Parents always have theories about what colleges are looking for.
“Oh, they want the valedictorian! Better to be valedictorian of a bad school, than average at a great school.”
“Oh, they want the star athlete!”
“Oh, they want the kid that does it ALL – ALL THE TIME!”
“Oh, they want the kid from the best school, doesn’t matter how they do at the school.”
“Oh, they want the straight A student – easy courses are just as good as the AP course.”
Now this is the truth. Every college has different criteria and priorities when looking for students. They each conduct their admission process differently.
In general, most colleges look for:
- A rigorous high school curriculum that challenges the student. It should include AP or IB classes (if the school offers AP or IB).
- High grade point average in major subjects. Most schools say that they prefer B’s in a rigorous program to all A’s in less challenging courses.
- High scores on standardized tests (ACT, SAT).
- Passionate involvement in a FEW activities that are meaningful, inside or outside of school.
- Passionate Leadership. It can be in school or a non-school extracurricular. Depth, rather than breadth, of leadership is valued.
- A well-written essay gives a glimpse into the student’s unique personality and shows determination, demonstrates character.
- Strong counselor/teacher recommendations that shows that the teacher/counselor personally knows the student.
- Strong character and values that would make the student a good community member.
- Interesting talents and interests.
- Special talents that could contribute to campus life.
- Intellectual curiosity exhibited through reading, research, and extracurricular pursuit
- Demonstrated interest and enthusiasm in attending said college (through campus visits, etc.).
So, yes they want it all, but colleges are really looking for a student that would work hard, fit into the community and be involved. They want someone who would take advantage of the college experience. They don’t want a student that will hide in their dorm room for four years. They want someone that they would like to be friends with. So it doesn’t matter what school your child goes to. You child must demonstrate that they WANT to be where they are and they WANT to be doing what they are doing. It’s the passion, more than the GPA.