The past three years have witnessed significant shifts in college admissions, including the widespread adoption of test-optional policies, the Supreme Court’s decision to end race-conscious admissions, and a reduced emphasis on legacy admissions. These changes have left many college applicants (and their parents) grappling with a sense of uncertainty. Amid this evolving landscape, the key is not just identifying the new checkboxes to tick off (volunteer hours might not be the key), but rather, understanding how to approach college admissions in 2024 with tenacity, grace, and strategic ease. Here are five college admissions resolutions to guide applicants in strategically channeling their efforts, and increasing their chances of securing spots in Ivy League and similarly selective institutions.

1. Pledge To Foster Your Intellectual Curiosity

Beyond the confines of high school curriculum, successful applicants stand out by nurturing intellectual interests in one or more subjects. Often, this involves engaging in research projects, with some of the most successful endeavors being conducted under the guidance of university professors. Alternatively, fostering intellectual curiosity can be achieved by delving into books aligned with personal interests, such as exploring feminist theory or immersing oneself in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. These experiences contribute to a well-rounded applicant profile. Consider a new way of fostering your intellectual curiosity in your college admissions resolution this year. 

2. Develop Original Ideas About Intellectual Works

It’s not sufficient to merely read influential books and publish research papers; colleges seek applicants who can reflect deeply on their scholarly pursuits. When crafting application essays, it’s essential to showcase how intellectual curiosity intersects with one’s identity and character. Sharing personal experiences that have shaped intellectual interests adds authenticity. For example, an aspiring philosopher might explore their journey of wrestling with conflicting schools of thought and arriving at personal conclusions.

3. Make A Genuine Effort To Connect With College Representatives

To make a compelling case for admission, applicants must understand how a college will enrich them academically and personally. A college admissions resolution could be engaging with faculty, administrators, and fellow students. This provides valuable insights into the college’s culture and resources. A strong college essay should articulate specific and concrete reasons for choosing a particular institution, demonstrating a genuine understanding of how the college aligns with the applicant’s goals.

4. Choose The Right Major Before You Apply To College

This college admissions resolution isn’t about making a final career decision but about encouraging applicants to develop self-knowledge that helps set appropriate goals for their college major. Aligning the chosen major with demonstrated strengths from both in-class and out-of-class experiences creates a narrative that supports the choice. Even if a student decides to change majors later, they can have confidence in their application, knowing they chose the best major for the present moment.

5. Craft A Compelling Mission For Why You Want To Go To College

Going to college might be a societal expectation, but applicants are encouraged to reflect on why they personally want to attend and how college fits into their overall goals. Envisioning oneself as a retiree, applicants can ponder how they will have made the world a better place through their work and life. Connecting this vision to the college they are applying to underscores the alignment of personal goals with the institution’s values.

In the ever-changing landscape of college admissions, one thing remains constant: applicants have agency in preparing strategically. By adopting and committing to these college admissions resolutions, students position themselves for success, enhancing their appeal as college applicants.

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