Five things you should know about your college admissions application

08th May 2018 College Applications

Applying to college – any college – is a stressful situation filled with emotions like excitement, hope, dread, inadequacy, and regret. It seems like high school juniors and seniors send off their college admissions application into a dark, scary hole of uncertainty, and then wait on pins and needles for their dreams to come true, or their dreams to be dashed. But be encouraged. On the receiving end of every college application is a person, and that person’s job is to find a way to admit every student who applies. Here are five very important things you should know about how colleges view your college admissions applications.

They Take A Holistic View

How many of your or your child’s classmates scored 1600 on the SAT and have a 4.0 GPA? Not many, right? The high achieving academic stars are viewed as just that: academic stars. That’s very positive for them, but also very positive for everyone else. Why? Because most people are not competing with those very few students. For everyone else, most schools take what is called a “holistic view” of the student. Colleges want to know what you, as a person, bring to their campus. Classes are only part of what makes any college a great school. Will you bring leadership, a great work ethic, artistic talent, or some other gift to the campus? A college admission application is not only about grades and scores.

Good Test Scores Are Good; Bad Scores Are Not Always Negative

If you score really really well on the SAT or ACT, that’s always good and such scores will go a long way towards your college admissions. However, if you tank your SAT or ACT, it’s not the end of the world. Part of the holistic view is adding up all of your positives to see if the admissions officer can find a way for you to be admitted. So, if your scores are not good, you have to focus on, and bring attention to everything else that you bring to campus.

To better understand this methodology, consider an “academic rock star” who has a 4.0 GPA and scores 1580 on the SAT, but brings literally nothing else to the table. The admissions officer may be led to believe that this person can test really well, but may never leave their dorm room. That picture is exaggerated, but may help you understand that a one dimensional student profile – even an academic rockstar – is not always a positive on a college admissions application.

Earning A “C” In An AP Class Is Worse Than A “B” In On-Level

Is your student loading up on AP classes for 11th and/or 12th grade? If he or she can handle that load and bring home As or Bs in those classes, that’s great. If a student takes AP classes just to say that they took AP classes and gets a C, that’s not good. In fact, most college admissions officers would prefer to see an on-level class with an A than an AP class with a C.

Earning an A in any class demonstrates that a student is capable of a certain level of rigor and commitment. Earning a C in an AP course demonstrates that the student is not yet ready for college level work. It’s better to get an A or B in an on-level class than a C in an AP course.

The College Admissions Application Is Not An Audition

When you audition for an acting role or musical performance, you usually get one shot and that’s it. That is not the case with any college admissions application. That is why any college application has so many different parts. Grades, test scores, extracurriculars, recommendations, essays, and letters of recommendation are all parts of the whole. Each one is viewed both independently and in conjunction with the others. It’s the complete package that matters.

Your Major May Not Matter

Students change majors all the time in college. The major you think you will pursue as a 17-year-old does not count in admissions nearly as much as it currently matters to you. That’s because college administrators know and understand that high school Juniors and Seniors are still very young. Most high schoolers are not capable of making a life career decision at age 17 or 18. So, if you’re thinking that declaring a specific major on your application will help or hurt your chances of admission, you can relax.

There are many, many more things to say about your college admissions application. One thing can sum it up: no one single attribute is going to get you into any college; no one single thing is going to get you rejected. Everything you’ve done in High School matters, and should play a role in your college applications.