Navigating the college application process: tips from college admissions expert Heather Ayres

Navigating the college application process: tips from college admissions expert Heather Ayres was originally published on Intern From Home.

We hope you’ve been enjoying the Q&A Series with Heather Ayres. This Q&A is the final one in the series and it will be discussing how high school students can best navigate the college application process. Let’s dive in.

IFH: If a student is a few years away from college, what should they be doing now to best prepare for college admissions? How could an internship fit into that?

HA: Take advantage of any and all opportunities to connect classroom and real world learning – this will help you in clarifying your career interests, recognizing relevant connections in what you’re studying, meeting people who will broaden your perspective… the list goes on and on! At this early stage, especially, an internship is a wonderful way to grow your understanding of the wider world and discover new things about yourself.

IFH: You’ve worked with a lot of seniors in high school who are applying to college. What do you often hear them say they wish they knew/did when they were younger in high school?

HA: They often wish they had taken fuller advantage of high school options, by challenging themselves and/or pursuing courses in new fields of interest. It’s good to be adventurous and to engage wholeheartedly in activities you truly care about doing. It’s hard to find a true sense of purpose when you’re following the crowd!

IFH: What do you think students’ biggest misconception is around the college admissions process?

HA: One of the most common misconceptions is that where you go to college matters more than what you do while you’re there. Yes, highly selective colleges provide access to valuable professional networks. But doors to networks can be opened any number of ways – particularly when you knock with a portfolio of meaningful work to show the person on the other side what you’re capable of contributing.

IFH: How can students avoid feeling over-stressed by college admissions?


  • Don’t succumb to the myth that it’s about where you go to college vs. what you do when you’re there.
  • Do devote yourself to discovering and deepening your interests during high school.
  • Don’t fall prey to the idea that “colleges want to see” x or y or z and that you “need to have an application that includes” a or b or c.
  • Do know what colleges “want to see” is that you can be academically successful in their programs of study, self-motivated, personally and intellectually engaged in the activities you select, caring and supportive of your fellow learners, receptive to taking advice, and open to new ways of thinking and experiences.

IFH: Heather, on behalf of the whole Intern From Home community, we want to say thank you. The insights and advice you have shared throughout this entire Q&A series have been so valuable. We deeply appreciate you taking the time to join us.

Did you enjoy this guide? You’re in for a treat: this is just one of dozens of guides created for students about how to handle the recruiting (aka: getting an internship/job) process. To see all of the other guides, subscribe to Intern From Home’s newsletter (it’s completely free!) where we talk about all things from using LinkedIn to preparing for an interview to making the most of your role.

By Intern From Home
Helping students from 600+ colleges learn about how to find and get an internship/job, use LinkedIn, prepare for interviews, write a cover letter/resume, make the most of their role, and more.