It’s about identifying the schools that are right for you—the ones in which you’ll thrive academically, socially, culturally, and emotionally. Where are your skills and
College is first and foremost about education, so admission offers are first and foremost made on an academic basis. That means the work you do in the classroom across all four years of high school is vital. Yes, we know that you are also busy outside of the classroom, and we want you to develop into a well-rounded individual. However, your high school transcript is the most important part of your application, because it tells us a story about how you challenge yourself, how you perform academically, and what kind of choices you make in electives. Ultimately, what kind of high school student you are tells us what kind of college student you may be. Most colleges will understand that the situation around COVID-19 may have affected your performance and will be keeping this in mind while reviewing applications, including accepting pass/fail grades.
One of the questions I’m most often asked is if it’s better to take an AP course and get a B or C or take a college prep course to get that A. My answer is: You must challenge
They’re important at many schools. Take both the ACT and SAT, and take one at least twice. Some students perform better on one and not as well on the other. But, know that many schools (about a quarter of all four-year colleges) allow for some sort of test-flexible admission policy. Do your research to find out what is required where.
There are so many free resources out there to help you with this process! Khan Academy offers free video tutorials for the SAT. The National Association of College Admission Counseling hosts a number of online resources. Local community-based organizations may help review your applications before submitting them. And don’t forget your high school college guidance counselor—they are there to help you throughout this process!
Don’t assume a college admission office will automatically know why you had a dip in grades the second semester of your sophomore year or why you changed schools three times or why you don’t list any activities your junior year. If you don’t fill in the gaps or the questions on your application, we will be forced to—and we’re probably going to get it wrong. Most applications allow you to include additional information about yourself. If they don’t, contact your admission officer to see how you can. And, yes, COVID-19 is an acceptable reason. Bottom line: If there are inconsistencies in your application, let us know why they are there.
Colleges aren’t looking for a certain formula when it comes to your high school involvement—we just want to get a sense of you as an actual person. Most of what we see on your application is numbers and letters. But keep in mind we’re building a community of students on our campus. As a result, you should create an authentic resume that helps the admission team connect with you on a personal level. What makes you you? What kind of student are you, what kind of friend are you, what kind of family member are you? Being detailed about how you spend your time outside of the classroom, beyond just your resume, helps us see you as an individual. Part-time jobs, helping with siblings, favorite hobbies, and service work and causes you’re passionate about all apply.
As applications to the nation’s most selective colleges increase, your demonstrated interest in your top college choices can play an important role in the admission decision. But demonstrate interest wisely. The key is to identify your top two or three schools and make yourself known to them authentically. Visit at least two or three campuses, connect with your dedicated admission counselor, become active on social media, register for an information session, or ask to chat with a professor or member of the staff.
At the end of the day, we’re the Office of Admission, not rejection. Use us as an ally. We got into this profession because we love helping students and profoundly believe in the power of education. Most schools assign admission counselors by geography, high school, or program—so contact that person for expert guidance. You’ll be glad you did!