The clear answer to this is to ensure that you apply to the college that not only matches your aspirations but also is the right fit for you. Be realistic and be aware.
Many students believe that one way of securing a seat is to apply to many colleges. Not only do they end up doing that, but also end up applying for a wide variety of courses. What you need to remember is that it is one thing to get admitted to a college and quite another to sustain the rigor. Therefore, it is imperative that you apply to a college of good standing that matches your aspirations, financial needs, offers that specific course that you wish to pursue, provides a good overall learning experience and prepares you well for life beyond.
Things to keep in mind
Plain and simple. According to National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAS), the student’s grades is the number one factor. According to its last survey, the following factors are the most important:
- Grades in senior school- 79%
- Grades in all courses-60.3%
- Strength of curriculum- 60.2%
- Admission test scores (SAT, ACT)- 55.7%
- Essay samples- 22.1%
Don’t confuse your engagement with extra-curricular activities with grades. A portfolio consisting of wide and varied extra-curricular activities will not be able to offset a string of B or C grades.
Strength of high school curriculum
Colleges understand and appreciate the rigor of the curriculum that the students has studied. Many colleges give advance credits to students who graduate from the IB Diploma Programme or the AP. Apart from the curriculum, it is also important that your transcript carries few tough classes. Admissions officers are looking for that stretch that you have made and pushed your boundaries on one hand and the grades that you have achieved on the other. So, not only a good layout of tough courses is important, but also how you have fared in those.
While your rank is not going to be the deciding factor for admission, admissions office does look very favorably at that. Being in the top 10% of your class is not something that they will ignore! So, try and maintain your position at the top. Another reason that colleges admit top rankers is because U.S. News and World Report (USNWR) considers that as an important and relevant admission factor and therefore evaluates colleges on that. Hence grades matter. While the top colleges do give high weightage to grades, some students do sneak by. Some common reasons that can boost chances of admission with a not so bright grade:
- Legacy applicant
- Recruited athlete
- Child of a celebrity
- Child of extremely wealthy parents
- Promising minority student
- Winner of a major national or international competition.
Pay close attention to the supplementary essays of your applications. They can be the deal breaker. Don’t keep these for the last and then just rush through them.
One common supplementary question is: Why are you interested in our college? This question warrants a clear, concise and thoughtful response. You could write about the research opportunities available, specific programmes etc. Go through the website of the college and identify their unique attribute.
While grades are important, a good application must have a strong extra-curricular component. What extra-curricular does for you is to capture skills such as, commitment, leadership, balance, grit, perseverance, involvement, specialisation, morals, ethics, a sense of humour, that grades don’t reflect. Therefore, show real involvement and meaningful commitment.