When it comes to college admissions, every department is different. Some may focus highly on standardized testing, while others care more about the interview process. No matter what they choose to weight more heavily, there are some general criteria every school wants to see on your college application forms.
Your SAT and ACT scores are important metrics in telling your potential school just how seriously you take your education. Whether you’ve taken those tests once or ten times each, colleges want to know that their students will be able to perform at a high level, and that means excelling in high school. Are you a student who tries to improve themselves academically, or do you prefer to settle for mediocrity?
This is why you should also care not only about your GPA, but about the quality of classes you were in. Colleges love to see upper-level classes on a transcript, such as honors or Advanced Placement classes. Even if your school didn’t offer very many, be sure you take as many as you reasonably can to show your desire to grow. If your school didn’t offer any, point that out on your application so the admissions department will know about your situation.
Were you active in your school’s extracurricular activities, or were you content to merely go to class and come home? A one-dimensional, academic-only student makes for a weak candidate for college campus life and an even worse ambassador for the school. They want to see you excel in things that aren’t grade-related, so point out all the ways in which you were involved with your school or community on your application.
Colleges especially love leaders. While those that were active in a lot of clubs are always welcome, the ones that truly stand out are the people that took the reins in those organizations and helped it grow as well.
Getting all A’s in your curriculum is great, but what other types of pursuits define you as an individual? Were you active in your school’s theater? Did you take art classes to enhance your creative side? Did you make all-region or higher in band or orchestra? In addition to academics, colleges want a diverse student body population that reflects a myriad of different cultures and intellectual pursuits. If you’re unsure about how to find these types of activities, ask your guidance counselor or college admissions counselor for some options.
Getting into a good college is less about academics than you may first think. You have to prove yourself to the school. Selling who you are and what you have to offer. As you start applying, be sure to update your resume and report cards.