Ready Student

Ready Student

For high school students, effective preparation is the key.  The earlier you get started, the better … high school freshmen and sophomores are already competing for admission spots and funding dollars.

Students who demonstrate the best overall record of academic and extracurricular achievement, school and community involvement, and the desire to succeed in life are not only offered admission, but are also typically offered the most lucrative financial aid packages.


What Colleges Consider ...

For high school students, effective preparation is the key.  The earlier you get started, the better … high school freshmen and sophomores are already competing for admission spots and funding dollars.

Students who demonstrate the best overall record of academic and extracurricular achievement, school and community involvement, and the desire to succeed in life are not only offered admission, but are also typically offered the most lucrative financial aid packages.

1.  Strength of Curriculum

Your high school transcript is the first part of your college admission application that is reviewed by the college’s admissions officer.  Your transcript is the most important piece of information the admissions officer reviews in determining your acceptance.  The college admissions officers will typically first look at what classes you have taken in high school, and then look to see what grades you received in each.  It is very important to the colleges to see first what you have done, and then evaluate how well you have done it.

Most all high schools will offer some type of honors courses.  These courses are commonly called Advanced Placement Courses and some may even be used for college credit.  It is important that you investigate as early as possible to determine which advanced placement courses are offered by your high school and may be available to you.  If your high school offers advanced placement courses and you choose not to enroll in any of them but are more than academically capable, the college admissions officer reviewing your application will have questions as to whether or not you have adequately challenged yourself in high school.  The possibility of your acceptance, regardless of your other achievements, will likely be greatly reduced.

2.  Grades in Tougher Classes

One very common question from high school students is whether an ‘A’ in an easier course is better than a ‘B’ in a little tougher course, or advanced placement course.  The answer: most times your transcript is more impressive to admissions officers if you have taken tougher courses, or advanced placement courses, and received a few B’s than if you have taken easier courses and received all A’s.

Colleges like to see if you have challenged yourself or taken the easy road.  By challenging yourself academically, the college admissions officers see that you have prepared yourself for the college work that lies ahead of you.

3.  SAT and/or ACT Scores

Most all colleges today require either the ACT or SAT test as a requirement for admission.  The majority of the colleges across the country will accept both, but one of the two is required before your application for admission is made.  These two tests are designed to measure the student’s aptitude for college-level work and the student’s achievements in a variety of subjects.

The ACT and SAT tests may be taken more than once.  In fact, it is recommended that the student take the ACT and SAT at least two times, possibly three, due to the fact that the college will usually only consider the highest score when determining the student’s eligibility for enrollment.

In addition to the SAT is the SATII, which are subject tests given on particular areas such as math, English, and science.  These tests should also be taken because they will give the admissions officer a look at your true strengths in a particular subject.

More testing details, dates, and registration information.

4.  Overall Grades in All Classes

The admissions officer will surely look at your grades to determine how well you have done in the classes you have taken; however, he or she will only glance at your grade point average if it is highly accessible on your transcript.

The reason for this is that your grade point average can have so many variables involved that it is sometimes misleading and, therefore, not as important to the admissions officer.

The colleges usually have their own formula used for figuring your grade point average by taking a mixture of the difficulty of the classes you have taken and the grades you received in each.  Many colleges most often don’t look that closely at your high school grade point average because they will determine your GPA themselves, using their own formula.  This will ensure that all of their applicants have a level playing field when it comes to determining who is offered admission.

5.  Extracurricular Activities

When looking at your list of high school activities, the Admissions Officer is not always looking for quantity; they are looking for quality.  They would like to see a student who actively participates in their selected activities.

A student who is in several different activities, but really is not active in any is most-often not what the college’s Admissions Officer is looking for.  Admissions Officers are looking for students who will contribute to their college’s campus in more ways than just the classroom.

If you are able to show the Admissions Officer that you, as a student, are an active participant in your chosen activities, it will be very beneficial when it comes to acceptance time.  You should make a list of your activities, in order of interest to you, and include this list in your college admission application.  Be sure and list everything you have done in school, community volunteer work, church, or any local organizations.  In addition, you should always list your positions held with each particular activity to show the Admissions Officer that you are an active participant.

6.  Recommendation Letters

Letters of recommendation from teachers, high school counselors, community leaders, business people, professional people, and members of the clergy are the most underrated portion of the college admission application packet.  These letters of recommendation have much more influence on the Admissions Officer’s decision of offering admittance than the student and parents often realize.

Almost all colleges would like a minimum of two recommendation letters.  The two primary sources of these letters are your high school guidance counselor, and one of your high school teachers.  When selecting a teacher to write your recommendation letter, be sure it is someone who knows you outside of your high school, and would be able to give an accurate account of your personality and overall character.

Due to the fact that the recommendation letter is such an important part of the college admission application packet, it is worth your time to get letters from all of the additional people (besides your high school counselor and teacher) that are listed above.  When applying to six different institutions, there is a great possibility that you will need letters from all these sources, and by obtaining the recommendation letters ahead of time, you will save time and trouble when it comes to submitting your applications for admission. 

In addition, if a college gives you a choice of recommendation letter sources, you will be able to pick the best letter(s) for submission if you have a wide variety to choose from.  Make sure the persons you choose to write your letters of recommendation know you as a person and will be able to effectively convey your accomplishments, goals, and overall character to the colleges.  Do not be afraid to meet with the persons writing the recommendation letters before the letters are written.  Take some time and go over the items that you would like to be included, such as some of your accomplishments that might not show up elsewhere in your college admission application.

7.  Essay

The essay is one of the most important parts of your college admission application.  The challenge you have in writing your essay is to get the attention of the Admissions Officer who is reading it.  You have a chance to express yourself as an individual and display for the college’s Admissions Officer reasons he or she should offer you admittance.  Other sections of your admission application tell more about what you have done while attending high school.

Your college essay is your chance to tell who you are; your likes, your goals, what you have learned and experienced as a person, and why you are ready for college.  The essay also gives you a chance to fill in the blanks on your admission applications.  In other words, it allows you to fill the gaps between the statistics and facts of your admission application and the total number of your actual accomplishments and life-experiences during your high school years.

Your college essay should convey an honest, dynamic, and self-motivated image of you.  The college admission essay gives you a chance to ‘stand out’ among all of the other applicants.  You should devote all the time necessary when writing your essay, simply because this essay could truly make the difference in deciding whether or not you are offered admittance.

Always give the college exactly what they request in their admission applications.  If the college asks for a 1,000 word essay on an experience that has had special meaning in your life, give them 1,000 words; not 700 or 1,500.  It is very important that you are able to show the Admissions Officer that you are able to pay close attention to detail and follow directions effectively.

8.  Class Rank

Your class rank is looked at differently depending on the college or university.  Some colleges give your class rank great consideration, while others completely ignore it in the determination of your acceptance.

Class rank is again directly affected by the courses you took in high school and your success in each.  Easier courses, with higher grades, would push you up the class rank scale; however, that may not show the college that you have challenged yourself, and be detrimental in your acceptance.  Since class rank is determined by your grade point average, and your grade point average is not overly important to the majority of colleges in the country, your class rank is also not considered to be that consequential to most colleges.

A good rule to follow is to take the toughest high school courses available, and your willingness to challenge yourself will far outweigh your grade point average and/or your class rank in the eyes of the college’s admissions officer.