The College Whisperer is often asked, "What is the most important factor in deciding college admission?" Grades? Test scores? The essay? Is it making the right choice of colleges to apply to in the first place? And what about cost? That should be considered in the mix, right?

Kinda like asking, "What's the most important ingredient in Grandma's out-of-this world soup?" Leave one out, or put in too much or too little of another, and it doesn't quite taste the same, does it?

Clearly, getting in to college -- as well as choosing the best (for you) colleges to which to apply -- requires a calculated and well thought out approach, taking into account not only factors such as grades, scores and essays, but the many variables and intangibles that go into making your decision, as well as theirs.

No question grades are important, and scores on the ACT and/or SAT matter (except when they don't, such as at the more than 850 "test optional" colleges and universities). So, too, must that college essay (along with those many supplemental essays and queries) give moment to who you are and what you will bring to campus. 

But what about that high school resume, setting you apart from everybody else's "activity sheet"? That search for scholarships and critical financial aid, beyond the Fastweb profile and FAFSA filing? And the college application itself, whether Common App or proprietary. Does what you say and how you say it actually make a difference? Does applying Early Action over Regular Decision improve your chances? Is having a college coach really necessary? You betcha!

In a time gone by, a piecemeal, on-your-own approach to college admissions might have worked for you. A pinch of thinking about where to apply. A smidgen of insight into your personal statement. A second thought about paying for college. A halfhearted fill-in-the-blanks of that application. Add a 5 cent stamp to the envelope, and you were good to go!

Today, in a highly selective and increasingly competitive college admissions environment, piecemeal just doesn't cut it, and going it on your own is fraught with many a pitfall that could well doom college prospects.

From college matching to admission strategies, application enhancement and essay development to scholarship and financial aid sourcing, the challenges and uncertainties of the college application and admissions process -- as well as your hopes and dreams of getting into the college of your choice -- call for a decisive and comprehensive plan of action. You have to look at the big picture, and not merely the oddly shaped pieces of the puzzle, taking a holistic approach to your college game plan.

If you've got college plans, you need a college planner. After all, getting in to college shouldn't be left to chance!

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.

Who knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process? The College Whisperer knows. . . 
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