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Top Ten Things Colleges Look For

  1. A high school curriculum should challenge students through their senior year.  Students should demonstrate a willingness to challenge themselves with a rigorous program of study.  Academically successful students will take more than the minimally required academic courses including math through pre-calc or calculus, 2-3 years of the same foreign language, and 2-3 years of science—including chemistry and physics.  Honors and AP courses are especially noticed.

  2. Grades should represent strong effort and an upward trend over the years.  Slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all A's in less challenging coursework.

  3. A well-written essay should provide insight into the student's unique personality, values and goals.  The application essay should be thoughtful and highly personal.  It should demonstrate careful and well-constructed writing.  Showing perseverance in the face of significant hardship can especially make an application stand out.

  4. Show passionate involvement in a few activities, demonstrating leadership and initiative.  Depth, not breadth, of experiences is most important.

  5. Scores on standardized tests (SAT/ACT) should be solid and consistent with H.S. performance.

  6. Special talents or experiences contribute to a well-rounded student body and make a student unique, which adds to the diversity of the campus.

  7. When required, letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselor should give evidence of integrity, special skills and positive character traits.  Students should request recommendations from teachers who respect their work in an academic discipline.

  8. Demonstrate enthusiasm toward attending the college.  Colleges want to know if the student will choose to go there if offered.

  9. Out-of-school experiences, including work and community service, should illustrate responsibility, dedication and development of areas on interest.