College admissions deadlines are just weeks away! Are you ready?
If the answer is “no,” don’t melt down. Breathe. Step back and break down what colleges really want to see in your application. You’ve probably thought anxiously about what it really takes to get into your top college and have met with your academic advisor, but have you really figured out this whole college admissions puzzle?
According to a survey of IECA members (Independent Educational Consultants Association), these are the top experiences that admissions counselors use to evaluate high school students:
- A rigorous high school curriculum that may include AP or IB classes.
- Grades that represent a strong effort. Slightly lower grades in rigorous classes are preferred over all A’s in less challenging courses. Admissions officers want to see that you give your 110%.
- Solid scores on standardized tests (SAT, ACT).
- A well-written essay that provides a look into the student’s unique personality, values, and goals. The application essay should be insightful, personal and devoid of any clichés, spelling mistakes, or style errors. Review my blog post on grammar and spelling mistakes before writing that essay.
- Steady involvement in a few extra-curricular activities. You don’t have to be involved with everything, but show the admissions team what you care about and where your passions lie.
- Leadership in extra-curricular activities. Colleges want involved students that will come to campus ready to join and/or lead clubs or organizations.
- Personal characteristics that will contribute to a diverse and interesting student body. Colleges seek to accept students from all over the world, who have differing political and religious beliefs, socioeconomic statuses, and world views.
- Demonstrated intellectual curiosity. Colleges like to see students who ask questions, who challenge things, and who like to learn.
- Enthusiasm to attend. Colleges want you to want them.
- Letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors that exhibit evidence of integrity, positive characteristics, and an interest in learning.
- Special talents that will contribute to the college’s student life program. Are you a state champion saxophone player? Can you speak five languages? Mention these skills in your essay and resume.
- Community service, work experience, and involvement in extra-curricular activities. Depth of involvement matters. Admissions teams are not impressed by activities that “check the box.”