The Admissions Wish List
What Admissions REALLY Are Looking For In Their Incoming Freshman Classes
The first term of the school year is in full swing, and students (along with their parents, in many cases) are likely looking forward to the holidays for a bit of a break. However, we college funding advisors are remaining diligently focused on preparing students and their families for all aspects of their college futures, from academics to college finances, and we are pleased to keep you updated on our findings. This is truly what we do best, after all is said and done.
One important area of focus – and something that is misunderstood by a significant number of college bound students as well as their parents – is an accurate understanding of the things that are MOST important when it comes to gaining admission to a desired college or university. Now, obviously, there can be some differences depending on which schools and institutions are being talked about, but there are also several key aspects that are almost universally important, no matter which schools are being considered.
The sooner a student is able to obtain a general understanding of these key factors, the sooner he or she will be able to implement them as a part of his or her high school education, meaning that it can pay dividends as soon as the time comes to start applying to colleges and universities for their impending step upward into higher education.
Some of these points are fairly reasonable and make good, common sense. Others might be less well-known, but they are still extremely important. Still others are simply ignored by far too many students these days, and absolutely warrant a timely reminder so that your student is not missing out on something vital for his or her college application process!
Remember, we keep our finger on the pulse of these kinds of things specifically because we are serious about being the experts in our field – we have gleaned much valuable experience in watching college students and their parents maneuver through the college application process each and every year. Upon completing your perusal of this newsletter, please do let us know if you have questions or specific worries about your family’s unique situation. We will be pleased to assist you in providing reliable information for your family’s college preparation activities at all levels for the higher education of your child.
The Obvious: Strong GPA and Class Ranking
It should go without saying that grades count. They don’t count for everything, but they count. If your child has a high GPA, this will only help to separate your child from the rest of the applicants. Overall GPA is important, but some schools will also take note of how your child did in his/her individual classes. Some high schools offer class ranking. If this is the case for your child’s high school, the college will want to take a look at this so see how s/he ranked among his/her peers.
Advanced Placement (AP) and/or Honors Classes
Taking difficult classes such as Advanced Placement or Honors classes can give a very good impression to admissions officers. However, it is actually doing well in these classes that shows the college that your child is serious about his/her academics. This demonstrates discipline and dedication, which are attributes that will help a child excel in college. International Baccalaureate or IB programs are also highly regarded, if available.
Engaging in Extracurricular Activities
It is not sufficient to merely have good grades in one’s classes. Colleges are looking for students who have passion, interest and drive. Taking extra curricular activities demonstrates that the students have interests that extend outside the classroom. The types of activities chosen will show what the students find compelling and interesting. Developing talents and skills outside of the regular school day is something that helps to develop a well-rounded student. Remember, though, that the better schools want to see a real level of commitment and achievement in these activities – not just something that has been done to “fill in a box.”
Taking time outside of high school life to volunteer one’s time is a special thing. If your child has done projects outside of school for any charities or did any sort of volunteer work at all, these things should be noted on the application. These are traits to demonstrate a strong character and these are the types of student’s college admissions officers would like to admit into college. Some students have been able to work these activities into the school year, while others make them a part of their vacation time. Either way, it should be something that resonates with your child, so that it can be presented with honest enthusiasm.
Gathering Work Experience
Does your child have a part-time job during high school? Does s/he work during the summers? These qualities show independence, in some cases, as well as leadership and commitment. List any employment work that is applicable for your child. If your child had any leadership responsibilities such as managing a project, be sure to include those, as well. Any special recognitions or if there were promotions during your child’s tenure at the job, do not forget to include those. Remember, however, to discuss these activities with your College Funding Advisor, as these jobs can sometimes affect eligibility for student aid!
Standardized Testing (SAT/ACT)
There was a time that schools weighed the SAT and ACT quite heavily, and many still do, but not every school gives them the same weight these days. Regardless, however, it is advisable for your child to work hard and prepare to do as well as possible on these tests. They are still a valuable benchmark for colleges to use, and admissions officers can review these tests and compare with other test results (such as AP tests). Your College Funding Advisors can help you research the specific schools to which your child would like to apply, and determine whether they regard the SAT/ACT highly, and which tests might be required for admission.
Strong Recommendation Letters
While a good recommendation letter can go a long way, a meaningful recommendation letter can go even further. For this reason, your child should try to secure recommendation letters from people s/he knows quite well. Most colleges will ask for at least two so it would be useful to probably have three letters on hand, just in case – and some letters might be particularly helpful at certain institutions.
These recommendations need to speak to the overall character of your child, beyond a simple listing of accomplishments. The writer could be a teacher in a particular class, an extra-curricular teacher or instructor, an ecclesiastical authority, a coach, a mentor, and so forth. These letters should obviously cast your child in the best light and will be able to tell a story about your child which grades and activities – on their own – cannot.
Tailor The Admissions Essay
While it is true that a well-written essay may take some time to craft, it is well worth the effort. This is another chance that admissions officers will get to see a side of your child that grades, activities and recommendation letters can’t show, and an opportunity our child to connect with the reader on the admissions committee. Every child is unique and this is the chance for your child to show what is unique about him or her… so the essay should be reviewed for both content and for grammar well before it is ever sent out. It should also be tailored a bit to appropriately match the application to each different school on his/her list.
Demonstrate Passion And Drive
We can readily report that too many kids are pushed into a plethora of activities without ever having a chance to develop a skill or talent in a particular area. Colleges are most interested in seeing drive, interest, and passion for the activities in which an applicant is engaged. They certainly do not prefer seeing a student listing a page full of different activities with no demonstrated meaning, and without time invested to grow in those disciplines.
How can an applicant show the meaning in their activities? There are many ways. For example, if your child took band and excelled at playing the trumpet, make sure that fact (along with any special awards or engagements) is prominently displayed on the application. Or, did your child have a passion for building and was always staying late in shop class? Maybe you have a budding engineer on your hands. Be sure to let admissions officers see that your child has a solid and well-developed interest in areas that truly matter to your future college student.
The very best colleges and universities often go far beyond SAT scores and essays (which should be a given at the top levels). They want to determine whether your child is the type of person who learns and grows, and truly enjoys the process of learning and growing. They want to see how your child stretches him/herself. They want to know how your child sees him/herself as a human. They also want to see how your child wants to contribute to the world – as a potential alumnus or alumna of their institution. Show them!Until next month,