As the admission’s office has to analyze a large number of applications, your goal is to stand out in a good way. Keep your application brief, and stick to the point when answering questions. Search on Google for professional resume writing tips, as if you were applying for a job interview, and write your college app in the same style. Depending on the schools you’re applying to, the admissions process can range from a simple formula that weighs grades and test scores, to a subjective review of your whole application. In some instances, colleges may spot-check admissions applications for accuracy, such as requiring proof of an extracurricular activity or a summer internship. Colleges look for patterns in both grades and test scores. High grades combined with low test scores may suggest a hard-working student, but high test scores with low grades may suggest a smart, but lazy student. It’s optimal to attempt the hardest courses that your high school offers, and the worst thing you can do is to drop a hard course just because you’re receiving a low grade.
Applicants who achieve a leadership position in an extracurricular activity are regarded more highly than students who merely participate, so only join clubs that you have a real interest in. About half of colleges use a waiting list, particularly those which are more selective. One survey suggests that 30% of wait-listed students are eventually accepted, so applicants who are wait-listed should contact the admissions office of their top choice by phone, to declare that they will attend if accepted. While most college admissions involve high school students applying directly to college, transfer admissions are important as well. Many community colleges have agreements with four-year schools, particularly flagship state universities, so that the transfer of credits is handled smoothly.
Most colleges accept either the SAT or ACT, and have formulas for converting scores into admissions’ criteria. Colleges use these standardized tests because there are substantial differences in curricula, grading, and difficulty among US high schools. One benefit of the ACT test is that it allows the test-taker to select scores to send to specific colleges. SAT test questions can be trickier and harder to decipher, while ACT questions are longer on average. Counselors suggest that students practice taking the test under actual testing conditions, and using a large watch with a sweeping second hand, rather than a digital display which may distract you.
On average, over half of juniors retaking the SAT as a senior saw improvements in their scores. These tests are designed to measure your accumulated knowledge over years of study. Further, Advanced Placement exams are offered in a variety of physical sciences, offering you college credit for honors-level classes that you have taken while still in high school. Test yourself with practice exams online, before visiting the College Board website to register to take your actual AP Tests. If you earn a score of 3 or higher on an AP Exam, you may be able to receive course credits or advanced placement, when you start college.