Head of the class: How to get accepted to the school of your choice

(BPT) – With tuitions at an all-time high, the cost of college and the increasingly competitive job market have become major considerations for aspiring college students and their parents. Students are not only focusing on where they can get in, but where they can get the best education that will set them up for a desirable career. The most challenging part of the journey to success is oftentimes the first step – gaining admissions.

Where it was once considered common practice to only apply to three or four colleges, today’s students apply to 10-15. So how should today’s students tackle the daunting college admissions process?

There is a lot that aspiring college students and parents can do to prepare, according to Dr. Katherine Cohen, LinkedIn Higher Ed expert and Founder and CEO of IvyWise. As one of the nation’s top college admissions consultants, Dr. Cohen offers tips on maximizing college preparation, including leveraging your network, to get you onto the path towards acceptance into college, and ultimately your dream job:

Make the most of your college prep – start early, be prepared, and stay organized: The key is to start early and think ahead. Take the most rigorous courses available at your high school, particularly in the field of your intended major or in something that might interest you. If you think you might be interested in going into social work, take a psychology class. The same applies to extracurricular activities, select a few that are of interest and engage deeply. Admissions teams consider fit as well, and want to attract students who they feel will thrive and contribute to the campus community.   Perhaps the most important way to prepare is by doing careful and extensive research. A college should be a great fit for your career aspirations, as well as your academic, social, and financial goals. Don’t limit yourself to just a short list of name recognition universities.

Leverage available resources: There are a number of new online resources available to help guide you and your family as you tackle the college decision-making process. LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional online network, offers a range of new higher education tools that provide aspiring students and young professionals with the opportunity to make informed decisions on which universities, majors and skills will help them achieve personal and professional success in years ahead.

* University Rankings helps students identify and rank universities that are launching graduates into their desirable jobs in key industries, based on career outcomes of alumni from the more than 332 million LinkedIn members. Say you are interested in Advertising; did you realize that the University of Pennsylvania is one of the top schools for you?

* Decision Boards is a great new tool that helps prospective students organize their school search in one place. It also helps students make well informed decisions by enabling friends, family, alumni, and current students to provide advice and insight on a school that might interest you.

* University Finder helps students achieve their career goals by easily identifying schools that meet their interests based on desired area of study, companies of interest and preferred location.

Connecting, connecting, connecting is king: Even though students don’t have decades of professional experience, they can still develop strong relationships with their network of teachers, family friends and coaches – to help provide insight into suggested schools, how to tackle college applications and to provide recommendations.

Don’t forget to also connect with admissions officers, they hold the keys. Introduce yourself at college fairs, on college visits, and request their contact information in order to establish a line of communication. Ask meaningful questions but don’t bombard them – you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Use connections to seek out internships or volunteer opportunities to get hands-on experiences in a particular field. Students can achieve this by connecting with others on LinkedIn, and exploring possible connections through the LinkedIn University pages. Tap into the resources available to develop meaningful and influential relationships that can help you make an informed college decision.

Finding, applying, and gaining admission to the best fit college for you is an incredible challenge, particularly as it pertains to your job prospects and career path once you graduate. However, by following these tips and using the online resources available, you’ll not only find the best college for your academic and career goals – you’ll get in, too.

For more information, visit LinkedIn University pages: www.linkedin.com/edu/.

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