Tim Parros and Victoria Berels

I know someone that had a better GPA and SAT score than me, applied to the University of Michigan, and didn’t get in. I don’t have a chance for admission there!

You may be surprised, but this is a common misconception we hear from students who are nervous to apply to prestigious universities. Truth be told, these students couldn’t be more wrong. If you really want to gauge your likelihood of acceptance, look at admitted students. What did they have and what did they do in high school? How does that align with the university’s mission statement and student profiles featured on their website? More importantly, how do YOU align with these attributes? Just applying to a school because of its name is not reason enough- it must be a good fit for you and a good fit for them.

So, what does this mean for applicants today? Unfortunately, being your school’s valedictorian doesn’t mean you’re a shoo-in to your college of choice. Being top of your class is an excellent personal goal, but don’t neglect your other college prep goals thinking that class rank alone (a factor, incidentally, that is declining in importance in the admissions process) will get you accepted. What’s possibly more important than being valedictorian is understanding exactly what the admissions counselor is looking for in the incoming class and how you will fit into that puzzle.

Each school has its own idea of what kind of students are needed to comprise a student body that fits its mission statement. As you research this, you can look at the profile of the admitted students are every college. For example, here is the link to the 2016 incoming class at University of Michigan: https://admissions.umich.edu/apply/freshmen-applicants/student-profile

Keep in mind that this chart gives you the mid-50 percentile range, and that there are always exceptions. To make it even more confusing, this range can vary with each freshman class that the university is building. However, there are a few themes generalizable across any admissions office that counselors look for in a student:

  • Counselors want to see that you’ve grown since your freshman year of high school, academically and otherwise, and that you’re not the exact same person that first walked through those doors.
  • How did you push yourself academically? Were you passionate about extra curricular activities you joined, or were they just another checkmark?
  • Did you do anything that challenged you or made you uncomfortable that you kept at anyway? Colleges want to see that you want to keep growing, and even better, that you see their institution as an opportunity to reach your potential.

You checked all of these boxes, what’s next?: Your application essays. These really are the best way to showcase your growth in high school, as well as the direction you expect your future development to take. If you’re not totally sure where that might be, a great first step is to look at the programs and clubs registered at the university; these will definitely help you to get excited about what you accomplish and be involved in while at college. You can get excited about the possibility of joining these activities and demonstrate that in your essays.

This is one of the many things that you should highlight in your essay, remembering that the essay is the icing on the cake and the last thing that you can to tell the admission team that you are exactly what they are looking for. Many students seem to have difficulty talking about themselves and sticking to the basics when developing their essay strategy. So, if you’re having trouble forming your strengths into a cohesive essay that shows where you’ve been, how you continue to grow, and that you’re excited to keep learning, please set up an appointment with Parros College Planning. We want to help show you off to admissions officers so that you have a better chance at gaining acceptance into the college of your dreams!