Do You Have What Colleges Are Looking For?

By Cody J. Lettau

It’s time to start thinking about your future after high school. When the time comes for high school students to apply for college, many students will worry about whether or not they will be accepted into the institution of their choice. With so many colleges to choose from, how can a high school student know what colleges are looking for in potential students?

There are many aspects that define a potential student. From grades to community service, most colleges have specific requirements that they will look for in students. It is important for high school students to know what they can do to make themselves standout to the college of their choice. Besides the obvious elements of grade point average and standardized test results, many students and parents are oblivious to the other necessary aspects that will help a student gain acceptance into a college.

Grade Point Average – College admission boards seek students that have the potential to succeed at their school. A student’s grade point average is a good indicator of whether or not a student will be able to succeed at college. If your grades in the beginning of high school are lower than you would have liked, it is important to bring your grade point average up over the next couple years. This rise in grades can show college admission counselors that a student is committed and has put forth a strong effort.

Challenging Curriculum – Although grades are important, a challenging course load can be a better indicator of a successful student. By taking honors or advanced placement courses, a student demonstrates that they aspire to gain knowledge that would not be obtained in a standard course. When reviewing a college application, admission reviewers would prefer a student who takes advanced courses and receives slightly lower grades than a student who takes the standard classes and obtains all A’s.

Common Required Core Classes for College Admission – 4 years of English, 3 years of Math, 3 years of Laboratory Science, 3 years of Social Studies, 2 years of a World Language.

Class Rank – Showing effort and intelligence, a student’s class rank is taken into consideration by admission committees. They know that students who are ranked high in their class tend to be successful students. A class rank is determined by grade point average and course load. As mentioned above about a challenging curriculum, most schools reward students that succeed in advanced courses.

Standardized Test Scores – When students register for the ACT or SAT, they are asked which colleges they would like their results sent to. This is a give-away that your results are taken into consideration when your application is being reviewed. With high test scores, some of the other factors like GPA and course load can be outweighed; high scores will also help you obtain larger scholarships. If your test scores were only average, it is important to have a good GPA and rigorous schedule. Although test scores are important, low test scores are not the end of the road when admission committees review your application. With low test scores, it is important for students to have other aspects that make them stand out.

Extracurricular Activities – Involvement in clubs and sports is a way to show personal qualities such as teamwork, leadership, and respect. College admission committees seek these characteristics in potential students because these qualities portray the level of involvement you will have within their school. Being involved in extracurricular activities shows that a student is a well rounded and has substantial time management skills. Although it is important to be involved in activities around school and the community, students should focus on the depth of their involvement, instead of how many activities they are involved in. Don’t just participate in activities to fill up your college application!

Application Essay – The college application is the best tool to portray your uniqueness and personality. College admission boards will review hundreds of applications a day, each including a personal essay. One important aspect of the essay is that the student does not repeat information that is already included within all of the forms, such as grades and activities the student is involved in. These types of essays tend to bore the admission counselors because they read hundreds of these a week. The real goal is to write an essay that draws their attention by portraying your personality, uniqueness, and intelligence – and as a result, makes you stand out.

Community Service – Another key factor in college admission is community service. Volunteering your time to your local community demonstrates a student’s unselfishness and ability to help others within their community. Whether it is a fundraiser for a certain cause to helping at a local elderly home, students should commit time throughout their high school career to bettering their community and the lives of others.

Letters of Recommendation – What do others who are involved in your life think of you? Letters of recommendations are a strong tell-tale of how a student comes off to others. Students should obtain letters of recommendation from individuals that know them well; a teacher at your high school, a club director, athletic coach, or family friend are good examples of people whom to seek a letter from.

Make Yourself Stand Out – With college admissions on the rise, it is important for a student to stand out when compared to others who are applying for the same school. If you seek to be accepted to the school of your choice, you need to do everything you can that will portray why you will succeed at the school. There are numerous ways to do so, with the above aspects being some of the most important.

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