LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — When students wave goodbye to high school, the next step in education can be both exciting and scary.

Arizona Baskin is touring UCLA’s campus and weighing his options. He centered his college applications around his 4.0 GPA.

“I’ve applied to 30 colleges and I think the number is rejected by 16, accepted by six,” Baskin said. “I had to rely more on academics and my hobbies because I don’t really do sports that much.”

Whether you’re an academic standout or an athlete, Pria Chatterjee, a Harvard graduate and college admissions consultant, says there are ways of successfully cracking the code to getting into top universities.

“I really don’t think fear should be a part of this process,” Chatterjee said.

In her book, “The Dirty Little Secrets of Getting Into a Top College”, she explains the eight important factors students should consider in the application process: legacy, geography, race, citizenship, family income level, academics, athletics and extracurriculars.

“If you’re a B student who’s a gifted musician or a gifted athlete or a community service activist, well that’s your package,” Chatterjee explained, adding that it doesn’t hurt if you haven’t played a sport.  “It’s just one of the ingredients that can help make a student competitive,” she said.

Chatterjee’s tips for building a knockout application include playing to the student’s strengths, not trying to be a Jack of all trades, and becoming an expert at a niche sport, like fencing, because it will help you stand out.

Above all, don’t pick a school based on its name.

Chatterjee believes if you use these hooks, you can gain a competitive advantage over other candidates when applying to even the toughest universities — and maybe one day be an electrical engineer like Arizona hopes to become.

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