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By Elizabeth LaScala

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About this blog: I post articles to offer timely and substantive college admission guidance on important topics and issues. Originally from New York, I have a B.S. from Hunter College in NYC and advanced professional degrees from the University of...  (More)

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What are the top factors colleges use to evaluate applicants?

Uploaded: Dec 27, 2010
A Danville resident asks:

Counselors at our high school are so busy with seniors that the younger students do not get much attention. My daughter is a junior and my son is a sophomore. I was wondering how colleges evaluate students. Everyone seems to have a different point of view on this.

Dr. LaScala responds:

As you correctly point out, much of the attention right now is on graduating seniors and their college applications. Yet, it is very important to focus attention on younger students who plan to apply to college. There is much discussion about factors that influence the admissions process. My own rule of thumb is to focus on those things you can control. The most direct way to respond to your question is to point out that the heart of the college application remains academic achievement in high school. According to the 2010 State of College Admissions report published by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the top factors used by colleges to evaluate applicants are grades in college preparatory courses; overall strength (rigor) of the high school curriculum; standardized test scores; and the overall high school grade point average (GPA). I would add that students should refrain from getting bogged down by too many activities. Instead students can improve the strength of their future college applications by prioritizing their outside interests and staying with those activities throughout the high school years. Students should keep an eye open for opportunities to take leadership roles; in particular, it is valuable to initiate a helpful project of some kind and bring it to a successful completion. Projects that have lasting benefits for the community or beyond are the most valuable. Students who have meaningful experiences learn and grow as individuals. These experiences often provide perfect topics to develop strong, sincere and personalized college essays.

Elizabeth LaScala, Ph.D. is an educational consultant and certified college admission advisor. Her goal is to help freshman applicants as well as transfer students and their families understand the admissions process, research college and career options, create a balanced college list and submit strong and cohesive applications. She is familiar with local high schools and has guided three daughters through the college admissions process in addition to more than 300 clients. Dr. LaScala is an active member of NACAC, WACAC, and HECA and earned a certification in College Admissions and Career Planning from University of California at Berkeley. Contact her at (925) 891-4491 or elizabeth@doingcollege.com.


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