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What can I do as a freshman to get into a selective college?

QUESTION: Dear Experts: I am a freshman who is not involved in anything yet. I know that there will be a lot of hardships ahead, but at this point, what should I do to enter a selective college? Signed, Little Freshman

Dear Little Freshman: It's never too early to start preparing and you are doing yourself a huge favor by thinking about college admissions early.

We have said this enough times to sound like a broken record or skipping CD when we say focus on grades and take the most challenging course load that your school offers. Your academic record is critical for being admitted to selective colleges.

However, besides academics, find out what you are truly interested in besides school work. Join clubs, an athletic team, the orchestra or another organization that fits your interests.

This has two positive effects. First, it helps to find what you enjoy early, allowing you to develop your interests. Second, you stand out in the eyes of the teachers who are advisors. This is no small asset when they write your recommendations and can comment not only on your academic prowess but also your extracurricular interests.

And, start exploring colleges. Visit those nearby in person, and visit those farther away through their Web sites. Get a sense of what you want from your college experience.

We have a chapter in our book, Get Into Any College, that covers the entire gamut of what you should be doing now to help improve your chances later. It's a good idea to read the whole book since it will give you a perspective on the admissions process that few, if any, of your classmates will have.

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Gen & Kelly Tanabe

Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.