How Choosing Your Classes Ahead of Time Can Help You Get into the Right College

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Let’s say you want to go to Stanford. And let’s say all goes well and you get in. At some point you'll have to decide which classes to take. So why wait? Why not pick classes before you even apply? Here are three reasons why it might actually help:

1. Mapping out your classes now is a great way to find out if the school is a good fit. If the school doesn’t have the classes or programs you want, better to find out now. And if it doesn’t, find a school that does. There are hundreds of other great colleges to choose from.

2. Knowing which classes you'll take can lead to a better "why us" statement. How? Demonstrating to the admissions officers that you’ve really thought through your academic plan at their school will help them envision you at the school.

3. You have the power to shape your future. And I’m not saying this in the abstract self-help sense of “If you can dream it you can do it.” I’m talking about the difference between fantasizing and envisioning. And there’s a big difference, as Douglas LaBier points out:

A fantasy is more like a wish or ungrounded notion of something you hope for or idealize acquiring. Creating a vision, however, is a more specific and developed formulation. You experience it as a process, steps along the way that you move through, in order to turn it into reality.

Do you have the right goal?

Ask yourself: am I thinking of getting into college as trying to “get something” for myself? Am I trying to satisfy my own ego? According to LaBier, “such goals are, in fact, less likely to generate positive outcome, whether in personal life or at work. The most creative, positive accomplishments and achievements result from learning to "forget yourself," in the sense of putting your energies into something larger than just your own ego-gratification.”

So try re-thinking the goal of getting into college. Think of the classes you’ll take as a means to a greater end. What greater end? You tell me. What great work will you do in the world?

See, I believe that going to a great college, taking great classes, and finding a great career, are not ends in themselves, but ways of meeting our fundamental needs. And one of those needs, if you agree with Tony Robbins, is making a contribution to the world.

Or, as my friend Greg would say:

Ask not, “How can I get?” but “What can I give?”


Written by Ethan Sawyer – In addition to being the College Essay Guy, Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.

Posted on February 26, 2014 and filed under College Admissions, Colleges & Universities, Resources.