Understand the Admissions Process
Thanks for taking the time to read my question! I am currently a rising senior in high school. I scored an 1870 on the new SAT, have an unweighted GPA of 3.8 and am very involved in extracurriculars. For example, I am the president and founder of my school’s Young Democrats Club and am completing internships under the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and under the local teacher’s union. By the time I finish high school, I will have taken 6 AP classes along with 15 honors classes. I have a list of several schools I’m interested in. I was wondering, how many reach schools should I apply to? I’m working with a private SAT tutor to bring up the SAT scores, what other advice would you have for me to make my application more desirable to a school like Georgetown? Finally, would I be considered a legacy at a school if my grandfather attended it?
It sounds like you’re doing all of the right things! You have a strong record and should be in the running at a number of fine schools. In response to your specific questions, the only thing I can think of that you could do to possibly improve your chance of getting into a top school is to take the SAT again. You have a very good score, but if you think you could raise it a total of 100 points or so you probably would improve your chances at some of the top schools. It’s hard to say how many “reach” schools you should apply to. I think you just need to decide which ones you would really like to go to. A number in the 2 to 4 range comes to mind, but, again, that’s a personal choice. I don’t know if financial considerations affect you, but, as you know, schools charge an application fee. As far as your legacy question, that depends on the school. Some schools will give a preference to legacies, so you need to check directly with the schools you have in mind.
I just received my AP exam scores in the mail. I got a 3 in U.S. History but only a 1 in chemistry and physics. I realize that colleges are going to look at all of my scores, but if I did well in the actual class (high A’s to mid B’s), will the scores be a deciding factor for admission? Would I have been better to have just not taken those two exams, or are colleges going to appreciate the risk, even if the outcome was bad? Also, one specific college I am looking at for early decision only accepts 4’s and 5’s. Next year, should I only take the exams that I feel confident I can receive those scores in? I don’t want to take the exam for every AP class I take if it’s actually going to hurt me in the long run!
Colleges will give greater weight to your actual grades in the classes than to your AP scores, at least for admissions purposes. (Course placement is another matter, most colleges won’t give credit for anything below a 3.) Having said that, I would recommend taking only those AP exams you feel confident about in the future. It looks much better to have fewer, higher AP scores than a bunch of lower scores. In a nutshell, Don’t worry about the scores you’ve already received, but take only the exams you feel confident about this coming year.
I will be applying to college in the fall, and am nervous about being accepted to my top choice schools. I currently have a 3.8 GPA and am taking AP and honors courses, and I am very involved in sports, Girl Scouts, and the local Boys and Girls Club. My problem is that I have never been very involved with in-school activities because of my commitments outside of school. Is lack of involvement in school sports and clubs looked upon poorly by colleges? Also, I know that the National Honor Society is well respected, but my school’s policy on accepting students to it is that you need 72 in-school service hours. As I explained above, I don’t have the necessary hours and therefore wasn’t able to be in NHS. Should I mention this to the colleges I apply to? Thank you for any help.
First of all, without knowing your test scores, it’s hard to say what your overall chances are at any particular school. My own feeling on this is that colleges care much more about the depth of your commitment to outside activities rather than the breadth. They would rather you be involved in just a few activities and devote meaningful time, rather than have more actitivites but not devote much time to any of them. Therefore, I think should be fine with the acitivites you have, assuming you devote some significant time to them (by the way, I also assume that the reference to “sports” means some type of organized league rather than just some “pick-up” games). I probably would mention on your college application that, while you would be eligible for NHS, your commitments to various activities outside of school prevented you from being involved with NHS. Of course, I’d be sure to also tell the colleges about the extent of your involvement in sports outside of school and the scouts and some of the positive benefits you’ve received from your participation. Good luck!
I have a few questions. When is the best time to find financial aid and where can i find applications for these? Also, when is the best time to tour colleges and is it required to get an interview?
You should start investigating financial aid opportunities, particularly merit-based scholarships and grants, in the second semester of your junior year. You’ll probably need to start applying in the first semester of your senior year. Of course, you should follow the specific requirements prescribed for any particular source of aid. With regard to touring colleges, there are basically two approaches to take. One way is to visit schools in the first semester of your senior year and before you apply to find out which schools you might like to attend. Other people prefer to wait to see where they’ve been accepted before visiting on the theory that there’s no use in visiting a school until you know you’ve been accepted there. Which way you go on this depends on your budget and time constraints, but I think the second approach makes a little more sense. However, it’s a personal decision and there’s no right or wrong answer except, obviously, to visit a school you’re considering before you have to respond to an offer of admission. Also, if you’re applying for early decision to a school, you certainly should visit the school before you apply since by applying early decision you’re aggreing to accept an offer of admission should it be made. You don’t want to agree to that without being sure it’s the school you want to attend. As for interviews, most schools do not require them. If you want an interview you usually have to request it. If you’re on the borderline with a particular school, an inverview could be something to consider.
I’m a junior in high school. My GPA in high school so far is 4.0. My SAT scores were 1590 but the guidance conselors told me to take the new SAT as well. Do I need to take the new SAT?
I would check with the colleges to which you are applying to see if they accept scores from either the old or new SAT. Many will accept a combination of the new and old. If they accept scores from the old test, there’s no reason to take the new one with such a high score on the old test. But, to be sure, I would definitely check with each school in which you’re interested.
I am a high school junior at a public high school in Florida. My GPA is around a 3.0-3.1. I’ve taken 7 honors classes and 2 AP courses so far. I got a 1070 on my first try on the SAT (just took the new ones yesterday). I’m in the top 50% of my class (of about 560) and have taken all the academic electives I can (psychology, law studies, etc). Though my GPA and testscores aren’t exactly spectacular, I have been involved in several extracurricular activities: volleyball team, weightlifting team, track & field team, poetry club, Girl Scounts and Interact (volunteer group). I also volunteer at a local hospital. I’ve received various awards (e.g, Most Improved Player, Most Valuable Player) in volleyball. I also helped coach a 9 to14-year old volleyball team at the local recreation center. I am 2nd in the conference and 14th in the state for girl’s weightlifting. I’ve had three poems published. I was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder about a year ago, though I’ve had the symptoms since 8th grade (didn’t tell my parents). With my grades and extracurricular activities, do I have a good shot at getting into a good public school in Florida? In my personal statement, should I write about my experiences with depression and bipolar, or would that look like a poor attempt at appealing to the judges to make them pity me and thus admit me?
First of all, while no college will admit you because it pities you, they may take into account that your depression and bipolar may have affected your grades. I suggest checking with your high school guidance counselor and the colleges in which you’re interested to see what is required in terms of documentation. High schools will make reasonable accommodations to students who have a condition that affects their ability to achieve to their maximum potential. Unfortunately, it may be too late for this to help you much in your high school classes. The College Board, which administers the SAT, will also give reasonable accommodations to students who have a disability that can be shown to affect their performance. These accommodations may include extra time on the SAT. Again, check with your high school guidance counselor and with the College Board (www.collegeboard.com) to see if you might qualify for such accommodations when you take the exam again (which I would encourage you to do) and which documentation you’ll need.
How is the IB program looked upon even if you don’t have the best grades (3.1+-)
If you’ve succesfully completed the program, colleges will look at it very favorably. Of course, it is best to have good grades of at least a B. However, all in all, it’s an excellent way to show your academic ability, particularly since not all high schools offer the programs. If yours does, then that give you a distinct advantage assuming you received at least reasonably good grades (B or better)>
I am a junior in high school and I was just wondering when should I start visiting colleges. Once I have selected my college, when should I start applying for regular admission (not early admission)?
There are two schools of thought on this. Some think that you should visit schools to decide where you want to apply to. Others think you should apply first to the ones you think you might want to go to and then visit those that accept you. I think the second approach makes the most sense. Why spend the time and money to visit a school if you’re not accepted? While I don’t know that it helps your chances, I suggest applying to schools as soon as you can in the fall of your senior year. Some schools provide “early action” where you are accepted early but have until the spring to make up your mind (unlike early decision where you have to agree to attend if admitted).
My son has a solid and consistent 3.3 GPA and is in his second semester of his senior year. He has been accepted already at Chico and San Jose State Universites, a small private college in Oregon and Colorado State. Despite a lot of help and effort, he got a D- in his first semester in Pre Calculus. He also got 2 B+’s and 2 C+’s. How much should we worry that these schools will rescind their offer of acceptances?
It depends on the school. Most make their approvals conditioned on satisfactory completion of the student’s remaining high school courses and receiving their degree. This may involve not getting below a “C” on certain required courses. In general, it is very rare for a college to rescind its offer, however I advise that you check with the school your son wants to apply to and find out the specific requirements after being admitted.
For a high school student planning on medical school, is it better to choose a private or public university for undergraduate studies? Would the honors program at the public university be similar to a private school in terms of medical school admission? How much of a difference does your undergraduate school make in medical school admissions?
Whether you go to a public or private school depends on a number of factors, including financial, since private schools are so much more expensive. Putting aside the financial issue, in order to enhance your chances of getting into medical school, I would generally suggest that you try to get in the best schools you can (and also apply, of course, to some “safety” schools). There are more “top ranked” private schools than public schools, and the undergraduate school you go to does make some difference when applying to medical schools, although it’s hard to quantify how much. Having said that, graduating from a private school rated higher than a particular public school probably doesn’t impact your chances of medical school admissions that much provided that the public school is still highly ranked as well (e.g., among the top 15-20 public schools in the country). An exception would be if you get into one of the Ivy League or one of the other top 15 or 20 highest ranked schools in the country. In that case, the reputation of these schools would make a difference. And, yes, I think the honors program at many of the public universities are considered on a par with many of the highly ranked private colleges. I think you also need to factor into your decision college life issues such as geographic location, student mix, type of campus, etc. Of course, if you do well enough in your undergraduate studies and on your MCAT test, you can go to medical school even if you don’t attend one of the top ranked private schools or honors programs at a public university. I hope this helps. Good luck!
I am a senior this year and my number one choice is University of Maryland-College Park. I am now in the middle of the waiting game to hear back from them. I have a 3.2 GPA and did well(above 1200) on my SAT’s but these are somewhat below Maryland’s expectations. I have heard that big schools such as this can rule out applicants rather quickly. I just was wondering if they would rule me out for admission before looking through the rest of my application, such as the essay I spent a long amount of time writing? Also, my father attended the University of Maryland and I am curious to how much that actually plays into the whole admission process.
If you’re a Maryland resident I think you have a shot. I imagine your SAT scores are well within the range of accepted students, although your GPA is probably at the low end of their range. It’s really hard to say how good your chances are because it also depends on your extracurricular activities and other accomplishments. I don’t think they would rule you out right away if you’re a Maryland resident. The essay could help a little, but I don’t think it will be that big of a factor. The fact that your father went to the university may help but it’s hard to say how much. Most schools do give extra consideration to “legacies” although this has become the subject of some controversy. Last August, President Bush came out against giving any preference to legacies, but it’s safe to say that legacies will continue to be a factor for probably quite a while. By the way, the fact that you didn’t hear yet probably means that you’re being seriously considered and possibly at least put on the wait list. You might want to see if you can have an interview. Good luck!
I believe I heard once that if you receive a certain grade in a AP class college admissions give extra points or boosts the score up? If not, how do they treat them?
Typically, a college gives college credit for AP course exams with a score of 3 or better. The exam part of an AP course is optional, but why take the class if you’re not going to take the exam? Each college, though, has their own system for how they treat AP courses. You’ll have to find out from the specific college.
It’s always been said that colleges are looking for “well-rounded” students. I’m involved in many extra-curricular activities, but have only found time to play basketball. (I was previously on the ski team, but ran into conflicts with student-directing the musical.) How many sports is “enough”? Yes, I know they all differ, but do I need to worry about doing more?
The thing most students don’t get is that it is not the quantity of the things you do, but the quality. If you played 10 sports but rode the bench in all of them, I don’t think it would speak as highly of you as would playing one sport but being “all-state.” College admissions people are on the lookout for “clubbers”-—people who join but don’t do. They want to see passion for a couple of things you really care about. My advice: find the couple of things you really enjoy and try to excel at them.
I am a high school junior currently attending Lowell High School in San Francisco. I really want to attend a prestigious Ivy. However, my grades are not too sterling (around 3.5 unweighted). Also, being Asian I don’t think helps me, considering so many Asians apply each year. Please respond and tell me honestly if I have a shot.
College admission committees look at more than your grades. Among other things, they look at the courses in which you got those grades, your experiences outside of school, the competitiveness of your high school, etc. The fact that you’re Asian might or might not play a role in the decision, it really depends on your credentials and the applicant pool at the time you apply. So do you have a shot? Again, that depends on the applicant pool at the time you apply. But it’s worth a shot. You might also consider why it’s so important to you to attend a “prestigious Ivy.” You’d be better served if you considered what you want from college and then looked at schools, both Ivy and otherwise, that provide the best match for your desires. If, for instance, you want to go to medical school, check out the med school admission rate for a number of different colleges. You might discover that a “non-Ivy” will prepare you just as well.
I am a freshman at the University at Albany. I am very interested in transferring to Cornell University for the fall semester. What do you think I need to have (academically) to make this dream possible?
OK, first, let me say that I am not an expert on Cornell’s admissions criteria. Second, I’m going to assume that you applied to Cornell out of high school and for whatever reason, didn’t get in. Every university has a unique transfer policy, many schools welcome transfer students with open arms and go out of their way to make it easy for them to do so. Your first step in making your dream come true is to find out what Cornell’s policy is. Call the school’s undergraduate admissions office, tell them you’re interested in transferring, and ask for all the appropriate information. As a prospective transfer student, you will need to structure your current academic work so that it will transfer as credit for graduation to Cornell. This means you need to review Cornell’s requirements for graduation and begin to work toward that goal even though you are not a student there. This will likely require some contact with Cornell to ensure that the courses you are taking in Albany do transfer in the way you expect. Keep in mind, though, that you may eventually want or need to finish at Albany so it is best to try and take courses that “work” at both schools. The Back Door. This does not work at every school and has an element of risk, but I’m going to lay this out for you as truly an alternative for dreamers. Many universities have an evening college or continuing education school where you can take courses offered by the regular university, often at the same time of day. The difference is that 1) you are not a degree candidate, and 2) you aren’t going to get certain benefits of other students (like the option of living on campus which, for freshmen, lessens the college experience). The strategy here is to rack up a number of hours (maybe 30-50) toward your intended major, then apply to the school for admissions as a degree candidate. If you’ve done well in these prior courses, the school typically admits you as a degree candidate. Again, there is always the possibility that you won’t get in, but if you discuss this possibility with Cornell openly, you may feel good enough about your chances to give it a try. I know a number of students who have gained admissions to colleges and earned degrees by this back door admissions approach. But by all means, apply to the school first as a transfer student. Good luck with your dream.
I noticed you have stressed how junior year is the most important year. That’s great. I’m a junior now, and on my way to honor roll. However, my other high school grades from the past two years are lower, and I regret that. Nothing can change those, however. If I shine through this year with flying colors and do well on my SATs (Please Lord), do you believe that most colleges will care much about my C average? Or have I pretty much blown it already and should consider Junior College, or Bartending Scho ol?
Washed up at 16? I don’t think so. You should see the questions I get. What pressure students feel to be absolutely perfect. Do well the next two years, work hard to score well on the SAT, get involved in things you enjoy, and you will get into a great school. Maybe it won’t be Harvard or Stanford, but who cares? There are many excellent colleges out there who will love to have you, you’ll get a great education and have fun in the process. So relax and enjoy high school with the confidence that your future has good things in store for you.
Where can we go to find a list of noncompetitive colleges that will accept a high school student with a so-so grade point average, but is very intelligent.
Personally, I’d set my sights a little higher. Your grade point average is only one part of your application. Perhaps you’re an outstanding baseball player. Or maybe you play the flute. What about your SAT/ACT scores? Select a group of five or six schools whose admissions requirements range from non-selective to selective (you can find these in any college handbook in your local bookstore). Then structure your application in the best possible way. You might surprise yourself. There’s no reason why you can’t attend a good school and make a great living afterwards—especially if you are “very intelligent.”
What are your thoughts on students who begin their college career at a community college? Do they have the same chance of transferring to a good four year college as those who are transferring from another four year school?
In earlier questions, we talked about transferring from one college to another, and the same strategies apply. If your intent is to end up in a specific four year college, and you’d like to start out at a community college, you need to begin your studies with that in mind. Some four year colleges actually have “feeder” community colleges that they look to for transfer students. A few calls to the admissions offices of the colleges of your choice will help you discover what they are.
I’m a student who is taking all the college prep courses in high school that I can. My grades are sometimes very good and sometimes awful. I sometimes get Ds. But I’m involved in almost every club in our school, and I volunteer a lot. If I would write it all down you would say, “Wow! That is a lot. So what I’m asking is if my extracurricular activities will make a difference in how the college will look at my application. Also I am ward of the state. How will that effect my college future?
Extracurricular activities matter (there are questions below and in the Guru archive which address this subject thoroughly). Whether they can overcome Ds is doubtful. You need to do better in those classes, and if you can’t do better, get out of them. My dad used to tell this joke about the kid who brought home three Fs and and a D on his report card, and when his father asked him what the problem was, the kid says, “I think I’m spending too much time on one subject.” The point is that maybe you can spend less time on the subjects you do very well in, and more time on the subjects that are kicking your butt. Also, when you get around to applying to college, make sure you select schools that match up favorably with the work you have done. Put some thought into it. As for being a ward of the state, it probably won’t affect decisions on admissions at most places. On the other hand, you have obviously had to deal with problems that others have not, and you should, on your application (perhaps in the essay), describe your less than ideal home life and in particular, how you have overcome those things to achieve anyway. Admissions people love a winner. I believe you will find a college that is right for you, and with a college education, you have the potential to create a far better life for yourself than you have had growing up. Good luck.
I’m a freshman in high school, and I guess you can say I’ve been a BAD student all my life. I would have failed the 8th grade for my second time last year, but my dad knew some people. So I went into high school this year with high expectations and new goals for myself. But the first semester was no different from the rest, and I failed. My GPA is currently 1.0. I was diagnosed with ADD. I seriously want to change my life and prove everyone wrong. If I turned my school life around now, do I still have a chance to get into a good law school? All I need is to be accepted. My parents can afford to send me anywhere. But I think I’m going to be a dropout. Thank you very much.
Wow, where to start? Well, first, law school comes after undergraduate college, so no point in thinking about that for about six years. I think you might be better off trying to figure out how to get out of high school and with luck and hard work, a decent college. I’m sure it’s hard to think of yourself in a positive way, but that’s the first step. What do you do well? Sports? Mr. Personality? Hard-working? Try to build on those things. Next, you say you were diagnosed with ADD. Are you being treated, too? If not, you’re only halfway there. Since your folks have money, encourage them to spend some of it on other testing. You may have learning disabilities that are holding you back and not even know it. Check it out. I’d encourage your folks to spend some money on tutoring, too. You are probably so far behind in everything that just wanting to do well is going to be tough. Check out a Sylvan Learning Center or the host of private tutors to help you. You can catch up. Finally, do not count yourself out of the game at age 16. You have much ahead of you to live for. I personally think you’ve had some pretty crummy support along the way to be in the situation you’re in. Write me again and let me know how it is going. Note to the many educators reading this column: Please look around your school tomorrow and see if there’s a kid that fit’s the description above. I’ll bet there is. If so, reach out. There’s a cry for help.
Is there any way for a student who’s not really good in school to get into a good college? Is there a chance to be successful even though you aren’t really good at school? I would like to be successful, but with my grades I’m afraid that I won’t get anywhere!
Your question touches me deeply, and I hope this advice will be useful to you. First, let me say that about 80% of all questions we receive here have typos in them—yours had none! That tells me a lot. In my experience, teenagers (and many adults) have a difficult time assessing their abilities. They either over or under estimate them, both of which is bad. Your grade point average is just one assessment of you. Let’s consider your grades first. Why are you doing poorly in school? Do you have trouble studying? If so, you may have Attention Deficit Disorder, which is easily treatable. Or, perhaps you are dyslexic, which is also manageable. Maybe you read poorly (I did, and it took years to figure it out and deal with it). The point is that for someone like you who has the desire but who is not getting the results you want, you need to explore why. Many, many adults have overcome these kinds of problems to enjoy success at the highest level.
If your problem is not physical, consider psychological causes. How’s your home life? Are you in an environment where you can be successful? Do you have a support system in place? Everyone (not every teenager, but everyone) needs the support of others. In either case above, you need to seek out an adult who will help you. If it can’t be your parents, find a teacher, counselor, relative, clergy person, or even a trusted friend (they have parents, too), and tell them that you want to find out why you aren’t getting the results you want in school. If they tell you to “try harder,” forget that advice and go look for someone who can provide some meaningful help. Privately, I am sending you my e-mail address, and if you can’t find the help you need, let me know. We have people here who can help you. Finally, I want to say that college isn’t necessarily the ticket to success and happiness. Those things come from within. But if you want a college degree, there is no doubt in my mind that you’ll get it. You just seem like you’ve got the right stuff.
I’m a high school senior, and I’ve already been accepted to a 7 year combined BS/MD program. My grades all are above a 90 and I’m taking four AP courses. I know offers of admission can be rescinded due to a drop in grades, but can my offer of admission be rescinded due to low AP scores at the end of senior year, even if I had great grades in those courses all year long? Thanks.
Rest assured that colleges don’t rescind offers of admission if you don’t perform well on AP exams. (If you’re skeptical, you can look at the stipulations of your acceptance in your admissions offer to make sure this is the case at your college.) There are, after all, no “failing” scores on AP exams, though some schools only accept scores of a 4 or 5 because they think students with lower scores might not have the grasp of the material necessary to be exempted from that course. Some competitive colleges don’t even accept AP scores.
Colleges are more concerned with is how well you perform in your AP courses.
That said, it would benefit you to study hard and do your best on your AP exams. Once you’re in college, you’ll appreciate the scheduling flexibility you’ll have if you can get out of taking some big survey courses. Good luck!
I just got accepted to my first choice college. It is the end of the 3rd quarter and my 2nd semester grades are very low so far. I always hear and read how colleges can revoke one’s admission if your grades slump. I always wondered how much leeway you get. If I drop 1 or 2 letter grades in most classes and not fail…will that matter? How serious are they about this subject?
This depends on the college that has accepted you. Take a close look at your acceptance letter and any other acceptance materials to see what your acceptance is conditioned on. It’s very rare that schools revoke acceptances, even for unusually low grades (especially if these aren’t failing grades and are not courses required for graduation or college). Most colleges, at worst, will put you on academic probation your first semester to make sure your grades improve.
So take a look at that treasured acceptance letter and read closely. If you still are uncertain, you can always call the admissions office (preferably anonymously) to ask under what conditions a newly admitted student could lose his or her offer of admission. Good luck!
I was just wondering what effect the fact that a student has a part time job (considering that they still maintain a 3.5-4.0 GPA, still participate in extracurricular activities, etc.) have on their college applications and how is it perceived by admissions officers? Is it helpful, harmful, or does it not make any difference? Thanks.
I certainly wouldn’t say that holding down a job on top of going to school hurts an applicant. Most likely, admissions committees will evaluate the job as a hardship (if you’re working to support your family) and/or an extracurricular (particularly if your job precludes you from participating in any activities outside of school). Most likely, admissions committees will be impressed with your academic success despite having to hold a job.
Of course, this job is just one factor among many evaluated by admissions committees. They’re also interested in grades, the rigor of your curriculum, SAT/ACT scores, essays, recommendations, and extracurriculars (and leadership in those activities). Good luck!
I’m in my first semester of my senior year. I have been doing well in all my classes except for Precalculus Honors. I’ve gotten a D for the first quarter, while my grades in all my other classes, such as AP Biology, have been Bs and higher. Will this D in Precalculus greatly affect my chances at the colleges I’m applying to? Also, if the deadline to some of the colleges are before the end of first semester, is it too late to show improvement? I’m really worried that this one D will affect my chances.
First of all, you should be very proud of how well you’ve done so far in school, particularly considering the rigorous course load you’re taking.
That said, it’s unlikely that your D in Precalculus will be your death knell for a few reasons. First (and this also responds to your second question), even though your applications to these schools will be due before the end of the semester, colleges receive updated copies of your transcripts at the end of the semester. As long as you get your semester Precalculus grade up, they probably won’t even look at the D since admissions committees tend to focus on how you do over the course of a semester. After all, in college, as in high school, your grades are ultimately based on your performance over the course of a semester (or at some schools, a quarter), so admissions committees want to see that you have the stamina it takes to keep (or get) your grades up over the course of 18 weeks or so. Second, since your Precalculus course is an honors-level course and isn’t a math course required for graduation, you’ll actually earn bonus points with admissions committees just for taking the class. Sure, they want to see you do well, but they’ll also be impressed that you’re challenging yourself, particularly when you’re taking such a rigorous course load. Third, admissions committees determine who to accept based on the overall application, which means one grade ultimately won’t count for that much. Instead, they want to see a strong overall GPA, good recommendations, active participation in extracurricular activities, a good SAT or ACT score, and top-notch essays.
If you end up with a D (or a C) for your grade for the semester, you might consider sending a statement to each school explaining this low grade on your application. However, I wouldn’t do this until you know what your semester grade is and, even then, I would reevaluate the situation at that time. It may not be worth stirring up something that is unlikely to be a factor.
I’ve heard about online college admissions calculators where you insert your academic and extracurricular information, and it tells you how good a chance you have of getting into a college of your choice. My question is how accurate are these?
It’s true that there is a very basic formula that admissions counselors use as they sort through the piles of college applications each year. That formula involves taking into consideration your SAT/ACT scores, GPA, class rank and extracurricular activities. While no automated program can simulated the admissions decision with 100% accuracy, these programs have been designed to give an objective and generalized ranking based on your position amongst your peers according to the “hard” or quantifiable data.
The software does not, however, take into account any “soft” or qualitative data, such as your recommendations and other achievements.
The true benefit of the admissions calculator is in helping you recognize how a college admissions team might view your application. For example, while you may be the top of your class at your school, your GPA and SAT scores could only be within the median score somewhere else. Therefore, this admissions calculator can help you to see where you may need to improve if you want to truly stand out.
When it comes down to it, though, college admissions counselors take into consideration your full academic and extracurricular background as well as your personal statement and recommendations. Do not rely entirely on the feedback that the calculators give you, but keep in mind that they offer an objective, automated approach to the applicant ranking system. Your application, thank goodness, is not an automated process, but rather, one that is moderated by a team of human admissions counselors that assess your application using a broad range of criteria.
I am currently a junior and putting together my schedule for my senior year. I have been able to take honors/AP courses one grade level ahead since I began high school. while I have a solid 4.0 GPA, my least favorite subject is English. I will have completed honors 12 English by the end of this year. Do I need to have an English class on my transcript for my senior year? I am looking to get into some of the most selective colleges. The rest of my classes will be AP classes (4 or 5). In addition, I will be taking an advanced calculus course at a local 4-year college.
Here’s my suggestion: It may be worth taking a college-credit or AP English class your senior year if you want to bypass taking English in college, assuming you pass the AP exam or take the English course at the local college. That way you’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone (completing a college-level English class during high school, and fulfilling the typical four years of English on your high school transcript at the same time).
Since English is the one subject area that is usually required all the way through high school and into college (to build your communication, writing, and critical thinking skills), it may be worth it to take this route next year, and it will certainly not hurt your chances of getting into a selective school. That said, the decision’s ultimately up to you and your high school adviser(s). But keep in mind that if you don’t take the college-level course in high school, you’ll be taking it in college. Maybe that would be your preference, and if so, that’s probably fine too.
My dad was telling me that colleges will look to see if you have a MySpace or Facebook and that that could affect their decision on whether they pick you or not over a different person with the same grades and activities as you. Is this true?
This is a great question. I’m glad you asked it, and I’m glad your dad was thinking about it for your sake. Every student who is applying to college and has a Facebook or Myspace profile needs to know about this! Not all colleges look at your online profiles, but the truth is that some do! Follow the well-known saying’s advice, “It is better to be safe than sorry.” When the time comes for you to apply to colleges, you need to be very careful about how you have presented yourself online. Check out the article from the last issue of My College Guide, called “Your Face Is Out There – Facebook & College Admission” for ways social networking sites can be used to your advantage or to your disadvantage.
I’m currently a freshman in high school, and I’ve been receiving a lot of information about how critical the courses I choose as a freshman and forward are for getting into a good college. For the first semester, I got all A’s and a B+, but I take all honors when possible and I take advanced courses for my grade level–Algebra 2 Honors, Physics Honors, and Spanish 3/4 Honors.When colleges look at my transcript, will my B+ affect their decision? Or would they rather see a B+ for a hard honors course than an A for a regular course? What else should I do to prepare myself for college applications?
It’s pretty arbitrary whether a B+ in a hard course is the equivalent of an A in an easy course to colleges. I wouldn’t sweat it (especially since you’re still a freshman and adjusting to high school). Colleges like to see students taking honors classes, of course, and it’s great that you’re doing so. Here’s my suggestion: Continue to pick classes you enjoy and feel challenged in, whether all of them are honors classes or not. Sometimes a teacher who really inspires you might be teaching a regular course instead of the honors course. Or if you’re just itching to try out that photography or woodworking class, then do it. You know yourself, you know what will inspire and motivate you…so move toward those things, using the wisdom and experience you’re beginning to gain as a young adult! Best wishes.
My niece and her friend applied for the same colleges. She has better grades (4.0) and higher SAT scores than her friend. The friend got in, and my niece didn’t. How is that possible?
Thanks for your question. If you have read this column before, you may have seen from my previous answers that schools frequently consider a number of factors when determining admission. These factors can be more objective (e.g. SAT scores) or more subjective (e.g. the personal essay). For example, perhaps your niece’s friend engages in an activity outside of school that has grown her character and has made her high school experience very unique in comparison with her peers. Maybe she has an “alternative” personality or talent that the school feels would fit its needs for a diverse and interesting incoming class. Or perhaps she was the recipient of some particularly strong and dynamic teacher recommendations. There are many possibilities. Whatever reason it may be, it is essential to remember that schools do not accept students strictly based on grades and test scores. Of course these things help, but sometimes the selections still seem more arbitrary than not. It really depends on what the school is looking for this particular year in the broader context of the other applications they receive–which should hopefully ease your niece’s mind a bit.
If you really want an in-depth discussion of this issue, I suggest you browse through the New York Times article “Q and A: College Admissions”. It’s a couple of years old, but the information is still very relevant to your question. Happy reading.
My GPA is a 3.96 (unweighted), and a 97.35 out of a 100 on my school’s scale. I got a 2060 on the SAT and a 31 on the ACT. I have very strong extracurriculars. I am the captain of speech team, vice president of student council and my class, treasurer of drama club and NHS, and the secretary of a nonprofit organization’s alumni board. I intern for my state representative and the city hall. I volunteer as a teacher’s aide and with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. I work as a hostess on weekends. Recently I was named the Illinois delegate to the U.S. Senate Youth Program. I was wondering what my chances are of getting into the top schools. I’ve applied to Harvard, Yale, UChicago, and Rice, as well as some other schools. UChicago has deferred me to regular admission, and the rest I won’t find out until April. UChicago has left me rather discouraged, but I think there is still some hope. Also, two more questions: What do I do when a school has deferred me? And lastly, how much do alumni interviews really matter?Thanks for your time and help!
While I can’t say for sure where you’ll get accepted (that’s not in my power), your record is very strong and I wouldn’t worry too much, because you’ll certainly get into a solid school somewhere. It doesn’t even necessarily need to be an Ivy League-tier…you have so many options to go to a number of great colleges. I assume that if the University of Chicago deferred you to regular admission, you originally applied for early admission, and being deferred under these circumstances simply means that your application wasn’t quite good enough to be admitted early decision. However, it doesn’t say anything about whether you’ll be admitted through the regular admission process. Remember, early admission is often more competitive because of the high caliber of the applicants and a limited number of early admission spaces. This is particularly true at a school with admission requirements as rigorous as the University of Chicago. You have excellent credentials, so I wouldn’t worry too much or read too much into being deferred to regular admission.
Lastly, it really doesn’t hurt to attend an alumni interview if you’ve been invited to one, because it will demonstrate your continued interest in the school that has invited you to that interview. While your application may not be adversely affected by rejecting their invitation, per se, sometimes the alumnus who interviews you will be able to provide the admissions committee with more unique information about you that might positively affect their decision. Plus you’ll get a chance to ask more in-depth questions about the school. So unless you are unable to make it to the location of the interview, I recommend dusting off your nice clothes and brushing up on your engaging questions.
I am going to be a sophomore at a respected Midwest public high school. After freshman year with all honors classes, I had all A’s and a 4.0 GPA. I participated in speech, debate, and band for activities. I made the tough decision to quit band this year, but I’m continuing with speech and debate. If I continue to get good grades and continue in speech and debate, did I greatly lower my chances of getting into a well-ranked liberal arts college on the West Coast? I feel terrible about quitting band. Also, what are some other activities or things I could get into that would look good with speech and debate? Thanks!
It depends. Did you quit band because you didn’t actually like it, or did you quit so that you could fit other activities into your schedule that you think would “look better” on your college application? If you actually like band (and hence that’s why you “feel terrible” about it), then I don’t see why you shouldn’t go ahead and rejoin the band. On the other hand, if you are secretly completely relieved to have quit band, then go ahead and pursue something else that sparks your interest even more. It really depends on what extracurricular activities are the most meaningful to you, not the ones that will necessarily “look the best” to colleges (whatever that means!). Seriously, what colleges really want to see is a student who is engaged in a few activities that he or she truly loves, not a student they can tell is just trying to cater to the college application. Your choices should actually help potential colleges get to know you for who you are–that’s one of your main goals, after all! I hope this makes sense. Take a little bit of time to reflect on what few activities mean the most to you as you enjoy your high school career. After all, this time of your life only happens once. And it will help you discover what you’ll be most passionate about in the future as well. Have fun.
What is the difference between priority filling and regular decision?
It’s pretty simple. Priority filling is when colleges send you an application early (they’re usually reserved for high-achieving students who have good “recruiting potential”). In essence, priority filling is an early deadline that gives admission officers a chance to review your application more thoroughly, rather than having to sift through a bunch of later applications to find yours. Colleges usually select students to send priority applications to based on students’ excellent high school records and test scores. Also, priority filling is somewhat correlated with a greater chance to get scholarship money. So it’s reasonably to your advantage to fill out priority applications to schools you know you’d be interested in, even though you’ll have to apply earlier in the school year than usual.
Must you accept a college acceptance letter before receiving a financial aid package from that college?
You shouldn’t have to. Colleges typically send an explanation of their financial aid package awarded to each student to whom they send an acceptance letter. If you’ve already received a college acceptance packet, read through it carefully to see what your financial award is (if any). Otherwise, if you have received an acceptance letter and have questions about your financial aid options, call or make an appointment at the school’s financial aid office.
And, of course, make sure you’ve filled out the FAFSA! That’s the most direct way to receive financial aid from the federal government and from your college.
Hi! I’m currently a freshman. I’m in the highest math class I can be in as a 9th grader, as well as being in a more advanced English and history class. I hope to become a doctor (a neonatologist). For extracurricular activities, I’m in the school newspaper, speech & debate team (extemporaneous), 2 volunteer clubs, math team and student council (as a freshman representative). I know that colleges consider extracurricular activities to be very important. I’m considering joining the play company here, a drama club that puts together fantastic plays/musicals 3~4 times a year. If I want to become a neonatologist (a science-related field), then would it be a waste of time to be a member of this club? I’m already juggling a lot, and I’m worried that it’ll be a waste of time to join the company if it is not going to benefit me in any way when I apply to college.
If you are interested in joining and think it would be fun, then join! Being a part of a drama club will stretch you in ways that you might not even realize until later. It will be great for your communication skills, your interaction with other people, your ability to put yourself in others’ shoes, and your time management. All of those are skills you’ll need for the medical field anyway. So if you want to do it, then do it. Don’t waste time thinking about what may or may not look good to colleges. Think about what you like and what will help you grow as a person. Have fun.
I’m 18 and I took a year off of school right out of high school. Since I didn’t go to college right out of high school, can I still attend a university?
Of course! There are many schools that accept students after a year (or more) away. Most of them, in fact. I think you should go ahead and select several schools you are initially interested in, then check their admission procedures. Since you have only taken a year away, you will probably apply as a first-time freshman as you normally would, select a couple of teachers to write you recommendations and take the SAT and/or ACT if you haven’t already. Good luck!
If colleges don’t ask for an essay and you send one anyway, will they read it? Two of the schools to which I applied did not ask for an essay, but I submitted one anyway. However, I forgot to fix some errors, and I’m worried that it’s horrible. I really hope they don’t read it. What should I do?
It is possible that they will read anything you include with the application. It is always best not to include extra materials unless the school requests them. However, it seems like it’s too late to change what you have already sent, so try not to worry. It is unlikely that the letter will affect their decision, and their decision will probably be based mostly on the materials they asked for in the application. I would resist the urge to send a revised essay, now that your application is turned in. You might call the admissions office to check the status of your application. A representative there might be able to answer any questions or doubts you might have. Good luck!
I want to send a letter to the colleges that I’m applying to, because my grades have dropped drastically. What should I say in the letter, though?
I’m sorry to hear about your decline in grades. In terms of contacting schools to which you’d like to apply, what to write depends on what you’d like for them to know. If there are circumstances out of your control that led to a decline in grades, then you might consider discussing these circumstances in your application essay, or in a letter that accompanies the application. However, do discuss any decline in grades in a positive way by focusing on what you plan to do to improve. A school will receive a large amount of applications from a wide array of students, and many of those students will have overcome adversity and challenges to achieve their educations. You will want to stand out as someone determined to overcome obstacles and succeed despite the fact that it isn’t always an easy road. Before you send your essay or letter, have a teacher or a guidance counselor read over it and help you make it as powerful as possible. Good luck!
I am a junior attending a typical public high school where I take mainly AP and honors classes. Unfortunately, there is a great disparity between my grades and my standardized test scores. My GPA is 3.2 unweighted, 3.7 weighted. My ACT composite was a 34 and my SATs were 2190 (including 800 on the writing). I need a strategy for choosing where to apply and for explaining my grades in the essay. The real explanation isn’t great, I was diagnosed a few months ago with attention deficit disorder and so far treatment has not produced terrific improvement. Although I usually do well on class tests, I procrastinate and forget homework frequently — so my grades become Bs. I think in the right college, surrounded by intelligent peers, I might be capable of doing some very good work. But first I have to get in somewhere. Any advice? Thanks for your time.
My advice is simply this: Be honest about the ADD on your college applications. Admissions officers are used to navigating students’ grades and test scores when considering all the factors in whether to admit someone. They’ve seen situations like yours before. The more information they have to be able to judge your credibility, the better. You don’t have to go overboard, just mention it briefly. And remember that schools also evaluate your teacher recommendations and your personal essay (and since your question was eloquent and to the point, I have confidence in your writing skills).
By the way, 3.2/3.7 is nothing to sniff at. You can get into some good colleges with that GPA and those scores (some places, after all, might be a much better fit for you than a traditional Ivy League school).
How I should “record/document” my extracurricular activities? Is there any “universal” format? Can I do this as a part of my Facebook or other social network profile? I recently spoke with a recruiting coach, and he checked my Facebook during our conversation without me giving him any details…he just did a quick search for my name and school… that is why I was thinking it might be a good idea to start creating a records of my activities on Facebook. For example, if I post a photo from cleaning the beach event and there are some positive comments from well known persons or organizations… What do you think about this? I am thinking of applying both to European and U.S. colleges. Do you think there is a difference about documenting the extracurricular activities for Europe?Thank you very much for your time!
Starting with your last question, I don’t really think there is a huge difference between European and U.S. colleges in terms of what activities you need to list on your application. Now, let’s go to the interesting part. Recruiting officers and admissions officers are more and more frequently using Facebook (and in some cases MySpace, though it’s not nearly as popular as it used to be) to check out student profiles before they start making admissions decisions or recommendations. You just experienced that firsthand! And it’s good for other students to remember that this will probably start happening to them too!
Now, I’ll tell you my theory about this: Yes, maybe you could have photos of you cleaning on the beach or playing catch with a little kid or singing at the nursing home. But if you have “testimonies” pop up all of a sudden about you, I think that admissions officers will probably see through that. If they’re going to look at your profile, admissions officers would rather see an honest portrayal of a kid living life (and that doesn’t include photos of kids partying). That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put your extracurricular activities on your profile. Go ahead – that seems completely reasonable to me. But I’ll say again that if you’re going to “be yourself” in your application, why not be yourself in your online profile as well? What colleges look for are young adults who live with integrity and authenticity. If there are photos of you doing community projects and helping out on service trips, that’s wonderful. But don’t try to arrange your profile so much that it becomes contrived or that you look fake. Hopefully that makes sense.
One other thing you might consider: adjusting the privacy controls on your Facebook profile so not everyone can see it. If you’d rather recruiting coaches and admissions officers not look you up, there are ways to change your privacy settings so that only your friends can find your profile. It might be something to consider.
I have a BA English degree and a Master of Arts in Education degree. I intend to apply to Harvard Law School. Can either of my undergraduate and graduate transcripts suffice? Can both be accepted? And what is the best option regarding this?
Great question! Submit both transcripts. The application instructions likely ask for transcripts from any university you’ve attended. Even if they don’t, you’ll want to show your academic record from both undergraduate and graduate studies, because this gives a more rounded view of your progression as a student. Good luck in your application!
What happens if you get accepted to a university but you end up going to a community college? Do you have to reapply? Or can your high school grades transfer over?
If you enter community college and begin coursework, those transcripts will stick with you. Even if you have a tough first year, you can’t start over again and apply using high school transcripts, because most schools require you to report any credit hours you’ve already taken. That means it’s important to start college when you’re ready to take your grades and education seriously. If you decide to go to community college for a year, you’ll have to reapply to enter the university, as your acceptance won’t carry over to the next application season. These are important decisions, and you’ve got to stick with the one you make and head forward. Make the choice that’s best for you: Many students decide to start out in community college, and often this allows them the necessary boost to raise grades and catch up on college skills. Good luck with your decisions!
I will start high school next year. My high school offers Spanish, French, and Chinese. What language should I take if I want to get into a top college?
You should take the language that interests you the most, based on your future goals for careers, travel, and cultural experience. I’m afraid that studying a language won’t make or break your chances of acceptance to a college, so you should choose wisely based on your own interests. If you think studying Chinese could be a catalyst for your interest in international business, perhaps this might be a good choice. Or, if you live in a region of the United States where Spanish speaking skills could come to great use, you might consider that as an option. Consider what language you might want to continue studying in college as well. Good luck!
How big of a role does knowing a professor or a dean play into getting accepted to a certain college?
Knowing a professor or a dean at a school might help you in the sense that you have a resource from which to learn more about the school. However, this contact won’t likely help you earn admission if you aren’t already qualified. If you think about it, that’s a good thing, because you’ll want to know that your college acceptance is based on your qualifications as a student, not based on your relationships with important people at that school. Certainly contact that person and let him or her know you plan to apply, and ask questions about the school and its offerings. This can only help you become more prepared for admission season!
I have a suspension on my record for cheating on a test my sophomore year of high school. Assuming that it is an isolated incident, how will this affect my ability to get into schools that I want to attend?
A suspension is definitely an obstacle, but you can turn it into a strength by discussing what you learned about integrity during your essay. Usually an isolated incident won’t keep you from future opportunities, especially one that encourages you to grow. Think about what you’ve learned since the incident and try to translate that into a powerful essay the highlights your character. In doing so, consider why you cheated, and more importantly, why you never would again. Don’t let this get in your way of trying. Strong recommendation letters from teachers who know you well will also help mitigate this circumstance. Good luck!
I have been told that if my child gets a perfect SAT score, he is automatically going to get a free ride into any college he wants. I don’t understand. Don’t we still have apply? Isn’t it still up to the college to make the decision?
Unfortunately, a perfect SAT score won’t guarantee admission. Your son still has to apply to the colleges of his choice, and each school will look at many other aspects of the application. A test score alone is not enough to gain acceptance. It must be paired with strong grades, a track record of extracurricular activities, and a strong application essay. I hope this dispels the myth. A high score will certainly strengthen the application, but many other factors will affect the decision as well. Good luck to you and your son!
I am feeling panicked. My son has always been a high honor student throughout high school, with a 3.8 unweighted GPA. However, he has attended prep school for the last two years, and now, this junior year, all his grades but the A in English went down to Bs. This is so out of character for him, and the grades are not changing. He is taking an AP Calculus and two other advanced courses while competing as an athlete. Schools like Yale and the NESCAC were looking at him for a sport. I am afraid he is doomed and don’t even know what a safety school would be for him. He was co-captain of his team, is a prefect in a dorm and does community service outside of school. I’m worried with more AP courses next year. What can we do?
Try not to panic, and instead reach out to your son to support in any way possible. Remember: this is his own future, so he deserves your support rather than extra pressure. Find out if his course load is too rigorous to manage along with sports, and see where the schedule can be adjusted. Perhaps meeting with your son and an academic counselor at his school could help you both isolate ways to raise the grades. Sometimes grades decline when students take on too many activities and AP courses at once. It’s not as important to pile on AP’s as it is to keep your son at a pace and academic level he can thrive in. It sounds like top schools are already considering him. so try to support and encourage rather than panic. He still has time to graduate with strong grades, and to finish strong with A’s. Check out the rankings at Princeton Review for area schools, aside from Ivy Leagues, that rank highly and offer a valuable education. It’s not crucial to attend an Ivy League. It’s more important for your son to find the best school that fits his profile and his academic goals. Good luck!
Should I accept my offers from all colleges in case one of them revokes my admission?
No, you can only accept one offer officially. Accepting multiple offers is not good practice, as most schools have a waiting list. If you’re worried that your acceptance might be revoked for some reason, you should speak with an admissions counselor about the issue. Typically a school will not revoke an acceptance unless there is a drastic change in grades or a severe disciplinary measure after the acceptance is issued. Either of those problems should be discussed with the school’s admissions office if they are relevant to your situation. Choose the best fit out of the acceptances you’ve been granted, and politely decline others. Good luck!
I am trying to look at colleges. I know what I would like to go to college for. I have the school I want to go to, but that college requires that you already have some courses done, and I just don’t know where to get them or how to do so. I need some help!
If you know what prerequisite courses you need before applying to your chosen school, you can probably take them at a community college nearby. Your best option may be to contact the admissions office at the school and discuss specific requirements so that you won’t waste time or money on courses that won’t help you toward your goal. Next, research local community colleges or even online schools that can provide these courses. Enrolling in a community college is usually possible at the beginning of any semester, and you can find a full list of any schools offerings for classes and programs on their website. Good for you that you already know what you want to study. That’s a big step in the process. If you can form a contact with someone in that particular department at the school, that person may be able to guide you toward specific requirements and classes to achieve successful admission. Good luck with your research!
I’m graduating from a community college this summer in August. I want to go to a univerity to earn my BSN next. Can I start in the fall semester of the same year? Or will I have to wait until the spring semester to apply and start at a university?
Congratulations on finishing up your community college career! You’ll want to check application deadlines for the university you want to attend and make sure your application is submitted by the deadline. If the deadline is still ahead, you can still apply for the fall semester. Head to the admissions website and find out those dates so that you don’t miss them. Good luck!
I recently had to move back home from my university which is a 400 mile drive to and from my home. I had to make this move a week before the fall semester begins. I planned to transfer to a local university this spring. I just submitted my application fee, transcript with 81 credits, and I submitted my FAFSA on Wednesday. Is there any possible way I can be enrolled for the fall semester that starts in a week?
You should contact the school directly to find out if you are still able to enroll for the fall semester. Some schools have rolling admissions, meaning that they admit students all the way up to the beginning of the semester. Other schools cut off applications at a deadline several months before the semester begins. The only way to find out your opportunities is to contact the school directly and ask. Good luck!
On an application, what should I click for my areas of interest when applying to colleges if I want to go into sports medicine and physical therapy? Those specific categories are not listed.
If the exact subjects you’d like to study are not listed, find a more general subject which these fall under. For example, you might find a “health sciences” category, or a “physiology” category. Your goal should be to list categories as close as possible to your interests. These choices won’t likely dictate your path, but they will give the college a better indication of what you’re looking for and what materials to send you. Good luck!
I am working on a cover letter and resume for a scholarship to a college and it asks me to tell the school a little more about myself. What are they looking for here? What do they want to know about me, and what should I be sure to include in this?
Great question! A school wants a round picture of who you are as an individual and what has shaped your ambitions and ideals. Some specific questions to consider when you plan your essay are these: What are your long-term goals? What experiences have shaped your future ambitions? What challenges have you overcome? What activities do you like to participate in during free time? Who are your biggest role models and influences? Why do you want a college education?
That’s just a start. Think about the admissions committee’s point of view. They want to know that the students they admit will take their education seriously and go into the workforce as ambitious, skilled, well-rounded graduates. Consider those questions above, and think about making a list to start with before you write your essay. Good luck!
My family is planning on move to another state in this summer. I will be an entering high school junior this summer. Is it going to hurt my chance of getting into college?
Not at all. Students move high schools often, and admissions committees are used to seeing this. You live with your parents, so it’s not in your control if life changes cause you to move to a new school. View it as an opportunity for growth and experience, instead! You’ll meet new people, have a chance to see what school is like in a whole new state, and you’ll likely have the opportunity to try new extracurricular activities. When you apply to college, you can bridge this experience into something that caused you to mature if you decide to write about it in your essay. You may run into challenges adjusting at a new school, but these challenges will make you stronger, smarter, and more aware. Good luck!
To what extent are awards important in the college admissions process? I do rather well in my classes and enjoy what I do in terms of extracurriculars, but I do not tend to win school or national awards such as National Merit Scholarship. Will my lack of awards hamper my chances of getting into a good college?
Don’t worry about a lack of awards. If your grades are high and you’ve actively engaged in extracurricular activities that are meaningful to you, you’ve achieved many awards though they don’t come with trophies. Sure, awards are honorable and speak highly of a student, but you shouldn’t feel insecure about your accomplishments because they may be different than others’. Focus on excelling at the things you are passionate about, and apply to colleges that have programs that match those passions. That’s the most direct route to college success. Good luck!
Is it proper etiquette to write to universities thanking them of their offer of admissions and explaining that you will not be attending their institution? If so, should they be sent out when the deadline for acceptance is due or earlier?
Great question. Yes, it is best practice to formally decline an acceptance to the school and thank the admissions committee for the opportunity. You should send the letter when you know for certain that you will not attend that school. Wait until you’ve accepted another offer, though. If you’re still on the fence about which school you want to attend, don’t decline any offers until your decision is firm. But do accept the offer you want by the deadline, and decline others immediately after. If you haven’t accepted an offer by the deadline given, your spot will likely open up to a student on the waiting list. Good luck!
I applied to colleges in 2012 and I was accepted, but I didn’t not graduate from high school on time. I finally graduated in the summer of 2013. Is there any way I can attend the same school I was accepted to in 2012?
Yes, but only by re-applying. Unless you officially deferred your acceptance, which is unlikely if you did not finish high school the year you were accepted, you’ll have to re-apply. Each admissions season requires a new application unless you are accepted and apply for a deferral to wait a year or semester to begin. Some schools offer deferrals, while others don’t, but it isn’t likely you were offered deferral since your acceptance was contingent upon holding a high school diploma. Gear up and apply again, and make sure you have strong test scores and activities to balance your application. Good luck!
I am currently in high school. Am I considered a transfer student if I plan to reapply to a college that I got rejected by? Is it better to reapply from scratch, or to apply as a transfer student?
You’re only a transfer student once you’ve enrolled in a college and started coursework. At that point, if you decide you want to transfer to another school the next semester, you’ll apply as a transfer student. However, if you’re still in high school and haven’t started college yet, you’re an entering freshman. Even if you get rejected, take a year off, and reapply, you’re still applying as a new student. If, instead of taking a year off, you enroll in a few community college courses, you’ll have to check with the university admissions office to find out their policies on transferring in from a community college. Each school is different, so your best resource for questions next year when you reapply is the school’s admissions office. To answer your last question, you’ll probably have a better chance of acceptance the second time around if you’ve started college studies this year. (If you take a full year off, your transcripts will be exactly the same as they were this year.) Perhaps contact the admissions office and sit down with an adviser to find out what steps you can take to increase your chances when you reapply. Good luck!
My daughter has been accepted to several colleges. However, she took a dual credit English class this semester and earned a D due to some unforeseen personal issues. Will the grade affect her acceptances, and can she retake the class for a better grade? Her GPA was a 3.4 and her ACT score was a 27.
Congratulations on your daughter’s acceptances. To answer your question, it is possible for a college to revoke an acceptance because of senior year grades. Typically, a school will only do so because of a steep drop in performance overall or an unsuccessful completion of the senior year. Most schools are understanding of small inconsistencies in grades or the tendency for a student to suffer from “senioritis.” The school may inquire about the poor grade, but it unlikely that her acceptance will be affected if her overall GPA is still high. Schools typically notify the student during the senior year if an acceptance is questioned or revoked. If your daughter does receive a call or letter from a school indicating that her admission is being reconsidered, it would be wise to respond and discuss the grade with the admissions committee as soon as possible. As for her ability to retake the class, it is best to contact the school and inquire, as this will depend solely on the policies of the particular school. Best of luck to you and your daughter!
I applied to a college with the idea of joining the rowing team, and I have just received an email from the coach saying that he will support my application into this college. This is great, but now I am really undecided about whether I want to join the team or go to this college. If I tell the coach to go ahead and support my application, will I still be able to choose a school or a scholarship that best suits me, or do I have to accept this offer?
Unless you apply to a school as an early decision or early action student, an acceptance does not bind you to attending that school. It’s okay to get support for your application from the rowing coach, and you certainly should do so. If you later decide to accept a better offer from another school or to choose a school that’s a better fit, the coach will understand. This is your college education, and making the choice that’s right for you is your number one priority. Good luck!
In a recent college application, I was asked to provide an important graded paper or another significant piece of work I’ve created during my high school years. As I thought about the many works I’ve done over the years, I came up with an idea: I should take the most important works I’ve created, my letters of recommendation, my resume, official school transcript, the essay question response and create a portfolio with it. I called it a College Admissions Portfolio. I felt that it would back-up the essay question response I wrote and help me with the college admissions process. I think it would give them a sense of my creativity, as well as show the many other essay works I’ve done besides the one they ask for. Is this a good idea, or should I just stick with what they requested?
That’s a great question. I think the idea of organizing a portfolio is wonderful. It shows that you really care about presenting your materials in a professional way. Yet, if the college only asks for one example of an important essay or paper, my advice is to choose your best work rather than providing multiple pieces. The admissions committee will read hundreds, maybe thousands, of applications and they won’t likely have time to read multiple essays from one student. Sticking to the instructions is always a sure bet, because it also shows that you are aware of what the committee wants and has purposefully requested. Your portfolio sounds like a great idea, though. Just stick with something professional, clean, and organized. Good luck with your application!
I am currently a freshman in college and I’m thinking about transferring to another college for next fall. One of the places where I applied to transfer is Washington University in St. Louis. I’ve already submitted my application and have sent them all of my documents, but I want to know if there is anything else I can be doing now to better my chances of getting accepted. Please let me know. Thanks!
Great question! Stay in touch with your admissions counselor — or if you don’t have one, contact the school and speak with one on the phone. Showing your interest in the school and your enthusiasm about admissions can help you earn a spot, especially if competition is tough. Remember though, there’s a difference between showing enthusiasm and pestering. Follow up once per week at most, and when you do, be extra friendly. Let the admissions counselor know that you’re eager to hear an answer and want to know if there is anything you can do in the meantime to prepare. Establishing this human connection can help demonstrate that you’re a serious student ready for college life. Good luck!
I am applying for scholarships, but I have no extracurricular activities or organizations as I have worked a part time job with 20 hours per week while attending high school. I have no time for extra things. Do schools frown upon this or is there a great way to include my work history as a bonus?
Definitely include your work history in your scholarship application. Demonstrating leadership and ambition through your early work experience is a great idea. Describe your experience with concrete examples and active verbs. This will help you illustrate the work and the way it sets you apart from other applicants. If you are writing an application essay, use the body of the essay to reflect on the experience you gained working a real job rather than participating in sports or clubs. You might explain how part time work distanced you from activities with peers but exposed you to career ideas, leadership, and powerful role models that inspired you toward a college education. Good luck!
I attend a project-based high school in New York City. I have been reading up on how to get into good colleges and they all mention taking AP classes and regents. No one talks about project based classes and I am really afraid I won’t get into a high ranked college when I graduate because schools may not understand the whole project-based idea. Can I still get into a good college?
Rest assured that admissions committees will know about your school and will have encountered applicants from project-based schools before. Those who sit on admissions committees tend to be highly knowledgeable about the vast array of curriculum models across the country. Attending a project-based school will not set you back. Do make sure you remain competitive by keeping your grades high, excelling in the curriculum offered, and participating in many activities. Standardized tests will also demonstrate your potential and are scored the same way for students across the nation, so prepare well and solicit all the resources you need to earn high scores. Don’t feel defeated: Instead, see it as an asset that you attend an alternative school. If you focus on the ways this school helps you stand out from the crowd, you’ll build a stronger application. Good luck!
I’m a junior in high school, and I’ve never played any sports! Will that ruin my chances of getting into college? Am I as likely to go to college as someone who’s very athletic?
This won’t keep you from being admitted to college. Although sports are a large part of a college community, there are many other activities for students who are not interested in athletics. It does help, however, to have some sort of teambuilding or leadership activity on your resume. Make sure that you do have extracurricular activities under your belt when you apply for college, because they show your diversity and your commitment to interests you choose. Perhaps there are clubs, organizations, or volunteer activities in which you can participate. Good luck!
Would a leadership class look good on a college application, or would a third year science look better? I’m not sure which one to choose.
This all depends on your particular goals and situation. If you plan to enter a science-related program that requires certain prerequisites, the science class may be a good idea. However, if you have a lack of leadership activities on your resume, the leadership class might be a good option. The truth is that you should take whichever class will serve your needs, not the class that might “look better” to an admissions committee. Ask yourself: What will I gain from these classes? What skills will I be able to carry forward to the next step in my education. The answer will be clear to you once you assess your own goals, needs, and priorities. Good luck!
My son just received a letter welcoming him to a college. The package includes the schedule as well as forms to fill out. Does this mean he has been accepted?
You should have an official letter that indicates that he has been accepted to the school. If you’re unsure, contact the school directly and inquire. Good luck!
Does my son have to tell his high school counselor when he is rejected from a college? He wants to tell her that he was accepted. Are there privacy rules against schools revealing if a student was not accepted?
No, your son isn’t required to report to the counselor that he was rejected, but the high school counselor is in a position to help your son recover from the rejection and understand the admission process better. He should feel comfortable sharing this information with the counselor and discussing other options. There is never any shame in rejection during the college admissions process. It’s a tough battle, and many qualified and excellent students are turned down simply because there are not enough spots to accommodate all the talent. Please encourage your son to embrace his fearlessness and be proud to have applied. I’m sure he will find a good fit in a college or university. Best of luck!
I am applying to graduate school for speech language pathology, and I am currently working on my personal statement. For many schools it is very important that candidates show participation and interest in research. However, I have never participated in research in my department. How can I show the colleges that I am interested in research and would be an excellent candidate even though I have never participated in any?
This is a great question. It’s entirely normal to lack research experience prior to graduate school. What you can do is discuss areas of research interest, and pinpoint goals or passions that you have in your field of study. Schools want to make sure students are interested in research because often they want students who will not only leave with a degree in hand to work in the field, but also students who will contribute ideas and new knowledge back to the discipline. You’ll write a strong essay if you discuss specific areas of speech language pathology that you’d like to explore further, and even questions you’d like to pose in your studies. Good luck!
I’m a junior in high school and I’m so excited about college and everything that comes with it! I plan on attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and I’ve looked up everything there is to know about it. What else should I do to help me prepare for college? Any tips for the ACT? I take the test next year.
First, congratulations on knowing your school of choice! That’s a great step. Since you’ll be taking the ACT soon, check out our page of ACT apps to download. These will help you prepare and also remain surrounded by stimuli that will help you grow familiar with the questions on the test. To prepare for college, consider what you’ll need when you arrive for your first semester, and also start to assess the way you spend your time. The sooner you learn to abide by a routine where you allocate certain hours for gym, studying, socializing, and rest, the quicker you’ll adjust to the freedom of college life. Finally, find out from an admissions counselor if there is a way to connect with current or future students of the school through social media or through the school’s open houses, orientations, or websites. You may find that you can start building relationships and learning about your future fellow students. Good luck!
I’m a senior in high school and I’m going to start applying to colleges, but I’m confused with the application deadlines. If a school says its deadline is August 1st, does that mean I’m already too late to apply? Or does that mean August 1st of the following year?
That’s a great question. Typically, an August 1st deadline is a deadline for Spring admission. This isn’t always the case, so check the website carefully, but most fall semester deadlines will land in the spring or summer, and most spring semester deadlines will land in the fall or winter. (This gives committees several months to look through applications before sending out decisions.) Typically, the website or brochure will distinguish between fall admission and spring admission near the printed deadlines. While it’s likely that the deadline you are looking at is a spring admission deadline, always contact the school to ask if you are uncertain. A quick phone call can help you confirm, and can save you from missing out on applying. Good luck!
My niece applied to several colleges out of town and out of state. She was accepted at all of the schools but is now feeling like she really wants to stay local in San Diego. The problem is that she did not apply to any of the colleges there. Is there anything she can do? Can she parlay an acceptance to a college into an acceptance at a local college?
A change of heart like this is not uncommon, especially for an incoming freshman who has not yet ventured far from home. While there is no way to parlay an acceptance from one school to another, some colleges and universities do have rolling admissions. This means that admissions remain open on a rolling basis rather than ending at a posted deadline. Check your area schools and community colleges to see if any offer rolling admissions or a late deadline. If this fails, your niece may want to take community college courses this fall to earn some core credits and then apply in the spring semester for entry into an area school.
I have a great topic to write about for my scholarship application. I have a photograph that really brings my essay topic full circle. I’m in the photo, but it’s not just of me. Is it a no-no to attach a copy of the photo I’m writing about in my essay?
It is okay to do so, as long as the essay instructions do not specifically state that you shouldn’t include extra materials. One photograph that really illuminates the meaning of your essay sounds like a wonderful idea that demonstrates thought and creativity. I wouldn’t advise most students to send photos or materials to accompany the essay, but it sounds like you’re using good judgment here. Good luck! I’m glad you are so excited about your essay!
I will be a junior this year. I have a 3.381 GPA , I am in the drama club, and I volunteer quite a bit. I am planning on applying to a school that doesn’t accept very many students, and I really want to get in. What are some ways to make my application stand out?
That’s a great question. It sounds like you already know how tough the competition will be, so it’s great to go into the process with objectivity. Focus on preparing a very strong application essay that discusses your goals. In this essay, highlight some of your major experiences with volunteer work and academics that have shaped your desire to attend the school. Be genuine, the students who really stand out are those who come across as passionate and honest rather than attempting to display what a college wants to see. Sit down and brainstorm your most memorable and important experiences as a student and as a human being, and work on writing about them in a compelling way. It’s always good to have help with your essay, so lean on a friend, teacher, or family member to read your essay and help you revise it several times. Also, balance your GPA with very strong test scores if you can. Solicit a tutor or a prep course to help you prepare for those important tests, as sometimes a strong test score will balance out a less than perfect GPA. Finally, get to know your teachers well so that they are able to write strong recommendation letters if the school requests them with the application. Your teachers should be aware of your strengths, your challenges, and your overall academic goals. Focus on building the best application you can, and stay positive! Good luck with the process!
My application requires one essay, but it is also optional to send a second essay. Do I have to send more than one essay to be accepted?
No, if only one essay is required, you don’t have to send more. But if you feel like you have something strong to write about for the topic of the second essay, go ahead and write it. It all depends on what the optional essay asks and whether you feel like the topic is relevant to your strengths as a candidate. Make that required essay the best it can be, no matter what you choose. Good luck!
On college applications, do schools ask if you have a Facebook profile?
This is a great question. Typically, no, an application will not ask you for your Facebook page link. However, do know that college admissions directors and recruiters can and sometimes will search students online, especially when competition is tough between a few spots. The same goes for future companies and employees. If your Facebook page is public, anyone can access your photographs and information, and it isn’t against the law or any policy for recruiters, admissions directors, or companies to do so. Unless you have a Facebook page that promotes a cause such as a non-profit, artist profile, or business, it’s always best to keep it private. I hope this helps!
Do selective universities want to see an applicant have eight credits of math or four straight years of math? My daughter already has eight credits of math. Should she still take one more year of math?
If your daughter has all the required math classes to graduate and there are other areas of study that interest her, she should use senior year to explore electives or coursework in disciplines that interest her. Schools don’t necessarily need to see that math is taken each year, but if she plans to enter a math-related major in college, skipping out on math senior year might not be the best option. There is no real rule-of-thumb for this question, but I’d advise taking something related to her interested course of study next year in college rather than adding another math. Schools want to see students continuing to challenge themselves senior year and readying themselves for college-level courses. Math or not, her senior year schedule should be rigorous and challenging, as she will be competing with other college applicants who have rigorous senior year schedules and high grades. Good luck!
I joined a club senior year, and this club was created my senior year. On my application, I wrote “Created in 2012” next to a club I joined, because the club was new and I didn’t want colleges to think I only started joining clubs my senior year to increase my chances of acceptance. I have been accepted into a college, but I’m worried that what I wrote was misleading. Could they have thought that I created the club?
I don’t think you have any reason to worry. Your admission to college certainly wasn’t decided based on that one item, and it doesn’t sound like your description was misleading in any way. Usually, the only reasons a college might revoke an acceptance involve items like a downturn in grades senior year or a serious offense requiring disciplinary action. Relax and celebrate. Congratulations on your acceptance!
If I didn’t take any honors classes in high school, do I still have a chance to get into Vanderbilt university?
We get this question often, and unfortunately the answer is that we cannot describe or predict your chances of getting into any school. You can look at the school’s admission requirements and the average GPA and profile of an entering student. If that profile sounds like you, and the school seems like a good fit, then you should apply. If your GPA or test scores are much lower than the average or minimum scores, know that your chances will not be great. The school you mentioned is competitive, and each year has a different competitive pool of applicants. Research is the only way to know more about where you stand, and there is never a guarantee until you hold an acceptance letter. Best of luck in your research!
Does it look bad on the college applications if I took the SAT twice and scored exactly the same both times? Does the fact that the score (1700) did not increase the second time make a difference and reflect negatively on my application? I am a senior, an honors student with a 4.2 GPA, and I’m in the top 5% of my graduating class.
No, it won’t matter that the score didn’t improve. Schools will look at your highest score, which is the same in both cases. You do have a strong score and a strong GPA, so my suggestion is to focus more on other areas of the application like extracurricular activities and recommendation letters. You should be in good shape if you can produce a well-crafted essay, strong letters, and evidence of leadership or involvement in extracurriculars. Good luck, and congratulations on your accomplishments so far!
I am just starting junior year in high school. I have a 4.0 GPA. I have taken 2 AP exams and got a 4 and a 5. I have taken all the honors classes offered at my school. I took the PSAT as a sophomore and got a 75, 75 and 79. I have taken the SAT II in physics and got a 780. I play piano and am in a jazz ensemble. I am a writer in the school newspaper and am in my school choir. I have been involved in physics research my last two years and will be submitting a project to Intel after taking an Intel course at my school this year. I love the outdoors and I completed a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) course this summer and a 5 week backpacking trip last summer. I am taking 3 APs this year. I want to go to either Bowdoin or Williams. Is there anything I’m missing? How are my chances at getting in to these schools?
First off, you sound like a very impressive student. Congratulations on your successes so far! You sound like an individual that will excel at anything you take on. That said, we receive this question often, and unfortunately we cannot describe or predict your chances of getting into any school. You can look at the school’s admission requirements and the average GPA and profile of an entering student. If that profile sounds like you, then you should apply if the school is a good fit. If your GPA or test scores are much lower than the average or minimum scores, know that your chances will not be great. Each year brings a different competitive pool of applicants. Research is the only way to know more about where you stand, and there is never a guarantee until you hold an acceptance letter. Since you know what schools you like, you have plenty of time to research them and even make campus visits. In the meantime, keep up the hard work you’re doing. Best of luck in your research!
Do I need to write an essay, even if the application doesn’t ask for one?
Only submit what the application asks for. Extra materials are usually disregarded. However, you should consider applying to a variety of schools, and perhaps one or two will require an essay. Therefore, it might be a good idea to prepare yourself to write one. Good luck with your admissions process!
When applications ask about my parents’ education, are they asking about their education even only in the United States? For example, if my parents earned college degrees in human resources in Mexico, do I report that they are college graduates?
Great question! Yes, if your parents graduated college, you should list them as college graduates on the application even if the college was not in the United States. It may be helpful to know that questions like these are mostly for statistical purposes. Colleges gather data about their applicants’ demographics. The question won’t make or break your chances of acceptance at the school. Good luck with your applications!
My son is taking a very hard AP class and is not doing well. Because the course is two separate classes, he has requested to be removed from the second semester. He has already applied to colleges and been accepted. Should he notify the colleges of the change in his class schedule for his second semester?
Yes, just to be on the safe side, I would contact the admissions office and explain the situation. This will cover all bases, and will also give you peace of mind about his acceptance. It’s highly unlikely that the change would affect his admission, and academically it is wise for him to avoid an AP course if he is unable to make a ‘B’ or higher. Congratulations to your son on his admission!
I am now applying for colleges and have sent my resume, but I am not starting my volunteer hours until next month. Can send the colleges my hours later?
You could discuss your plans to volunteer in your essay, but schools don’t really let you continue to add things to your application after you’ve sent it. This could really fluster the admissions office with new paperwork and resumes coming in each week. Instead, fill out the application based on what you’ve done so far. If you want to talk about future plans, mention them in the essay. Good luck!
I put on my application that I would not be visiting the campus. Will that hurt my chances of getting in?
No, it won’t hurt your chances. While it’s great to visit a prospective college, many students live too far away or can’t fit a campus visit into their schedules. That won’t have any effect on the admissions decision. Your grades, extracurriculars, test scores, essays and recommendations will be the main factors in deciding on your admittance. Good luck!
I am 22 years old, and I’ve decided to go back to college. I attended a community college in 2009, but I don’t have a transcript because I only took a human development and remedial math course. Do I still have to add this school to my application and submit the transcript?
Yes, it is very important to submit all prior transcripts if the application asks for them. Omitting transcripts can reflect academic dishonesty and raise questions in the admissions office. The safest bet is to be completed thorough with all application questions. The transcript is not likely to keep you from being admitted, but an incomplete application might. Good luck!
Hi Guru, I have two questions.1. My daughter is a sophomore in a private school. The school plans to offer an AP psychology class before the regular school day begins. My daughter is interested in this class and is willing to add it as her 9th subject. She is currently enrolled in three honors courses, as well as Spanish, Latin, health, and English. Her grades are all A’s and B’s. What is your recommendation about adding a ninth subject to her already busy schedule? Also, next year she wants to just continue with Spanish classes but stop taking Latin. I’ve heard that colleges would like to see a commitment to a language. Would dropping Latin negatively affect her college application, even though she’s continuing to study Spanish?
Great questions! Your daughter sounds like a high achiever with a great future ahead. In terms of AP courses, we typically recommend taking them only if a student can maintain a B or higher. It does sound like she has a heavy schedule, but if she can maintain high grades, and if psychology is a field she is interested in, it’s worth considering. But, what about extracurricular activities? Colleges look for rigorous academic schedules and high grades, but they also look at a student’s community involvement and engagement with activities outside the curriculum. Is she a part of any clubs, sports, or community activities? If not, I’d suggest balancing out the schedule with something non-academic that builds leadership or service skills. In terms of the language courses, I think it’s okay to narrow focus to one foreign language for junior and senior year, especially with her full schedule. Spanish is a very practical language to learn, and can lead to many opportunities. Latin certainly enriches the study of many subjects, but it makes complete sense for your daughter to choose the language that is more useful and focus her energies on advancing. I don’t think this will hurt her application. Best of luck making a decision, and do consider adding extracurricular activities where the schedule allows rather than more coursework. She will need to develop social, service, and academic skills to be successful on a college campus. Good luck!
I have a degree in recreation and sports management. Will I have to retake the core classes if I want to pursue an associate’s degree?
Good question. Each school is different in the way they accept transfer credits or past credits toward a new degree. You’ll want to meet directly with an adviser or director in the department where you want to earn the new degree. Take your transcripts with you so that the director can determine if any of your credits can carry over. Good luck!
Do colleges give your application full consideration if the application is incomplete or if some of your materials arrive late? I didn’t know that one of my colleges required two subject tests, and I didn’t get a chance to take any before the deadline. Is my incomplete application a lost cause?
The best way to find out is to call the school directly and ask. Usually, if it’s past the admissions deadline and your application was incomplete, it will not be considered but may be kept on file for the next application season. It’s not likely that you can be granted admission if you haven’t taken the required tests. The only way to get a solid answer, however, is to call the school and ask. Best of luck.
For my senior year, I signed up for AP environmental science because I am interested in it. But after doing some research online, I found that people consider it to be an easy AP and that colleges look down upon it. Is this true? I have taken bio honors, chemistry honors, and AP Physics so far and in my senior year I plan to take four other AP courses. Considering this, is AP enviro going to hurt me at all if I apply to some selective liberal arts colleges?
I’m afraid that’s a misnomer. Be careful with what you read on online chat forums and blogs. Often, the information is biased. Instead, think about your future goals. If you plan to pursue a career in the environmental sciences, by all means take the AP course. Based on your transcripts so far, the class certainly won’t hurt you (unless you make lower than a B) and if environmental science is a true interest, I encourage you to pursue the course. You sound like a very dedicated student. Good luck to you!
I go to a very challenging high school filled with kids who strive to get into the top five percent. It’s difficult for me to compete. My friend is going to a school in the same district that is much easier, and it would be fairly easy to be in the top five percent there if I transferred. I think I should ask my parents about that. Would you recommend it?
I’d recommend going to the school that will provide the best education. That means a school that will challenge you but also allow you to excel. If you are earning A’s and B’s at your current school, and the curriculum is challenging, it sounds like a better fit than an easier school where you might not grow from your studies. Know that colleges factor in the rigor of a school when they consider your class rank, so the top five percent at one school might not be as prestigious as the top twenty-five percent at another school. You could certainly talk to your parents about your concern, but keep these things in mind!
Do colleges view small schools and big schools differently? I feel like it is harder to do as well in a very large school than in a very small school.
That depends on the rigor of the curriculum and the level of test scores coming out of the school’s graduating class. School size does not necessarily translate to a tougher or easier curriculum, so colleges will weigh many other factors. If you’re trying to decide which school to attend, consider which model would be best for your own educational growth. A smaller school might have smaller classes and a more community-oriented environment, while a larger school might offer a larger array of classes and extracurriculars. Choose a school based on where you think you will excel to get the best results! Good luck with your decision!
I am a senior and I am thinking about dropping my AP statistics class before the end of our first semester. Will this hurt me on my college applications? I haven’t submitted any of them yet. Thanks!
Great question! Not necessarily, but it really depends on your reason for dropping. Since the drop will be noticeable on your transcript, this might be something you’ll want to explain on your college application essay. If you feel like the class is harming your ability to keep your other grades high, then dropping might be a sound decision. But make sure it’s a decision you make in the best interest of your education, and explain the choice thoroughly in your essay. If you plan to enter a major that requires heavy use of math or statistics, think this decision through before you drop. If you can make at least a “B” or higher in an AP or honors class, it’s a great idea to challenge yourself and stay in. Best of luck with your decision!
After high school, I took a year off to just enjoy life. Now, when it comes to applying to colleges, I am completely lost. How do I apply to college?
Attending college is a big decision and a great step forward. You will want to first decide what type of college fits your lifestyle and budget. Are you interested in starting at a community college and then moving to a university? Would you like to attend classes on campus or take online classes from home? Consider these important questions before you begin applying. Next, check out our guide to college admissions for a sense of what the process looks like. You should request information from your desired schools and, for each school, find out what the application requires. Likely, you will be required to submit test scores from the ACT or SAT, transcripts from high school, recommendation letters, and an application essay. Each school’s website will have an admissions section where you will find information for prospective students. Many schools require online applications now, so you can even start the application online and save it as you go. Good luck!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I am in the middle of my first semester of my senior year in high school. I have not taken a language class. How much will this hurt my admission chances? I know it will vary from school to school, but a general idea would be appreciated. Also, if this is a problem, do you have any advice on what I can still do?
Great question! It won’t necessarily hurt your admission, but you’ll want to show a well-rounded transcript with classes in many areas of academic study and extracurricular activities. While many college applicants do take a foreign language in high school, it’s not a deal-breaker if you didn’t take a course. If you have an interest in a foreign language, you might mention that in your admissions essay. Perhaps the school to which you are applying offers a language you’re interested in exploring? I wouldn’t let it hold you back from applying, but certainly indicate that you’re ready to study a foreign language in college if that’s the case. Good luck!
Dear Guru: Do colleges send materials to everyone, or do they send information to students that they have the potential to be a student at their college? My friend has gotten letters from schools that I haven’t, and vice versa. Also, I have received an application from a school for priority admission. Does this mean anything?
This is a great question. Yes, schools are selective about where they send their materials, and often a school will not send brochures to students who won’t meet their requirements. Colleges get the names of potential students from a variety of sources, including the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the National Research Center for College & University Admissions (NRCCUA) and the American College Testing Program (ACT). Note that receiving materials in the mail does not mean that you will be accepted. Likewise, not receiving brochures in the mail does not mean that you have no shot at a particular school. Receiving a priority application from a school means that you are probably a good candidate for that school. However, don’t discount the schools that didn’t send you materials, and focus on picking the schools that best fit your needs. Students sometimes make the mistake of thinking of certain colleges as “safety schools,” but there is truly no guarantee of acceptance anywhere. Put your best application forward, and good luck!
Although I have been accepted to several other colleges, my top choice deferred me. The college is a very competitive public school (UNC-Chapel Hill). I have a relatively high GPA (4.4) and decent SAT (1230) and ACT (28) scores. I am also very involved, serving as Vice President, NHS member, Spanish HS member, and much community service. After my notice of deferral, my parents and I thought about disclosing my ADHD records and statement of impact. I wasn’t diagnosed and treated until sophomore year and my grades greatly suffered freshman year for it. I would like to know is disclosure is an action that we should look into. How would it affect the review of my application?
Congratulations on your other acceptances. Unfortunately, usually a deferral or rejection by a college is not something that occurs because of one single application item. Instead, the committee looks at your application as a whole and measures it against the rest of the pool for that season. Perhaps you were up against a very strong pool of applicants, and spots were limited. Or, perhaps you were not the type of student this university was seeking. Regardless, disclosing ADHD records after the fact won’t likely change the decision, and could be seen by the committee as pressure to change their decision. Typically, the application essay is an appropriate place to discuss challenges and how you overcame them in high school. Supplying records after the decision has been made is not generally good practice. Instead, focus on the acceptances you were offered and make the best choice you can. At the end of the day, there is no guarantee of admission to any school, and you should feel accomplished for the acceptances that you did receive. Good luck!
I am a senior in high school, and I have already been accepted to most of the colleges I have applied to including my top school and the specific program that I wanted. I was in NHS last year as a junior. However, I did not do enough activities and volunteer work to be accepted again as a senior. When I was applying to colleges, I indicated that I was an NHS member as a junior since NHS had not yet begun for this school year. If I do not make it to NHS this year as a senior, will it really make a difference in my acceptances to schools?
As a general rule, once you are accepted, only a steep decline in grades or an academic irregularity during senior year will raise a red flag with admission committees. From what you described, because you were honest about NHS membership being solely for junior year on your college applications, you have not misrepresented yourself. It is unlikely that schools will revoke your acceptance because you are not participating in the organization this year. Focus on the classes you are taking and the organizations in which you are actively participating, and make sure you finish high school strong. You should be in good shape. Congratulations on getting accepted to your top choice program!
Do college scouts look at all four years of high school? Also, if you didn’t do well during your junior year, will they look at your senior year grades?
Yes, colleges do look at all four years of high school, and junior year is particularly important. But, don’t let that discourage you. A big improvement senior year could show maturity and a hardworking attitude, and a temporary slip in grades will rarely rule you out as an applicant. Try to make up for anything that’s lacking with strong test scores, a powerful essay, and quality extracurricular activities. Schools will look at your profile as a whole, not just your grades. Good luck!
I am senior in high school and have already received some acceptance letters to colleges,but I haven’t heard from my top pick state college as yet. Some of my classmate have already heard from that same college. Would it be a good idea to write my college admissions counselor an e-mail asking the status of my application and letting him know how interested I am in attending that college? Would it make a difference, or would the e-mail just be annoying since they have everything they need to make a decision?
Usually admissions decisions are sent out in batches, so don’t get discouraged yet. But, recent surveys about college admissions do show that a student’s indicated interest in the school is a compelling factor in the admissions process. Staying in touch with your admissions counselor is a great idea, as long as you don’t drive her crazy! Make sure you communicate in a professional manner. You had the right idea when you suggested an email, as admissions offices are busy and phone calls from many students inquiring about applications might disrupt the process and make response time even slower. Politely state your reason for inquiry and reiterate that this school is your top pick. It also won’t hurt to ask when you might expect to hear back, just to calm your nerves. Good luck!
If I want to major in business, would it still be helpful for my application if I took a subject such as AP U.S. History , AP Biology, Chemistry, and other science courses? What classes should I take if I decide to major in business?
Yes, taking AP courses shows ambition and responsibility. The skills of critical thinking and writing you learn in History will help you in any college class. Create a well-rounded application by mixing rigorous study in a wide variety of subjects with extracurricular activities. The business world is one that requires not just financial skills, but also communication skills. You might consider a speech or debate class if those are offered at your school. The more active you are in extracurriculars, the better your verbal and written communication skills will become. In terms of coursework, because you are still in high school you should take classes that interest and challenge you. Once you’ve begun a major in college, you’ll start to narrow your focus. Good luck!
I’m 16 years old, currently in my second year of high school, and I want to know if there is any way I can get into a good college without completing my high school diploma.
Most colleges and universities do require that you finish your high school diploma before entering college. It will be a much more difficult route if you drop out. Consider the reasons why you don’t want to finished. If you don’t feel challenged or stimulated, talk to a guidance counselor about dual enrollment programs. These programs allow you to begin earning college credits at a local university or community college while you are still in high school. Dual enrollment is a great jump-start to your college education. Good luck!
Hi! I’m currently a junior in high school and I’m beginning to think about college applications. I have a unweighted GPA of a 3.91 and a weighted GPA of a 4.45.I have yet to take the SAT but my PSAT score predicted me to get around a 1700. I am involved in Juniorettes. Beta, and HOSA. I also play softball. However, as a junior I am taking 3 AP courses and I’m not sure if I could handle playing a sport since it takes up 3 or more hours a day and maintain the grade point average I want. I was just wondering if not playing softball would affect me getting into bigger schools such as Chapel Hill? Also, if I don’t play do I need to get more involved?
You are wise to consider your grades and academics first and your sports second. If you honestly believe you won’t be able to balance the sport with your AP courses, it’s fine to rearrange your schedule and stop playing the sport. The only exception would be if you plan to play softball in college. If so, it would be wise to continue playing throughout high school. Don’t worry about packing your schedule completely full and replacing the sport if you quit. Stay balanced and make sure you have plenty of time for studying, rest, and the other activities you already have on your calendar. Good luck!
Which would look better on a college application: A four-week hands-on course in architecture that will leave me with a portfolio of work, or a four-week Middleburry French Immersion course in which I would only speak French for four weeks?
What looks best on a college application are activities relevant to your future goals. Both courses sound like incredible learning opportunities, but if you plan to pursue architecture as a career, the architecture course might be more relevant to your future major and subsequent career moves. But, if you plan to speak French in your profession or work in a setting that requires French speaking, the French course might be equally suitable for you. When you make the decision, think about the experience and knowledge you will gain rather than how it will look to an admissions committee. Remember: This is your education and your chance to enrich your knowledge and skills. Both sound fantastic, but only you know which will be worth more to you in the future. Good luck!
Why do colleges still need your high school transcripts even though your a transfer student?
Think of your transcript as a resume that shows your prior educational experience. While you may be transferring to start over, it’s important for a school to see your track record when they make admission decisions, because this track record is a predictor of how you will perform academically in the new school. Your high school transcripts show an arc of your performance all the way through one schooling period, whereas one or two semesters of grades from a college only show how you performed in a limited amount of time. A semester at a school is equivalent to how you played for a few games, whereas your completed high school transcripts shows more of a “batting average” and other long term statistics. If you’re worried that your high school transcript does not reflect your current abilities, you can write about obstacles you’ve overcome and improvements you’ve made within your admissions essay. Good luck!
I recently confirmed enrollment at a school before really looking into it, and now I want to withdraw my enrollment there to attend another school. Will there be penalties for doing so?
If you’ve received an acceptance from another school and would rather go there, contact the school at which you confirmed enrollment and ask the admissions office directly. Each school has its own policies, so it’s best to go directly to the source. You’ll want to do this immediately, because there are students on the waiting list hoping to earn a spot. Good luck!
I’m doing my first year of college at a community school so that I can raise up my GPA from high school. If I finish off my first year of college with a 3.5 or higher GPA, will the school go back and look at my high school grades?
Great work raising your GPA by starting out in community college. This is a smart plan and shows that you are serious about your education. There is really no guarantee about what a school will consider when looking at your portfolio, and if you are required to submit your transcripts from both high school and the community college, you can safely assume that the school will look at both. Yet, your community college grades will hold more weight, because they are more recent and more applicable to potential college performance. If you have the opportunity to write an essay for admission, you might discuss ways in which you’ve improved and overcome the obstacles that held you back during high school. Yet, make sure you focus on your abilities and ownership of responsibility, not on blaming external circumstances. Colleges and universities want students who are accountable for their education and life challenges. Good luck!
I graduated high school in 2014, and now want to go to college but I don’t know where to start. How do I apply?
Definitely sit down with a counselor at the high school where you graduated and ask for materials on registering for the ACT or SAT. Most schools will require that you take these standardized tests before you apply. Then, research the colleges you’d like to apply to and find out what the applications require. Most will require an essay, official transcripts, recommendation letters, and standardized test scores. But each school is different, and every application will be different. Prepare yourself to do lots of research up front! You might begin by searching the web and looking at the websites of schools in your area. Each one will have a link for “Prospective Students,” and that’s where you’ll find application materials. There, you’ll also find important deadlines that you should note on a calendar so that you don’t miss the next round of admissions. Good luck!
I just submitted my first college application and checked over it at least ten times to see if everything was filled out. Today I got the receipt and there was one question I somehow missed. Will the university automatically decline me? I’m super nervous, but the rest of my application was very good.
Don’t fret. But do contact the admissions office for guidance. You may be able to send a supplement to your application answering the question, and the school may want you to do so. Or, the admissions office representative you contact may tell you not to worry about the missed question. Either way, getting in touch with the office and asking won’t hurt, and it could save you a lot of anxiety. Good luck!
Dear Guru, I am a high school senior and am applying to college this year. The college application requires many essays and I am a poor writer. However I believe that once I get the ball rolling I can write a really good essay. How should I go about starting an essay?
Hi there! Congratulations on thinking ahead, as the essay can be a crucial part of your application and should not be hurried.Lots of people think they are poor writers, however that is rarely the case, and planning ahead is a huge help in developing a great essay.The No. 1 piece of advice is to brainstorm a topic that lets your personality shine through. College admissions offices are reading hundreds of essays, so you want yours to be compelling and interesting. Usually that comes from taking a broad topic and making it quite narrow, so that you can include lots of specifics. Try to choose something that gives insight into your character traits that are attractive to colleges, such as overcoming obstacles, improving an area of your life, a volunteer activity that taught you something, etc. Starting with an outline will help you structure it wisely. And then, just start writing. Don’t edit on the first draft, just get your thoughts down. Then you can turn your attention to editing. Watching for structure, choosing strong words, adding descriptors — you want to bring it to life.Finally, proof read it multiple times. There’s always something to improve! Allow enough time to set it aside and check it with fresh eyes, and also have others read through it. If you have a trusted English teacher, see if he or she will take a look and give you any suggestions to make it stronger.As you can see, the process can be time consuming but is well worth it to end up with essays that the colleges will want to read and portray your candidacy in the best possible light. Good luck
I have just been rejected for early decision by a college and deferred to the regular decision pool. I know it’s a second chance, but if their admissions office didn’t choose me this time around, would I really be chosen in the spring?
There is no guarantee, but you definitely could be chosen for admission in the regular applicant pool. Applications in the early decision pool are reviewed with a more strict standard, because there are very few early decision spots available. But different standards will be applied when reviewing the regular pool of applicants, as there are more seats to offer. Don’t give up hope: You could still receive an acceptance from the school. Good luck!
I am a junior in high school and I have been looking into some college options. My main concern is the language requirement. If a college “requires” two years of the same language, will that college reject me if I don’t have them?
Generally, a college’s requirements are strict standards for admitting students. If you don’t meet those fundamental requirements, it is unlikely to have success applying to a school. However, there is never harm in reaching out to the school to ask questions. For example, if it’s a school you’d really like to attend, you might contact the admissions office to ask if the language requirements can be met during freshman and sophomore year, or during summer terms. There may be exceptions to the general rule, and the only way to find out is to ask the school directly. Best of luck!
I’ve been accepted at three universities, and all three have offered some scholarship money (pre-FAFSA) and have set deadlines for accepting or declining the scholarships. It is barely February, and I have not yet decided where to attend. Can I accept all offers now, before their deadlines, and decide where I want to go after the FAFSA is filed?
Congratulations on your offers. Typically, the manner in which you accept an offer by a college is by signing a letter of acceptance, as well as sending a deposit. If you do accept all offers, you’ll likely have to pay all deposit fees in order to secure your “spot” at those schools, and you won’t be able to get that deposit money back at most schools. (Each school has its own acceptance and denial policies, but usually a deposit is non-refundable.) My advice would be to narrow down your choices as much as possible, and only accept offers at the schools you really know you want to attend. Deposits may be high, so for three schools, you may be sacrificing a great deal of money that you won’t recover. Yet, students do sometimes accept multiple offers knowing that they need time to make a decision. Either way that you decide, make sure to notify the school as soon as possible once you know that you won’t attend. They’ll then open the spot to a student on the waiting list and release the scholarship money to other qualified students. Good luck!
I’m a sophomore at a new high school, I transferred out of my old high school last year while I was in freshmen year. Will colleges look at my grades from old school or will they not see it?
Yes those grades will be part of your transcript, even if they are from separate schools.I am surmising you didn’t do as well as you wanted your freshman year? In that case, remember that you have three years to improve your grades, and colleges are especially interested in seeing improvement. So make sure that you buckle down and do what you can to raise your GPA, perhaps even replacing some of your grades with summer school classes if that’s feasible.In addition, if you are turning over a new leaf, you might find that your experience provides excellent fodder for your college essay. You can discuss how you realized you were on the wrong path and decided to refocus and improve your study skills and grades — displaying a tenacity that is appealing to college admissions professionals.Also consider finding an extracurricular activity or volunteer opportunity that interests you and really immersing yourself in it, which can help show your ability to juggle and balance multiple activities, an important skill for college students. I hope your new high school is a great fit and you have a wonderful high school career!
I am a sophomore in high school. Outside of school I usually come home and play videos games in most hours of my spare time not playing any sports. I hold a 3.0-3.5 GPA and I am not involved in any after school activities because, honestly, nothing really interests me and I am too attached to my video game time to join any school related activities. When I think about this, I get stressed that I am a below average student that won’t be able to get into a college. At the rate I am going, will I be a lacking student? What do you recommend me to start doing? I am thinking about joining a TSA program my school has but the thought of competing makes me nervous for some reason.
Hi there. Hope your year is going well. I am glad you are thinking about your future while you still have time to make a difference. It’s true that getting into college is quite competitive, and while your GPA is quite good, there are many kids who earn grades like that and it’s important to differentiate yourself in some way.
I looked up TSA and looks like that’s a technology association? That might be a superb fit with your interests. And competing is something that might be a great skill to practice in a “safe” environment. Teams like that are normally very supportive of each other, and the camaraderie could be an excellent complement to the typically solitary nature of video games.
The truth is that even if playing video games in your spare time is what you WANT to do, it will come at a cost, which will be limited options for colleges. Understanding that this is a time in your life when you don’t get to do exactly what you want with your free time can pay dividends when it puts you on the path to the career that you eventually want.
Colleges do look at grades, of course, but equally important, they look at extracurricular activities and what you uniquely can add to their campus to make it a richer environment. That’s why extracurriculars are more important than you might think.
The third leg of the stool, which you haven’t addressed, is your standardized test scores. That’s another place where you can shine as you present your dossier to schools, so be sure to add some ACT or SAT study and prep time to your plan.
I think TSA is a great place to start, and then you could even consider starting a video game club, or learning to code yourself. Colleges are very impressed with leadership skills, so even if there’s not a club that appeals to you right now, you could always start one!
Anyway, my advice is to consider what you can do in the next two years to make yourself more attractive to colleges, as the more doors you have open, the better.
I am a junior in high school. My cumulative GPA over the past 2 years is a 2.9 but this year I have kept around a 3.5. I am waiting to get my first ACT back and I am not very confident in my performance with that, however, I could be wrong. I need to go to a good 4 year college. I have my sights on (several), but I have no idea if I’ll be able to achieve any of those. A state school is my absolute backup, so with that being said I was wondering if I have any hope to go to a school such as those mentioned in that list. Thank you for reading this, I hope I have a chance because I want to get into business and all I want in life is to be successful with a beautiful family.
Congratulations on your hard work and path of self-improving. It’s impossible to predict exactly what schools you would get into, since they all look for different things and strive for a well-balanced class. The important thing to remember is that you have done a great job improving your grades, and colleges are always impressed with improvement.
Also, don’t dismiss state schools as being less appealing. They offer a great education, often more reasonably priced, and you will be surrounded by a well-connected alumni network. However, the best course of action is to apply to a wide range of schools at which you would be happy. Smaller, private schools often will also look just beyond GPA to the factors that would make you an ideal addition to their student body.
As for your ACT, hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised by your score. If not, though, there will be other times you can take it. Be sure to brush up, using the online resources that are widely available, or checking with your high school to see if they have a study prep course they offer.
Wishing you much success in your journey! With a positive attitude and worthwhile goal as you have described, you can’t go wrong!
I am a senior in high school. My freshman year, I had mostly A’s and some B’s. But my sophomore year I had all A’s but two C’s, so now I have a 3.3 GPA. My SAT score is 1200 right now. Do you think I can get my GPA up to a 3.8 or 3.9 if I get A+ in all my classes for the remaining year? I am really worried these first two years will affect my college admission because I want to go to a good state school. Would I still be able to go? I also have no specific reason for my poor grades, just lack of organization and studying. I really want to improve myself and excel in academics. What should I do to get into a good state college, and how much will colleges really look at my grades, compared to my essay and other requirements.
It’s really impossible to predict if you can raise your GPA to a 3.8 or a 3.9 as classes are weighted differently depending on whether you’re taking Advanced Placement, honors or regular courses. But at least you know you need to recommit to your education. That’s a step in the right direction. Work hard this last year to develop the organizational skills and study habits necessary to excel in college. Your personal essay might be a good place to show your future college how you’ve grown as a student throughout your high school career.
Although your GPA is the most important aspect of your college application, colleges consider more than your grades. If you have at least a solid 3.5 GPA, as well as good standardized test scores and strong extracurricular activities, then you have a pretty good chance of being accepted at a wide variety of schools. Good luck!
I am a senior in high school and started to apply to colleges. My GPA is 2.88 and I scored a 24 on the ACT. I am an Eagle Scout which gave me a little more confidence when I first applied to a college. I also have Type 2 Diabetes. I have looked at several websites, and they all say that colleges are looking for well-rounded students, not just numbers, but from what I have seen of the application process, this is not true. I am not asking to go to MIT and I intend to go to community college and improve my grades there. I’m scared that my high school GPA and scores will be too low to get accepted to the schools I’m looking into. What advice do you have for applying to colleges?
Generally, if you are attending a community college prior to applying to a four-year university, your performance in college will be weighed more heavily by the university than your performance in high school if you complete at least 30 credit hours (this requirement depends on the specific university). If you’re looking to bring up your grades at community college, this sounds like a great chance for you to work towards your goal of attending a good university.
If you are worried about university admissions looking past your application due to poor past academic performance and are hoping to explain why you struggled in high school, there are often opportunities to explain hardships and obstacles whether in a specific essay question or in your personal statement. Good luck on pursuing your education!