother left aboard Medicine Man on his 8th Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii. The secret to winning, he says, is to strengthen yourself, your crew, and your ship. In addition, you’ve got to play the winds and set the best course to the finish line. I liken my brother’s formula to the whole college process. And most important, we both agree, is building yourself for the finish.


If you’re beginning the college process or just thinking about it, let’s consider how to strengthen yourself, so that your teachers and school can help you set a winning course to the right college. First, let’s find your personal areas of strength. Some students might think they have only have a few of the following talents, but if you look at the list carefully, you might find that you can bolster your appeal by developing strengths in other areas.  Here the ones that I think are most important for academic success and college acceptances:


·      Academic Strength: The most important information you send to colleges is your transcript. (Your essays are second, followed by recommendations and test scores.) To improve your standing, increase your intellectual curiosity. The more you want to know something, the better you’ll do in the subject.  Read, visit museums, and talk to smart people to find areas that you want to know more about.  Then take action.  Now is the time!


·      Extracurricular Efforts and Community Service: Colleges have all sorts of clubs and activities on campus. Fraternities and sororities are built on camaraderie and community service. Give time to others and, by doing so, build up your resume for college admission and for a future job!  Time is never wasted when you’re giving it for the good of others!


·      Leadership and entrepreneurial pursuits: If you see a need or have an idea, go with it all the way to the top!  An admissions officer from Harvard once told me that that’s what he looks for to distinguish pretty good kids from excellent ones. Organize a school picnic to bring students and faculty together. Or create a business as a computer expert.  Or run the school council on budget for the first time in several years.  Doing something exceptional is the mark of excellence that will set you apart.


·      Athletic and Special Talents: To receive special notice from athletic scouts, be sure to register early and online. Talented athletes will find it easier to be noticed by smaller colleges that need players for all their teams.  They may not be able to offer admission based on how far you can hit a tee shot (in golf), but they will certainly consider your ability as a big part of your package. In addition, musicians, writers, artists are also sought-after.  Schools have newspapers to write, plays to produce, concerts to perform!  You do not need to declare a sports or art major in order to participate in these activities if you attend a smaller school. At larger schools, there are intramural teams and plays, orchestras, and choirs to join for the non-professional student. Build on your strengths now so that you can be your very best by the time you submit your college applications!


So back to the race—as of today, my brother still has 1,000 miles to go to Hawaii, but with all strong preparation and a course set for the best wind, they will finish in just a few days. Your journey to college can be just as sure.  If you build on your strengths and set your course, you’ll be there right on schedule.

 July 2013