In our Roadmap to College, we will explain the most important factor
for your admissions application, and the steps you need to take TODAY to achieve
After discussing the different parts of the application, in detail, we will
give a brief “Roadmap” that should guide your path to college. (Include link to
What you need to consider: ((These should be arrow-links so the can
go down to the most appropriate title.)
- Standardized Test Scores
- Extra Curricular Activities
- High School Courses
- The right school
- The right major
Roadmap To College – Year-By-Year (At the
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
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
- 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
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
- 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
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
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
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
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 Roadmap To College
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
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
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. Pat yourself
on the back, you are about to go to college!