There are many paths to a college education. You need to find the way that works best for you. We’ve provided a list of several road signs you might want to pay attention to on your way. Which ones apply most to you?
*Most colleges want students who’ve chosen a rigorous high school curriculum that challenges the them and may include AP or IB classes.
Colleges want to know that you’ll be successful in your academic work. The best predictor of future success is past success. So, here’s something sensible to consider when making course selection decisions. For example, If you’re interested in sciences, maybe it’s more important to enroll in AP Biology, Chemistry and Physics than in AP Euro and APUSH. Consider the choices only if you’ll be overwhelmed taking both science and social studies advanced classes. If you can handle it, take as challenging a curriculum as you can!
*Grades are important. Colleges appreciate grades that represent strong effort and an upward trend might get their attention. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all As in less challenging coursework.
You’re not doomed if you don’t have a 4.0. Do your best, always. Sometimes 9th grade marks suffer when students are working hard adjusting to high school. Colleges understand that. Sometimes, it takes students a year or two to get organized and find a study system that works for them. Colleges understand that too. If you can explain why your freshman/sophomore grades are less stellar than your junior/senior grade;, you’ll have an opportunity to do so in your college application.
*Solid scores on standardized tests (SAT, ACT) that are consistent with high school performance.
Your scores should accurately reflect your ability. Most students benefit from preparation to learn about the test format, whether they’ll have any problems completing each section in the allotted time, and brush up on any subject areas they might have forgotten. For example, preparing for the Math section of the ACT/SAT is different than learning Algebra 2. You rarely learn anything you didn’t already know when you prepare for the test. Use your scores to help you narrow down your list of colleges. Many college scholarships use ACT/SAT scores to determine awards.
*Passionate involvement in a few activities, demonstrating leadership and initiative impresses colleges. Depth, not breadth, of experience is most important.
This means that colleges value experiences where students have participated for a number of years and accepted increasing levels of responsibility for the success of the endeavor. Ten activities aren’t better than two. It’s quality of experience not quantity that gets the attention of admissions officers.
*Letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors that give evidence of integrity, special skills, positive character traits, and an interest in learning are valuable parts of your application.
Not all colleges require letters of recommendation, but if yours do, then they’re important. Make it easy for your teacher to write a great letter of recommendation for you. Good letters reference a specific characteristic and provide evidence and examples. You can help your teachers by giving them plenty of notice, four weeks notice is good, and providing them with examples of how their teaching and class impacted you.
*A well-written essay that provides insight into the student’s unique personality, values, and goals gets the attention of admissions committees. The application essay should be thoughtful and highly personal. It should demonstrate careful and well-constructed writing.
Actually, we’ve started calling it a ‘story’ rather than an ‘essay’. An essay is something you write to earn a grade in one of your classes. The personal statement asked for in a college application is something you write to tell the college admissions representatives something important about you that they can’t find any where else in your application. Show them your strengths with a story.
Whatever road you choose, make sure it’s the best path for you. Sometimes students can feel overwhelmed about college choices and how to make decisions. We hope these tips keep you from hitting any detours.