As many students begin the process of applying to colleges and considering next steps, they look at college acceptance rates as indicators of whether or not they would make the cut. The problem with this, however, is that acceptance rates don’t accurately reflect the number of performance standards schools use when accepting a new wave of students into their midst. When relying solely on one statistic, you run the risk of limiting your college opportunities.
Instead, start by assessing the intended college’s points of interest. Fortunately, this isn’t exactly a mystery – most colleges and universities outline what they are looking for in a student; for example, the University of Vermont considers:
- The rigor of a student’s academic program (e.g., honors or AP course work)
- Standing in the graduating class
- Standardized test results
- Trends in performance
- The competitive nature of the student’s prior academic environment
So when you’re in the midst of applying to college, be sure that you first align with what they consider to be a desirable applicant, and the steps you can take to improve yourself as a student. You may be thinking, “how?” Don’t worry, we have you covered, starting with demonstrating an interest to college admissions:
One of the best ways to stand out from thousands of other applicants is to demonstrate an acute interest in the college or university you’re applying to. Many high school students apply to college just because it’s the ‘next step.’ Take a step past this indecisive behavior by proving that you are a true fit to the college. In showing that you’d love to bring your academic interest to the next level with that particular school, you validate the time an admissions officer takes to review your application.
Here are a few ways you can demonstrate interest to the college you’re applying to:
- Join the college mailing list
- Weave specific, researched features and programs of the college you’re applying to into your essay
- Request an on campus interview (even if it’s not required), and follow up with a thank you letter
- Follow up with representatives from college fairs asking college-specific questions
Taking High School Seriously
One of the worst mistakes students can make during senior year of high school is to drop the ball and start slacking off. Many students don’t consider the possibility of being wait listed when applying to college. If you lose momentum during your senior year you run the risk of landing in the wait list pile. Colleges continually pay close attention to the rigor of a student’s academic program, as well as trends in performance; use every semester as an opportunity to develop new skills, build your academic resume and stand out as a desirable first-year applicant.
Another way to gain an advantage while still in high school is to enroll in a Pre-College program at a local college or university. Pre-College programs are designed for students who want to participate in an academically challenging experience, develop new skills and see what college is like before they begin their first-year of college. Pre-College is also a desirable option because students can earn college credit while still in high school, demonstrate their ability to college recruiters and take challenging or unique courses that are not offered in high school.
If you’re interested in learning more about what a Pre-College program can do for you, inquire on our website!
Taking the SAT or ACTs (more than once)
Taking the initiative to start preparing and practicing early for the SAT and ACTs isn’t the only thing that will help you to appeal to college admissions. In fact, according to InLikeMe: “a large number of institutions ‘super score’ (utilize the applicant’s highest section scores from all testing dates) for evaluative and reporting purposes. This gives those who improve their scores by taking the test(s) multiple times a possible advantage.” The University of Vermont, for example, considers your highest section scores across all standardized score dates submitted – so be sure to send scores from every test date in which you received a top score in each section.
Finding the Best Fit for You
Another important factor to consider when applying to college is to ensure that the college you’re applying to, and ultimately decide to go to, is really the best fit. Before you make a final decision, start by asking yourself a couple of questions:
- Does the school you’re applying to offer the major you’re looking for?
- What will your out-of-pocket expenses be for the school you’re applying to?
- Can the school fulfill you outside of the classroom (what is the college campus life like?)
- Does the school offer opportunities to travel and study abroad
It’s important to find a school that not only challenges you academically and can set you up for success, but to enroll in a college that will help you develop new social skills and prepare for the world beyond college. When it comes time to apply, don’t focus solely on the logistics – while the acceptance rates may be important, they’re not the only factor you should focus on when filling out applications. You never know what you can achieve unless you give it a shot – take a chance, demonstrate great potential and send off your application!