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What is it that colleges look for in undergraduate admission applications?

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Beth’s Answer

Colleges seek students that have a greater chance of completing the program in a timely manner. This means they want students that persist from semester to semester. So, GPA is important as well as the academic rigor of the courses taken. Colleges like students who take AP or dual credit courses. Having a career in mind is also important to success. Students that know what major they want are going to selected ahead if those who are undecided. Participating in internships or volunteerism related to your career of choice is valued. Extracurricular activities especially those involving competition can demonstrate a student’s ability to set, meet, and exceed goals.

Colleges will request scores for any SAT, ACT, and any AP tests taken. Make sure that you are completing important tests early. The SAT and ACT may be taken more than once, so if you take it early, you have the opportunity to redo it if you don’t like your score.

Colleges may request an essay and a recommendation. Take your time crafting a well-written personal essay. You can usually use one essay for many college submissions. Proofread and edit with a teacher, guidance counselor, or other trusted person before submitting. When asking for a recommendation, provide a copy of your resume along with the reason for the request. Remind the person completing the recommendation of any skills, abilities, or accomplishments you want to highlight. This will make sure that they are included in the letter.

In terms of the application, make sure that you are following directions. Incomplete or incorrect applications are discarded without consideration. Always have someone like a guidance counselor review your application prior to submission.

I hope this helps! Good luck!

Beth recommends the following next steps:

Visit big future.collegeboard.org to create a college/ career plan to keep you organized

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Maya’s Answer

Your grades are obviously very important and carry a lot of weight, but colleges also want to see a well-rounded student. They like to see that you have challenged yourself in your course load and even outside of school. They want to see that you are involved in your community and participate in extra-curricular but many elite colleges also want to see some sort of leadership. For example, it is one thing to be apart of a school club but it is another to start a new school club. The latter shows interest, initiative, command, and leadership. Colleges also love when students express their own creativity and individuality, which is relatively difficult through an application. Therefore, you should take the time to write a thoughtful college essay that lets the admissions board know more about you than just a list of all your accomplishments. In my case, writing was never my strongest suit so I made sure to attempt my college essays early in the application process and then get it reviewed by my teachers, tutors, and peers.

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Rachel’s Answer

I agree with Beth's answer above. That being said, I would emphasize that GPA and SAT scores are going to be the two most visible aspects of your application, so do as well as you possibly can to keep those scores high.