A four-year university may consider many criteria in the admissions application, including the following: school achievement (GPA), test scores (SAT or ACT), letters of recommendation, personal essay(s), personal (or telephone) interview, and activities, including leadership, athletics, and community service. Some colleges, though, may simply use GPA and scores (and some may only require that the SAT be taken).
It is important to carefully review a college’s admissions considerations, so the student can make decisions about where to apply. It is NOT a good idea to apply only to one or two colleges, because that doesn’t leave much wiggle room if the response is negative. Here’s a traditional guideline:
- Apply to a couple “safe” schools — those to which you (or your student) will certainly be accepted.
- Apply to a couple “challenge” schools — ones with good reputations that probably will accept you.
- Apply to one or more “reach” schools — ones that are more selective.
- Think about a mix of both public and private universities. Public universities usually are more affordable, while private universities can usually offer more free financial assistance, as well as graduation within four years.
The College Board began tracking admissions considerations in the early 1980s and has consistently found that the most important considerations for acceptance are the student’s grade point average and the rigor of courses taken (College Counseling Sourcebook, 4th edition, 2007). Colleges have found that students who challenge themselves in high school and achieve in difficult classes will also succeed at the college level. So, if you have not performed all that well in high school and are counting on the fact that you are student body president this year . . . you may be disappointed.
What I have learned is that I cannot always predict whether or not a student will get into a certain college. My oldest got into all five colleges to which she applied. The next two kids got into most of the schools to which they applied. The last one got into three of the six even though she had the strongest profile of our four kids — and the school she is now attending was the most selective of those six. So, who knows?
What I do know is that for selective schools a student must have stellar grades and scores . . . and a unique leadership quality that has been demonstrated consistently over the entire high school career. Leadership is demonstrated in a couple ways: holding a presidency or vice presidency in a school, class, club, or other organization or organizing (as a committee chairman or event chairman). Generally, only serving as a member or other kind of officer doesn’t demonstrate “leadership.” So, an ASB president title slapped on during the senior year when no other leadership was demonstrated in earlier years may not be enough for some admissions folks looking for something to tip the scale in the student’s favor.
Community service is fantastic on a student’s profile, but the volunteer work should be focused and cumulative over many years, rather than spotty endeavors in this cancer walk or that food drive for the shelter. Additionally, the college applicant should be able to show that she ORGANIZED the various events, not merely attended or participated. Again, colleges want leaders, not followers.
So, this week’s assignment:
- Make a list of what schools to apply to.
- Write the deadlines in your planner.
And understand this: The early bird generally gets the acceptance AND the best financial aid offer. So, make your weekend “job” college applications this fall . . . and get them done!
To what schools do you plan to apply?