Colleges and universities seek students who will succeed not only with their studies, but also will join clubs, write for the newspaper, play sports, and participate in community service.
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Therefore, it is important for you to plan your four years of high school in a way that prepares you well for the many opportunities open to you in college. Get involved in the clubs, sports, or community service programs that interest you. Follow through with your club involvements beyond just showing up for the occasional meeting - try running for an office or leadership position in your school.

There are generally five areas which colleges review in considering your candidacy.

Colleges request that an official transcript be sent to them directly from your high school.

A review of your course selection will be made to be certain that your academic preparation is adequate to enter college level studies. Generally colleges seek:

English (4 years)

Social Studies (3-4 years including U.S. History)

Mathematics (3-4 years with competitive colleges and certain majors requiring pre-calculus or calculus)

Science (3-4 years including 2 lab sciences i.e. Biology, Chemistry or Physics)

Foreign Language (3-4 years of the same foreign language)

The colleges often compute a candidate's grade point average; however, some will take the GPA reported on your transcript. Since schools determine GPA in different ways, some colleges use a standard formula to determine all their applicants' GPAs. Colleges seek students who have challenged themselves by taking the most rigorous schedule of courses of which they are capable. Highly selective colleges will look for Advanced Placement courses or the International Baccalaureate, if these courses are offered at the high school.

Rank in class is another factor that admissions officers consider in reviewing your grades. In this way the reviewer gains a better understanding of how your grades compare with others in your class. Generally, the larger universities place more weight on grades, rank, and testing, where the smaller colleges will look beyond this statistical data to other parts of your application.

Colleges have different testing requirements but generally you will need to submit SAT or ACT scores. Non-native English speakers will need to submit a TOEFL score. Additionally, some colleges require SAT Subject Tests and any AP scores that you may have from your sophomore or junior years. Score requirements vary depending on the selectivity of the college. Colleges publish the range of scores of their admitted students. This will help you determine how you compare with the applicant pools of the past.

This is the section of the application where you can help to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Write a compelling essay and you may find an advocate on the admissions committee. See Writing the College Essay (click here).


Colleges seek active citizens who will join clubs, run the student newspaper, or play sports. Community service organizations on campus seek volunteers. Get involved in the clubs and organizations available to you both in and out of school. Be sure to mention any leadership roles you have on the application or in an activities resume. Hint: it is better to be involved in two or three activities with a true sense of commitment than merely a member of many clubs.

If you are interested in pursuing a sports or talent scholarship, be in direct contact with the sponsor of that program on each campus where you apply. Keep records of names and dates. Send a letter of interest and a resume to the coach. To create your own resume click here.

Special talents are signs of long-term commitments and a willingness to pursue a talent or interest over a significant period of time. Colleges seek students who will play in the orchestras and participate in theatre. If this is your forte, perhaps you might include a tape or drawing with your application.

Legacies - Colleges recognize that applicants who have family members who have graduated from their institutions know the college well and therefore have a higher chance of success at the college. Alumni Offices seek to attract legacy children. Generally, if all other factors are equal between two candidates, the legacy factor will come into play.

Diversity - In determining an incoming class, admissions officers will consider the balance this class will offer the college. It's not possible to predict the applicant pool at any particular college, so it's difficult to know how your application will be received. Be aware that geographic location, culture, nationality, talent, and area of study may also play a role in the admissions committee's decision.

Ability to pay - In my work with parents, I am often asked about their ability to pay and how this factor might be used in the admissions process. Due to limited financial aid resources, many colleges can not honestly claim to be need-blind. Most colleges offer merit-based aid to attract their most desirable candidates. Generally, the most likely time ability to pay will enter into the picture is when a student is on the wait list.

Each applicant has unique interests, abilities, and achievements that need to be highlighted in a way that brings value to them as the committee reads the application.

Be aware that many colleges are experiencing an increase in their number of applications and therefore it is important that you take the time to personalize your application to highlight your strengths.

Ms. Groelle can help you every step of the way!
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