The single, most common question I hear as a college advisor is some version of the question "What does it take to get into a selective college?" Here are my selections for the top 10 factors students should develop over their entire high school career, beginning with a solid academic foundation in elementary and middle school.
1. A rigorous high school curriculum that challenges the student and may include Honors, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes.
2. Grades that represent strong effort and an upward trend. However, slightly lower grades in rigorous classes the student feels passionately about are preferred to all As in less challenging coursework.
3. Solid scores on standardized tests (SAT, ACT). These scores should be consistent with high school performance.
4. Passionate involvement in a few activities, demonstrating leadership and initiative. Depth, not breadth, is most important.
5. Letters of recommendation from teachers and a guidance counselor which give evidence of integrity, special skills, positive character traits, and an interest in learning.
6. Well written essays that provide insight into the student's unique personality, values, and goals. The application essays should be thoughtful and highly personal. Each essay should be carefully constructed and demonstrate a command of proper writing conventions.
7. Special talents or experiences that will in combination will contribute to an interesting and well-balanced in-coming freshman class.
8. Demonstrated leadership in activities. Colleges want students who will arrive prepared and willing to take leadership of activities and events.
9. Demonstrated intellectual curiosity and maturity through reading, school, extracurricular pursuits, and employment.
Elizabeth LaScala Ph.D. guides college, transfer and graduate school applicants through the complex world of admissions. She develops college lists, offers personalized interview and essay coaching, and tools and strategies to help students tackle each step of the admissions process with confidence and success. Visit www.doingcollege.com email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (925) 891-4491.