The college admissions process is difficult. Students must decide to which schools they'll apply, and the schools then must decide which students they'll accept.
Joyce Mitchell, author of "Winning the Heart of the College Admissions Dean," gave "GMA Weekend" tips on how to win at this complicated and competitive admissions game. Here are her tips to help parents and kids choose and get into the right school:
Don't choose the college based on price. You really don't know how much you will have to pay until you get your financial aid package. Most students get some form of aid. Also, keep in mind that some of the most expensive schools have the most generous financial aid packages.
Don't choose based on career plan. Freshman typically change their mind about what they want to do three times that year, and 50 percent of all college grads aren't even in a career related to their major. So, you don't want to be at a school known for one particular specialty if you end up choosing another.
Do choose by looking at the campus culture. Students usually leave a college because they don't fit in, not because of money or programs.
Do have eight first choices. That might sound like a lot, but it isn't with all the competition out there. You can't choose your college until your college has chosen you. To increase your chances of getting into a school you like, do your research and find at least eight schools you like.
Don't answer your cell phone in the interview. If you do, you're dead in the water. It sounds like common sense, but some teens need to be reminded to turn off their cell phones anytime they are meeting with the college rep, who should always get their undivided attention. If you get to know the college reps and make a favorable impression on them, they will advocate for you.
Don't ask about SAT scores. Test scores are only part of the admission puzzle. Asking about SAT scores doesn't tell you enough about the school.
Do focus on what you learned through extra-curricular activities. These days, everyone does tons of after-school activities, so just that you participate will not impress the admissions committee. But you can distinguish yourself from other applicants by explaining what you've learned by doing these activities.
Do get to know your guidance counselor. Make friends with the guidance counselor whether you like them or not. If the dean of admission has a question about you, he or she will call your guidance counselor -- not your favorite teacher or coach.