Written By: MeLisa Clay, Middle/Upper School Guidance Counselor
As the guidance counselor for a college preparatory school, I often hear the question, “What can my child do to get into the college of his or her choice?” The admissions requirements for colleges and universities are as varied as our students. There truly is a college out there for everyone. I think you can ask any of our seniors right now and most would say that the whole application process is stressful, and waiting to hear back from colleges is agonizing. We have already sent out 80 transcripts to 28 different colleges for the Class of 2016. This class is on the ball! So what are colleges looking for? After working with college admissions representatives over the years, a few criteria stand out:
- Rigor/GPA – The classes you take in high school beginning in ninth grade and the grades you make in these classes are two of the main criteria a college considers. Colleges like to see students challenge themselves to take the more rigorous course of study possible.
- SAT/ACT scores – Students should begin taking these college entrance exams junior year. If a student plans to take the Dual Enrollment US History class we offer during junior year, he/she will need to take the SAT/ACT before the end of sophomore year. Khan Academy offers free practice for the SAT, and ACT offers practice on their website for the ACT. Our teachers are providing practice during class as well, and there are people in our community who tutor for these tests.
- Résumé – A student’s résumé is another important factor. One of the first assignments seniors have in their senior English class is to draft a résumé. This is a complete list of each student’s accomplishments and activities in and out of the classroom during their high school career. Everybody in America is going to school. What are you doing that may set you apart? Getting involved in school clubs and activities – especially taking on leadership roles – is one way to help build your résumé. Whatever you do in life, I believe the more involved you are, the more you are going to get out of an experience. Another way to build your resume is to get involved in our community. Choose one or two volunteer activities that you are passionate about, and volunteer your time and talents. Some colleges require you to send in a résumé, and many colleges ask you to list your activities and achievements. Your résumé is very helpful with this.
- Teacher and Counselor Recommendations – Be sure to be kind and respectful to your teachers and to work hard in class so that your teachers will be willing to write a recommendation for you. Your résumé is a very helpful tool for recommenders.
Another difficult question is, “How do I choose the best college fit for me?” Beginning the research process early in your high school career may help you make that decision. Visiting college campuses is the best way to get a feel for a college’s atmosphere. Colleges offer tours during the week, and many offer open house events on the weekends. Visiting a variety of colleges will help you decide if you prefer a larger or smaller campus/student population and if you would like to be close or far from home. You will find out about majors that are offered, as well as student organizations and activities that are available at each school.
So even though the process may seem stressful and overwhelming, the end result is very exciting! It is so much fun to watch our students grow and step into the next phase of their lives!