Archive for March, 2013

College Admission and the Role of Extracurricular Activities

March 21, 2013

James was a strong student with a high school GPA of 3.8 and a 29 on his ACT. He was involved in a long list of extra-curricular activities and community service and enjoyed all of them, but did not have the dedication and time to develop any leadership positions.

Mark was also a good student with a 3.6 GPA and 28 on the ACT. Mark, on the other hand, loved playing baseball and was involved in three clubs where he had participated for four years. He was the president of one and the captain of the baseball team. He also devoted time to the Special Olympics and tutored children with learning disabilities.

When it came time for college acceptances, James was disappointed that he hadn’t been accepted at more schools. Mark had just the opposite problem. How would he choose between the schools that had accepted him? Could extra-curricular activities been the area that made him a more appealing applicant. Did colleges see Mark as a student who would make more worthwhile contributions to the campus community?

There is a lesson here when it comes to extra-curricular activities: It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. And it’s better to have three clear areas of interest than six or seven different areas where your performance is solid but certainly not distinctive.

Students should not choose extracurricular activities over academic achievement and they need to make sure they budget their time to be able to do both. Some students may feel that impressive extracurricular activities can help less academically qualified applicants be admitted into their college of choice. Rarely, is that true. They won’t make up for a student’s lower grades and test scores. But, if two students have similar grades and test scores, strong extra-curricular activities just might tip the scale in one student’s favor.Image

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Helping teenagers understand what college planning is all about.

March 6, 2013

Perception is an interesting concept, especially through the eyes of a high school junior. While going over a list of schools with a student, I explained that some colleges make test scores optional and you may send them if you wish. I went on to say that these colleges do not believe that the SAT and ACT are an important part of the college admission process. I could tell he was giving this serious thought and then he replied, “I can’t believe there are many good schools that don’t care about your SAT or ACT.”

This incident helped me realize how confusing the college planning process can be.  It is nothing like it used to be twenty five years ago.  Today there are schools that accept the SAT and ACT and those that are test-optional.  You can apply to many schools early decision, early action I and II, regular decision and some schools accept applications up until their first day of classes. 

Some colleges participate in the Common Application and others require their school application be submitted for college acceptances.  There are colleges that require an essay or personal statement and others that do not find it important to their college admission process.  Other colleges require supplemental essays that are part of their application.

For these reasons, students need to research the schools that interest them so that they have all of the important information on hand.  They should list when the applications are due, if there is a priority deadline, and what is required for each college.  This takes organization and requires careful time management to get everything done.

Most students will benefit from some help with the college planning process.  If you find your student and family are overwhelmed with applying to college, you might want to contact a private college counselor to see what help is available.Image