August 2010 Newsletter
In our last newsletter we asked you to give us your questions so that we could answer them in future editions. Of all the questions that we’ve received, many of them were too specific to answer publicly, and so we responded to you via email instead. But there was one question that was asked most frequently and applies to all students: “From the standpoint of highly selective colleges, what factors are considered paramount in the admissions process?”
While many of these factors are discussed in detail in our previous newsletters and blogs, we have highlighted them in this edition.
- The high school transcript is the single most important factor. Take the most challenging courses offered at your school, and excel in those courses. When questioning whether it’s better to earn an A in a less rigorous course, or a B in an Advanced Placement course, just know that it’s always better to earn an A in an Advanced Placement course!
- Test scores are as significant as courses and grades. No matter what you hear from admissions officers about standardized test scores not being all that significant, the fact remains that scores are equally as important as courses and grades. What they don’t tell you is that the mean SAT or ACT scores of admitted students are reported to US News & World Report and used to calculate the college’s ranking the following year. And that’s why it would not be in the college’s best interest to accept too many students who would lower their mean. So study for these exams and if you can, get some tutoring. In the end, your scores can very well be a deciding factor in the admissions process.
- Become involved in meaningful extracurricular activities. Don’t become a serial joiner, just do what you love, and love what you do. A shorter list of extracurricular activities that shows commitment and passion, where you’ve developed your talents and skills over an extended period of time will be much better received than a laundry list of activities in which you’re a member of a dozen clubs and spend an hour or two a week attending meetings.
- Get involved in community service in your own community. While it may sound exciting to your friends and family, to the admissions counselor reading your application, it’s actually not all that impressive to build homes in earthquake devastated Guangyuan, or teach English to impoverished children in a school in Bangalore. That is unless, of course, you live in Guangyuan or Bangalore. Instead, find something to do that would be of benefit to people in your own backyard, something that would impact your school and community, and while you’re at it show your leadership skills by enlisting others in your endeavor.
- Write powerful essays. Consider the essays as an opportunity to speak directly with the admissions committee. The essays are where in an understated manner, you can flaunt your talents and your accomplishments. It’s the only part of the application where you have complete control, so take advantage of it and express your individuality. Powerful essays could be the one part of the application that gets you noticed and as a result, gets you in.
- Get to know your guidance counselor. A great counselor letter of recommendation is going to depend upon how much your counselor knows about you. If you are like many high school students you may only be casually acquainted, having had only a few brief conferences about course selection or scheduling. If you feel that your guidance counselor doesn’t know you, work at establishing a relationship. Make appointments to see your counselor, talk about your courses, your extra-curricular activities, what your future goals may be, what you value and what’s important to you.
- Impress your teachers. Work diligently in your classes, ask insightful questions, stay for extra-help when you need it, help out your classmates, be an active participant in your learning environment, exceed all of your teachers’ expectations, and above all, prove to your teachers that for you learning is fun and exciting. When it comes time to ask for letters of recommendation, choose teachers who know and respect you.
- Research colleges. Start by reading college guides, reviewing college websites, and talking with current students. But while all these are excellent ways to learn about specific colleges, only a campus visit will give you an accurate picture.
- Demonstrate interest. Regional admissions counselors can and do advocate for their students. The personal contact that you have made throughout the admissions process just might help you to gain acceptance to the college of your dreams.
- Stay focused. Throughout high school continue to build on your strengths, talents and experiences both academically and through the extracurricular activities in which you’re passionate. Make the most of your high school years, have fun, but stay focused, and your dreams may very well become a reality.