Entrance requirements at colleges vary widely. While some schools are stricter than others, even colleges with open admissions policies will check out a student’s record. Here are some tips to consider when your child is applying for college.
Of course, the first place any college will start is a student’s high school record. Most important is the overall classroom performance. Honors classes and college-prep courses will be looked upon more favorably than electives. Colleges require all of the main subjects to be covered, and they will deny students if their classes are imbalanced. Your GPA is important, but your class work must be challenging. Also, students taking easy classes tend to score lower on admissions exams.
Most schools look for four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years each natural sciences and three years of social sciences. Some colleges also require other subjects such as foreign language and fine arts. Check for information on requirements with the schools your son or daughter is considering.
Standardized test scores are another measure of academic ability. Test scores on the SAT or ACT are analyzed. These are combined with general academic achievement to help colleges choose which students to accept. Also, certain sections of these tests will aid in course placement. For example, English majors will want to have stellar verbal and written scores. If these scores are lacking, a different major will probably have to be chosen.
Admissions interviews and essays are another factor in the admissions process. When writing an admissions essay, don’t let your son or daughter overuse their thesaurus. It makes the essay sound contrived. Be interesting, and keep the attention of the reader. Also, use concrete images. For example, don’t say that you “learned something.” Write a specific example of what was learned. Don’t write a mess of words just to use up space. Be concise and direct. Avoid slang. And, most importantly, make sure that the question is answered. There’s nothing worse than a whole lot of text rambling without saying anything.
In an admissions interview, other factors come into play. Promptness is one of the first steps toward a successful interview. Also, be sure that your student dresses to impress. Formal clothes are overkill, but jeans and a t-shirt are inappropriate. Interviewers demand respect, so make sure that your son or daughter greets them by name and title. If a tour of the college is given, the student should greet every faculty member with courtesy and a smile.
When in a room, a student shouldn’t take a seat until it is requested. An admissions interview is like a job interview. It’s a chance for the prospect to sell themselves by stressing achievements and asking insightful questions. Body language and posture are important, as is focus. Drifting off during the interview is surefire way to ruin it, as is a general lack of respect. When the interview is over, it’s important to continue the respect with a handshake and polite thanks.
College admission is a quest. Throughout all the tests and interviews, encourage your teenager to keep focused on the positive. Colleges are looking for the brightest and have only your student’s best interests in mind.