By: Madeline Riley

At Parros College Planning we know that college application season is perhaps the most stressful time in a high school student’s career. The process is time-consuming, difficult, and most agonizingly, mysterious. We’re in the midst of helping high school juniors make their application lists, and seniors finish up their last applications. Applicants always want to know, why do some students get in while others don’t? However it may seem, universities’ admissions offices are not opaque in their procedure, and there are many norms that extend across the nation’s college campuses. The following four facts should ease student’s worries by providing a better sense of which colleges are in reach, and your chances of getting in.

Most of Getting in is Academic

Essays, teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and other application additives are important, but they aren’t nearly as essential to admittance as your grade point average (GPA) and ACT or SAT score.

Prospective students can check universities ranges on academics online, which allows them to compare themselves to existing college classes. At the University of Michigan, the average GPAs of the 2016 class of freshman was 3.86 and the mid 50 percent for ACT scores was 30-34. If someone was looking to attend UofM and didn’t fall within this range, or very close to this range, then admittance is difficult, unless she had some type of a hook or exception (described below). Keep this in mind. Despite your awesome essays and extracurricular experiences, it’s your grades and test scores that will prove the biggest factor in where you get in.

There are Some Exceptions

Students out of range may be accepted in exceptional circumstances when they are very valuable to the college in ways external to academics. Athletic recruits, underrepresented minorities, and the children of university faculty will likely be given more leeway than an ‘average’ student. If you fit into one of these categories, or have a different, similar hook, it may be to your advantage to aim for schools with academic ranges slightly higher than your own.

It Helps to Be Focused

When applying to universities, college hopefuls often believe they’ll be more attractive to admissions officers if they demonstrate a wide and varied set of interests, but this may not actually be the case. Instead of having a breadth of involvement, opt for focused participation in one or a few of your favorite activities. Show that you’ve explored your options, sure, but also show that you participate in things deliberately, because you like them, not because you think that’s what colleges want to see on your application.

Every student applying to top schools is in a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. They’ve taken all the AP classes, they’re in National Honors Society, they played sports all four years of high school, etc. Set yourself apart by showing that you’re focused and passionate. Instead of saying “I’m passionate about math so I was in math club. I’m passionate about volunteering so I was in Key Club,” demonstrate your passion through a complete and concentrated list of activities that express it. If you’re interested in politics, join history club, work on a campaign, shadow your state representative, etc. If you want to be a writer, join the school paper, publish your work in a local newspaper or magazine, start a blog. Whatever you’re most interested in can and should be highlighted in your high school career; translate this interest into your application.

Don’t Write What You Think Colleges Want To Read

Don’t waste time applying to colleges you don’t care about, or painting an inaccurate portrait of yourself in your essays; admissions officers see through this. Colleges often aren’t looking for the applicants with the ‘best’ answers, but the best, most interesting people for their campus. They want students that will make a difference. For them to see that you’ll contribute to their campus, you need to indulge yourself in sharing who you are. Your academics will be primary in the minds of the people reading your application, so use your essays to express your personality.

There are many more tips that will make you stand out in the application process. If you would like to learn more or talk to us in depth about your application plans please call us to schedule a consultation.

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