In our Pathways to College, we will explain the most important factor for your admissions application, and the steps you need to take TODAY to achieve your dream.
After discussing the different parts of the application, in detail, we will give a brief “Pathways” that should guide your path to college.
What you need to consider:
- Standardized Test Scores
- Extra Curricular Activities
- High School Courses
- The right school
- The right major
Pathways To College – Year-By-Year (At the end)
Get a Good GPA
- Someone could be the best pianist in the universe, or a brilliant portrait painter, but without a high GPA, would not get into the best schools.
- Why Not? The best schools are selective!
- Does that mean they are famous, powerful, and too hard for me to get into? Not necessarily! When a school is selective , it just means that there are more students applying than spaces available. This is why GPA is so important – there has to be a metric for choosing who gets admitted and who gets rejected, and GPA is one of the first ways to do that!
- Establishing a strong grade point average (GPA) as a freshman student gets you on the right path to a successful high school academic career. At most high schools, students receive quarter grades and semester grades. While it's important to monitor your quarter grades, it's the semester grades that stick with you. Once a semester grade is on your record, it remains on your transcript FOREVER . Semester grades are used to calculate your GPA, and they're what colleges see when you apply.
- GPAs are formulated using a point system. Each letter grade is converted into grade points using a grade point conversion chart. This might vary slightly from school to school, but the basic idea is that an A equals four grade points. Straight A's equals a 4.0 GPA. Every class—from art to physical education—affects your GPA. Remember, your GPA is an average of all of your grades, so if you fail one class (a 0.0 grade point), you'll bring down your entire average.
Nail Those Standardized Tests
- Another unavoidable fact of college preparation is standardized testing. Most high school students take the SAT; most colleges also accept the ACT. You might be required to take one or more SAT Subject Tests. The SAT is usually taken in the spring of your junior year.
- When selective schools review applications, the first thing they do is compare GPA and SAT (or ACT) scores! If you do not score high enough on your standardized test, you are at a serious disadvantage because you may be eliminated before you application is given a chance to shine. Take care to score well on the SAT or ACT!
- Colleges take your standardized test scores seriously and you should too. A Princeton Review SAT course can really help you gain the extra points which make the difference between an average application and a great application. SAT subject test courses help you get to grips with those tests too, and TOEFL courses are available to help you get your best possible scores
Get Involved in Extra Curricular Activities
- Applying to college requires more than great grades. You also need to think about extracurricular activities. Typical students spend so much time worrying about GPA that they ignore the differentiating factors of their personal lives and their college applications. Colleges want students that will be amazing individuals in the future. Imagine the following situation:
- Imagine that the University is a business, the admissions officer is the “financial guy”, and you are a “stock, commodity or other impersonal THING”. It is the job of the admissions officer to chose students that will be worth more in the future than students that are rejected.
- What do you mean, worth more ? Simply put, the admissions officer needs to chose students that will be rich, powerful, famous or all three! Rich, powerful and famous people give large donations, give good legislation and give pride and fame to a University.
- It is your job to let the admissions counselor know that you are going to be that person. Your extracurricular activities will help define the person you will be in the future!
- Colleges are demanding. They want academic excellence and well-rounded students who can prove that they're involved and committed to something. This something can be sports, community service, student government, arts clubs, or anything else outside of studying that makes you an interesting person. Extracurricular activities show colleges that you're a motivated multi-tasker who has no problem with time management.
- Successful people do many things, but they do not do too many things. Admissions officers want students that are involved in a few extracurricular activities throughout their entire high school career. In addition, they want to see that you start as a beginner and end as a leader. Leadership in a few activities is much more positive for your application that pseudo-membership in many activities.
- So relax, put your arms behind your head, and enjoy the thrill of two or three sports teams, clubs, or community service positions. Leadership, and college, are just a few short steps away!
Prepare for your Interview
- Many international students are going to be required to partake in an interview. This is your time to explain to the admissions committee that you are a unique individual with the necessary background, skills and desires to do well at this University. It is your job to practice answering typical interview questions, with confidence and correct grammar, in order to convince the committee that you are prepared for University study.
- If your University requires an interview, it is very advisable that you adequately prepare, as it is often the difference between acceptance and rejections.
Choosing High School Courses
- All courses are NOT created equally. All admissions counselors know the difference between an A in an easy class and a B in a hard class. The B is better! (Honestly, an A in a hard class is ideal, but let's not get ahead of ourselves!!)
- If you hope to go to a competitive University, you must take very hard classes in high school. That means Advanced Mathematics, College-Prepatory English and difficult Science classes. If you have the option to choose your classes, it will look poorly if you do not chose hard classes.
Get Great Recommendations
- All Universities will requite letters of recommendation. The single most important factor when choosing someone to write your recommendation is how well they know you.
- A recommendation must be from a professional that you have close ties with: an advisor from high school, a leader from the community organization you participate in, a boss from your part-time job. The recommender must know you. A dispassionate letter from a famous person that knows your dad is not looked upon with kind eyes. What matters is familiarity with your personality, with your work ethic, and with your academic prowess.
- Don't forget what happens after you've been accepted: You have to pay for it. You'll need to discuss financing with your family, and that includes having an honest and open discussion about your financial responsibilities. Research all your options for loans, grants, and scholarships; talk to your guidance counselor to find out what's available. International students do have access to some student scholarships so don't write off those possibilities in your application.
Write an Amazing Essay
- Your admissions essay may be the single most important factor to your college admissions chances. Your essay is your chance to explain who you are, what you want to do, and how they will help you achieve that goal. It is your chance to explain poor grades, to expand on work or life experience, and to make your case for admissions. You absolutely must spend a lot of time preparing your essay.
- Having instructors, counselors and private companies read through your essays is the best way to get constant feedback. Your essay must explain why you are the best candidate for admittance without being brazen or arrogant. You must walk the tightrope between talking yourself up and being humble. This is a very difficult task, but one worth taking the time and effort necessary to succeed.
Pick the Right School
Good Match, Reach and Safety Schools : What Are My Chances?
- When you ask your counselor about your odds at a given college, she'll probably respond with something like "It's impossible to tell." She's right and she's not right. The college admissions process has an element of randomness. Colleges have a short time to evaluate you, and their decision hinges on personalities and the overall profile of other applicants in your year. And yet the process is more rational than you think. Schools are looking for certain types of students, and there is a rough consistency to their decisions.
- You should get detailed information about each school-including the admissions statistics of the most recently admitted class, student opinion, extracurricular options, etc.—and make an informed decision. To help you gauge how you might fare in competition with other applicants, we break down the schools you should consider into three types: Good Match, Reach, and Safety. Understanding the meaning of these terms will give you a better framework within which you can construct your list of prospective schools and maximize your admissions success.
Good Match schools
- When the application of a good match student comes across the desk of an admissions officer…you can bet he or she knows straight away that they want this student for their school. The first indicator of a good match is usually academic compatibility between the student's grades and the academic quality of the school's freshman profile. But not far behind are qualitative factors like location, size, religious affiliation, and yes, even social life.
- If you're evaluating your chances of admission at a particular school, and your assessment falls anywhere between "I might just make the cut" and "It can't hurt to try, right?" you've found a reach school.
- You may be wondering why you'd bother to apply to one or more schools where there is a significant likelihood of rejection. The real question is, Why wouldn't you? Given the gray area in the subjectivity of numerous admissions decisions, selection is not always clean cut. In this case, look to the softer areas of your application to compensate for less impressive academic accomplishments—that means rack up valid achievements and extracurriculars and blow away admissions officers with a killer essay.
- You might have thought safety school had to be the easiest definition in the group,. On the surface, it appears that the admissions committee at your safety school would need an act of God to reject you, right? While that's true for the majority of students applying to safeties, it's not without its dangerous and just plain shady exceptions. So before you assume that an admissions officer will reach for his/her big, red, rubber ACCEPTED stamp for every outstanding app that passes his/her desk, consider why that might not always be the case.
- Admissions pros are focused on lots of numbers throughout the admissions courtship and application process, and two of the most important figures are students admitted and students enrolling. They reason colleges care about these numbers is because they help determine were they end up on certain college rankings. Once a school sends out a letter of admission to an applicant, they want to know that there is some probability of that student attending. Applicants with grades and scores at the high end of the application pool who probably have no intention of going to their safety school might be seen as a liability to a numbers-conscious admissions office. Savvy admissions folks do their research to find out whether students from an applicant's high school historically attend their colleges. If the number is low, they might deduce that the probability of your attendance is low, too, and decide to reject you! It's a shame, but it happens.
Consider the Right Major
- Once you're in college, you'll have to choose a major. This is your specialized area of study that ideally prepares you for work (or further study) when you graduate. While many college students don't pick a major until their freshman or sophomore years, some majors—like medicine—are best approached with early preparation. If you're considering medical school, you should prepare by taking AP or Honors Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Calculus in high school. This will expose you to the depth and intensity of major scientific study, and may allow you to take upper-division science classes during your freshman year in college.
What this means for you:
- So, how do you use these terms to maximize the number of fat envelopes that find their way to your mailbox? Develop a list of colleges that you can divide into:
2-3 reach schools
3 good match schools
2-3 safety schools
and apply to them all. You've probably already considered schools in each of these categories, but separating them into tiers will help you manage your expectations throughout the admissions process. While it may be impossible to know whether or not you'll be accepted to any given school, the best you can do is prepare yourself for the likely outcomes
Your Pathways To College – Year-By-Year
First Year High School (Freshmen)
You've got plenty of time before the SAT! Freshman year is about learning the ropes of high school. Focus on your studies, figure out what subject's interest you most, and get involved in sports and/or extracurricular activities.
Now is a good time to find an extracurricular activity/sport that you are good at and that you enjoy. If you find an activity and a social network of people that you really enjoy, try and learn from the leaders in hopes of being a leader in the future.
Do everything in your power to make the highest grades possible . It is easy to make academic mistakes your freshman year, but it is hard to correct those mistakes!
Second Year High School (Sophomore)
Continue to focus on your academic curriculum. If you're taking AP classes, sit for the corresponding SAT Subject Test immediately after your AP course so that the material is fresh in your mind. Focus on moving into a higher position within your sport or extracurricular activity. Find a teacher or group of teachers that you really enjoy. Start talking to them about your plans, get advice from them. You are now paving the way for amazing recommendations.
Take as many math and English classes as you can, the SAT is a math and English test that you do not want to have to cram for.
Start something your sophomore year that makes you unique . Start a club, volunteer on the weekends, help orphans, clean up the beach… something, anything, to show that you 1. care about the world around you, and 2. are motivated enough to do it on your own, without a group. Being a leader is the single most effective way to gain admittance to a top University. Sophomore year is the perfect time to start leading.
Third Year High School (Junior)
By now you should be a leader. You should have great grades. You should have close friends and close teachers. Adults around you should know you are determined, capable and anxious.
Apply for a leadership role in your extracurricular activity, or become captain/co-captain of your sports team. Take after school courses, or do after school activities that increase your uniqueness.
Start looking into potential Universities. Make a few lists of top, middle and easy-to-reach schools. Ask for brochures from the University. If possible, plan a trip to visit the Universities over the holiday or summer. In the spring, start to prepare for your SAT examination. We recommend taking your first SAT in May or June of this year. That way you know exactly what you need to prepare over the summer in preparation for the October SAT.
By the end of your Junior your, you should have your target schools, a solid GPA, preparation and at least one score for your entrance exam, advisors to give you letters of recommendation, leadership qualifications, and a strong sense of self. Now all you need to do is finish your senior year, apply to University, and enjoy the last semblance of childhood.
Fourth Year High School (Senior)
Senior year can be complicated because there are several factors that can affect your SAT testing timeline. Answering the questions below can help you figure out your ideal testing plan.
- Are you applying early decision ((NOTE: Include link to “RoadMap”))?
- Are you applying to highly competitive colleges?
- Are your current scores far from your goal scores?
- Do you plan to take both the SAT and the ACT?
If you've answered mostly “ yes ” to these questions, then October should be your last SAT attempt. If you've answered mostly “ no ”, then you can take the exam up to December of your senior year. We recommend that you prepare for the SAT during the summer before you senior year. If you don't have time in the summer, then begin your preparation as early as possible after the school year starts. For help or advice, ((Link to Registration/Contact Us))
After you take care of your SAT, start applications. Write your essay, ask for recommendations, polish off your extracurricular activities, and enjoy your senior year. At this point, you have earned all that you receive. Put yourself on the back, you are about to go to college!