There's an old adage that goes something like this: An idiot with a plan is better than a genius without one.

Well, I'm not so sure I agree that an idiot will do well (though, apparently, many have ;-), but certainly, the smart move, particularly when it comes to college admissions, is to have a plan -- and, once you have a plan, to wisely put it into action.

This is especially so when, year after year, colleges are becoming more selective (this year being no exception), and applicants, so much more competitive.

Just take a quick look at the acceptance rates at some of the most highly selective (we won't use the word "best," as "best" for whom is a subjective, explored elsewhere on this blog) colleges and universities.

The New York Times’ The Choice blog recently published a table of admissions statistics from 32 selective U.S. colleges and the data shows a drop in acceptance rates across the board. Not surprisingly, the lowest acceptance rates were at Harvard (6.2 percent, an all-time low for the Ivy), Columbia (6.9 percent), Stanford (7.1 percent), Yale (7.4 percent) and Princeton (8.4 percent) but what’s interesting is that this year, records were broken for applications received. The schools’ explanations for the limited percentages of accepted students? They just had far too many outstanding applicants.

While one of our fellow college bloggers quipped, tongue-in-cheek, that Princeton University had garnered the title of lowest admission rate in the nation, this by simply rejecting every applicant, the low odds of gaining admission to selective colleges (and we're not simply talking the Ivies here) is no laughing matter.

Here on Long Island, where there are so many bright applicants from a plethora of highly competitive school districts -- making demographics yet another consideration in the admissions process' mixed bag of entrance factors -- the odds of "getting in" are even further diminished.

Think it's bad this year for the class of 2015? Just wait until next year's admission decisions are rolled out.

Better yet, particularly if you are a high school Junior (even more advantageous if you are a high school Sophomore), don't wait until next year -- or even this summer -- to get a jump on your fellow would-be college applicants.

Get a plan, and begin to put that plan into action!

The time to start distinguishing yourself from your classmates, rising above the madding crowd (and you already know how tough that competitive spirit is, even in your own school), is now. Where weighted GPAs routinely exceed 4.0, near perfect scores on the SAT and/or ACT dot the high school landscape, and everyone and his cousin is taking three or more AP courses, you simply cannot afford to rest on the laurels of great grades and phenomenal test scores. Quite frankly, they may not be enough to get you in to the college of your choice.

Now is the time to challenge yourself in course selection, prepared to match colleges to your needs and goals. Now is the time to chart your extracurricular activities, out of the "done that, been there" cookie cutter mode. Now is the time to create a professional looking resume, far afield from that boilerplate activity sheet. And yes, now is the time to develop themes and organize thoughts for those all-important (indeed, more important than ever) personal statements and essays. Truly, that which you do now to enhance your standing, academically and otherwise, may very well be the difference between acceptance and rejection.

And then, there's the matter of money. While college acceptance rates are going down, tuition, room and board, and related college costs are going up, up and up. [Even an idiot knows that!] Now is the time to plan and implement a winning (not in the Charlie Sheen sense ;-) strategy to get the money you need to pay for college.

Yes, the college admission process is nothing short of zany. A stress-inducing, frustration-riddled, hair-pulling, nail-biting, "there's got to be a better way" experience.

Truth is, there is a better way. You can reduce the stress. You can increase the likelihood of being accepted. The entire application and admission process can even be fun. [Yes, I said "fun!"]

How? Well, it doesn't take a genius to figure this one out. Get a plan and put it to work for you!
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Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer, the authors of referenced articles and websites, and such guest bloggers as may appear.
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