College Admissions 101

College applications ask for a lot of information: your transcript, SAT & ACT scores, resume of in and out of school activities, an essay, and recommendation letters.

The first thing an admissions officer does is review your transcript. The primary concern will be your curriculum: What classes did you take? Colleges prefer students who choose a more challenging high school curriculum. Then, they will evaluate your grades. Your grades will be evaluated within the context of your curriculum. Students with stronger schedules but slightly lower grades will typically get in over students with better grades in a weaker schedule. Students from stronger high schools also gain an advantage.

Second, an admission officer will look at your standardized test scores. Nearly every college accepts both the SAT and the ACT. They will evaluate you using your highest test score. It is to every student’s advantage to take BOTH the SAT & the ACT and to take both tests more than once. An admission office is only going to be concerned with your highest score on either test taken on any date. 

College admission officers will tell you that each applicant is evaluated individually. What they mean is that in evaluating the remaining criteria (resume, recommendations, essays), some factors will be weighed more heavily than others for each student depending on that student’s strengths.

In looking at your resume, an admission officer is looking for leadership and commitment. They will be concerned with the amount of time you commit to each activity, your commitment over time, positions of leadership you achieved, and contributions you made. Get involved early in your high school career. It makes achieving leadership positions much easier. Colleges are impressed by students who stick with an activity or job for a long period of time.

Your essay needs to tell a college something about you that they have not learned from another portion of your application. The typical question is “Tell us about a significant person, moment, activity, or experience in your life and how it affected you.”  The most important part of that question is “and how it affected you.” Keep a list of important moments in your life and when you are a senior you will have essay topics.

Recommendations should be requested of teachers who know you well and in whose class you worked hard. Counselor recommendations are requested more frequently than teacher recs.  

That is how a college will evaluate you. You need to evaluate colleges to decide which ones you will grace with your application. Campus visits are the best way to figure out if you will like a school or not.

Considerations for College Selection