What college admissions counselors are really looking for in students

December 9th, 2005 by Key Magazine

This time of year is a time of panic for most high school seniors. The pressure of the college selection process is behind them. Now it is time to complete applications, apply for scholarships and wait for their letters of admission or letters of rejection. There is no sure way to guarantee admissions into any school, but knowing what admissions counselors are looking for can help.

There are four major areas that students should focus on as they complete their college applications. Admissions counselors at schools ranging from small, private to large, public universities across the country have identified these four areas as the most important.

There are many people who think grades aren’t important when it comes to college, but that is simply not true. Your grades are an indication of the kind of student you are today, and what kind of college student and professional you will be in the future. Although having good grades in regular high school courses are okay, colleges pay more attention your grades in college prepatory classes. According to a Princeton Review report, 85 percent of schools said your grades in regular high school classes carry “moderate” to “considerable” importance; your grades in college-prep classes received the same comment from 91 percent of schools.

Test Scores
Few tests cause students as much anxiety as the SAT and ACT standardized college admissions tests. They are believed to be two of the most important tests in formal education. Depending on the school that you apply to, your SAT or ACT score can mean the difference between a rejection letter or an acceptance letter. It is worth the investment in time and money spent studying for the SAT or ACT. A high score can position you favorably for admissions into the school of your choice. It can also qualify you for competitive scholarships based on test scores.

The Essay
Let’s face it. Most high school students will not schedule a college interview. Under normal circumstances it is not needed. But you still have to convey your personality, academic and professional goals, and ability to communicate to succeed in the admissions process. Your application essay is your chance share yourself with the admissions staff. The subject of your essay should be something you are passionate about. Carefully develop your main points and support them with clear arguments. Have several people read it for grammar and spelling to ensure you put your best foot forward. A good essay can tip the scale in your favor.

Getting into college has become little more than a sport in recent years. Everyone has a strategy and game plan. Although there is nothing wrong with having a plan for college, it is important that you are not so consumed by your plan that you fail to enjoy your high school years. Make sure you round out your academic achievements with some extracurricular activies. Whether it is athletics, clubs and organizations, an after school job or volunteerism, schools want to know that your life is more than just hitting the books. College opens the door to many political, social, professional and academic opportunities that students should take advantage of. You miss out on that when your sole focus is academics. Holding leadership positions in those activities is even better.

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