The main concern of high school students looking to advance to post-secondary education has historically been the scramble to finance the high cost of college. However, in today’s education arena, the primary concern is knowing and understanding what a college admissions panel wants to see in the application package of a potential student.
While a students’ search for a post-secondary institution can be a frustrating one, the process to get into that college or university can be an even more stressful situation. In addition to the college application for enrollment itself, a student must also apply for financial aid and residence hall space if entering as an incoming freshman. The latter, however, do not matter if the student does not get into the school to begin with.
Most college admissions representatives will say applying for college is a time consuming process that should be done carefully and accurately. The first thing admissions officers look for that can make or break and admission application, is whether or not the application was submitted by the deadline. This simple piece of the process is usually what determines if an excellent application even gets considered for admission. The second thing that is considered is the grade point average (GPA) and the class rank of the student. If a student has a 4.0 GPA, but is only ranked 40th in a class of 150, the application might not stand out as much to an admissions officer as someone who has a 3.5 GPA, but was ranked 5th in their class. This also aligns with the fact that admissions officers also consider the rigor of the high school curriculum when looking at the GPA. If everyone graduating from a particular high school has a 4.0 GPA, that might be a signal to an admission representative that the curriculum at that school may not be difficult enough for that student to be successful in a college program.
Another criterion for admission to college is the all-important SAT or ACT scores. The highest possible score on the SAT is a 1600, while 36 is the highest one can achieve on the ACT. These scores can sometime showcase the potential of a student who may not have the highest GPA, but did well on these tests. A little known fact is that college admissions officers also look for extracurricular activities. The job of the college admissions panel is to make sure they are gaining a well-rounded student body for their campus. That means that in addition to good grades, a student might also want to consider volunteering, playing a sport, or mentoring while still in high school.
It is becoming more often the case that an application essay or an interview is a requirement for admission to college. These should be addressed, almost as if the student is applying for a job. Admissions officers want the student to showcase what would make them a successful student in that particular institution.
Schools often look for something “special” in a student. The more competitive the college or university the more rigorous the above criteria can become. College admissions panels often have a large number of students vying for a few select spaces at their university, and want to make sure that they are getting students that will not only be future academic successes at their institution but who will also add to the campus culture in general.