When you’re about to hit the submit button on The Common Application’s online system, your biggest worry is whether or not you’ll get in. Why else do students stress over their grades? But what does the admissions boards pay the most attention to? After all, you want to make sure you’re concentrating on the right things.
The exact weight colleges place on specific parts of your application will depend on the college itself. Most will pay attention to your test scores, grades and extracurricular activities. When in doubt, take the time to speak with college freshmen who have just gone through the process. Or, schedule an on-campus visit and meet with the admissions officers. While they cannot divulge everything, they will appreciate your interest and you’ll continue to set yourself apart from the rest.
Colleges like higher test scores
Standardized tests, like the SAT and ACT, are one of the most important admissions factors. Not only do these tests test your ability to retain the information you were taught to date, but they also reveal your aptitude for learning at a higher level. Most college admission professionals recommend test prep services. In a classroom setting or with 1:1 instruction, you’ll use test prep to overcome any anxiety about taking the actual test and increase the probability of a higher score. And it’s okay to try different strategies, tools and techniques until you determine what works best for you. The main thing is to take your time and learn the types of questions asked, take practice tests and study the tips and techniques to increase your score.
Grades in courses you attend
High school is your last stop before graduating to higher learning, and the classes you took are an indication of your preparedness for what comes next. Even large colleges that utilize mathematical formulas to rank students weigh the difficulty of your courses against the grades you earned. Advanced Placement (AP) courses where you earned a higher grade will lend more credence to your candidacy than acing a lower level course. Always challenge yourself and apply yourself if you’re serious about excelling to the next level. The hard work you put into your courses will help assure your place in the college of your choice.
Attending extracurricular activities
What you do outside of school speaks volumes to your character. According to The New York Times, schools want to know as much about the person as the student . While your grades speak volumes about your ability to study and learn, it doesn’t say much about how you will conduct yourself outside of the classroom and what else you bring to the table. Extracurricular activities like swimming, theatre and the debate club will show your leadership, interests and civic involvement. This is especially important to smaller schools that take more time to review individual applicants. They want to be assured that you will reflect properly on the school as they curate a diverse student body.
By increasing your test scores, continuing to take a challenging course load and diversifying the types of extracurricular activities you’re involved in, you will have the best chance of getting into the college of your dreams.