In general, admissions staffs emphasize the importance of a solid high school transcript. They look to see whether you’ve taken the most challenging curriculum available to you. They check how well you fared in those classes. Most colleges are swayed by students who take advantage of opportunities and don’t just settle for the easy “A.”
Of course grades indicate a student’s capabilities and motivation; however, grades are only significant in light of the student’s curriculum. Class rank allows colleges to measure your academic performance in comparison to your classmates.
In fact many colleges today reassess a student’s GPA to try and level the playing field. Certain institutions drop the pluses and minuses, while others disregard the entire freshman year of high school. Still others eliminate all but the core subjects and then recalculate the GPA, or throw out the GPA altogether and look to the student’s class standing to determine entrance qualifications.
However manipulated, make no mistake; grades in conjunction with test scores are an easy way for colleges to screen thousands of applications down to a manageable number. This is especially true at larger institutions and today with the number of electronic applications increasing each year using grades and test scores is an easy way to make the first cut.
Colleges and universities do use scores differently, however. There are those that will set minimum cut-off for admission. Then there are those that don’t require them at all. The majority, however, have a more complex procedure for reviewing test scores.
Extra-curricular activities are still extremely important to the admissions process. These after-school activities demonstrate the student’s leadership, teamwork, and commitment to a given pursuit. Colleges don’t value one activity more highly than another. They’d rather see students who maintain a high level of commitment to one activity than those sporting a list of twenty they only dabbled in.
Extra-curricular activities could also be the ticket to scholarship money if the school values the student’s attendance because they will participate in similar activities there, thus enhancing the school’s programs. Sports, leadership, performing arts, language and community service–don’t underestimate the power of after-school activities. The question is, of course, what’s important to the school you are applying to? Find out.
Personal qualities are the hardest to define. Through the writing requirements, letters of recommendation, and interviews, the admissions committee draws their profile of the student as part of their overall consideration for admission.