Hello. My best piece of advice is that you need to submit an application that makes you stand out. Not only must you submit an application that maximizes your strengths, and minimizes your weaknesses, you must make yourself stand out from the crowd. There are three main areas that colleges are looking at: academics, extracurriculars, and personal qualities.
Of course the GPA is important, but admissions officers are looking at the difficulty level of the courses as well. Aim high by taking honors, AP and IB coursework. Almost all colleges recalculate GPA's based on difficulty level. SAT and ACT scores also are important, but some schools offer a test optional option, and the student can choose to submit or not submit test scores. Yale and the University of Chicago are two examples of highly selective schools who have adopted this policy. Many believe that the GPA and difficulty level of coursework is a better indicator of a student's potential for success than the ACT or SAT.
With extracurriculars, concentrate on quality, not quantity. Admissions officers are most impressed by things like leadership positions held, honors and awards and programs started than the mere quantity of activities. Find one or two quality activities and devote yourself to being the best at those, rather than participating in tons of activities.
Lastly, is personal qualities, a very subjective category! This is where I go back to my first statement, that the most important part of the college application process is to make yourself stand out. Make your interest in the school very specific, why will you be the right fit, what will you bring to the college and community, what makes you a better candidate than the 100's or even 1000's of other students with similar GOA's, test scores and extracurriculars?
April recommends the following next steps:
It depends on which schools you're trying to get into and how far along you are in your journey.
- SAT's and ACT's will play a big factor in helping you get into the school. Be sure to check out niche.com to search for your school and check out the upper and lower bounds for these scores. Make sure you're in the top 25% of this bracket to get the best chance.
- Colleges will look at other factors, as well, like your high school GPA and the difficulty of your coursework. Taking AP classes and doing well in those classes will reflect very well on your transcript.
- Strong Extra Curricular activities like Editor of your school's newspaper, class president.
- Great recommendations --> people who can truly write something meaningful about you.
- Essays --> don't write your admissions essay in a way that can be submitted to any university. Tell them why you want to be at that institution, specifically.
- Do an official tour of that university so you can talk to the admissions office and ask questions about getting in and be on file by stopping by their Admissions Office. Try to get connected with them and follow-up with them after your visit.
Jay recommends the following next steps:
I would recommend separating yourself from other applicants in any way you can. That might be extracurricular activities, clubs, volunteering, etc. Grades and standardized test scores are only a piece of the overall acceptance process.