A Challenging High School Curriculum
A transcript that reflects the student takes on challenges can put her a step ahead. Academically successful students should include several honors and Advanced Placement classes
Strong Grades and an Upward Trend
Admissions officers value grades that represent strong effort. Grades should show an upward trend over the years. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all A's in less challenging coursework.
Solid Scores on Standardized Tests
Scores on the SATs and ACTs
carry considerable weight in the college admissions process. Scores should ideally be consistent with high school performance.
Quality Involvement in Activities
Passionate involvement in a few activities — and a demonstration of leadership and initiative in those activities — can only help a student. Depth, not breadth, of experience is most important.
A Record of Community Service
Community service activities serve as evidence of a student being a "contributor." Volunteer activities
should demonstrate concern for other people and a global view.
Work or Out-of-School Experiences
Jobs, summer programs, and other out-of-school activities can demonstate a student's sense of responsibility, dedication, and personal development in areas of interest. Meaningful use of free time can show maturity.
A Well-Written Essay
A strong college essay
provides insight into the student's unique personality, values, and goals. The application essay should be thoughtful and highly personal. It should demonstrate careful and well-constructed writing.
Positive Recommendations from School Personnel
Hopefully the student's letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors give evidence of integrity, special skills, and positive character traits. Students should request recommendations from teachers who respect their work in an academic discipline.
Additional Recommendations from Adults Who Know the Student Well
Supplementary recommendations by adults who have had significant direct contact with the student can also bolster a college application. For example, letters from coaches or supervisors in long-term work or volunteer activities are valuable. However, recommendations from casual acquaintances or family friends, even if they're well known, are rarely given much weight.
Other Special Attributes or Awards
Don't overlook anything special that makes the student stand out from the rest of the applicants! Include honors, awards, evidence of unusual talent or experience, or anything else that makes the student unique. Overall, colleges are seeking students who will be active contributing members of the student body.
Check out other tips to help students nail their college application.
Published with permission from Independent Educational Consultants Association.