Getting In – Admissions Factors Besides Grades and Test Scores
WHILE YOU PROBABLY KNOW THAT GRADES and test scores are important factors in getting into college, you may be wondering what else is taken under consideration when reviewing your application. It’s hard to say how much weight is put on each of these, but being strong in something other than grades and test scores might put you over the top!
- YOUR APPLICATION ESSAY. Unlike a creative writing test, your college application essay is about showing that you’re unique, interesting and ready for college. This is your chance to convince the university that you’re a good catch! Some colleges, like George Mason and the College of William and Mary, are now allowing students to submit video essays in addition to their written essay.
- A RIGOROUS HIGH SCHOOL COURSE LOAD. While it’s tempting to load up on Advanced Placement honors and IB classes to look good alongside your competition be careful not to overdo it. Look for classes in which you’ll still perform well (at least a B or better). If you do get an A it will count more than an A in a “regular” course.
- EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. If your student council presidency shows your passion for politics and your dental records show your hunger for hockey you’ll be happy to know that in-school (and out-of-school) activities can have significant weight when applying to college. That doesn’t mean you should stretch yourself thin by signing up for everything. On the contrary just choose a few activities that you really enjoy and stick with them by devoting meaningful time to them.
- VOLUNTEER WORK. While the time you’ve put in to volunteering is important so is the energy. Were you a top seller for a church fundraiser? Did you assume a leadership role at the local food bank? Talk about the type of volunteer work you did and the tasks you’re most proud of.
- AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS. These don’t necessarily need to be academic achievements. Basketball team MVPs outstanding leadership awards or even recognition for perfect attendance can impress an admissions committee.
- RECOMMENDATIONS. Most schools require at least two recommendations. Ask a teacher coach minister or boss who thinks you rock to write a letter on your behalf.
- DIVERSITY. While no substitute for good grades test scores and activities this is still a factor at many colleges nonetheless. At Stanford for example the school’s commitment is to “admitting and enrolling a student body that is both highly qualified and diverse.”
- LEGACY. Although it’s never a guarantee of admittance having a family member who attended your college of choice may give you that extra edge. Indicate it on your application but don’t rely on it.
- CLASS RANK. Still a factor at most schools your class rank can show your intelligence and motivation in relation to your peers.
No matter what factors a college considers the best way to prepare for life after high school is to do your research work hard get involved in activities and make friends (adults call it “networking”). Now that’s college prep work!