Before I go over the different facets of what colleges look for in a prospective student, I want to clarify a bit on the difference between colleges. Not all colleges are as selective (meaning they aren't as picky) as Ivy Leagues but typically you can expect public colleges to be more lenient in general.
When looking at the following criteria on what colleges look for, do some research on the colleges you plan to attend. Give each of those colleges a call and ask about how selective they are and look up statistics online that can help you determine how difficult it will be to get in to each of those colleges. This post will answer the question of 'What looks good on a college application?'
Most of the time, colleges will look at your sophomore and junior year grades to get a general look at your quality of work in school. The more selective colleges might ask for a transcript at the end of your senior year to make sure that you are consistent till the end. Keep your grades high and take AP classes and dual credit courses so you'll give your GPA a boost.
Colleges are necessarily looking for a certain GPA but it's better to be safe rather than sorry so try to get it as high as possible. Some schools give extra grade weight to students who take these challenging classes. Also, keep in mind that your freshman year will show up on the transcript but it's not one of the bigger determining factors.
Also, you need to get involved with active organizations and join extra-curricular activities because colleges want students that understand societal interaction among their peers. It also portrays you as an active student which is a very likable attribute.
Sometimes students are afraid to take leadership positions but if you want to stand out among thousands of other students, and then you will need to show that you are a leader and not just a follower. It's important that you demonstrate leadership. My advice to you is to purposely put yourself in a position of leadership so that you can grow as a person and gain experience. What colleges look for are characteristics that set you apart.
If the college application requires a personal essay don't be shy about your unique accomplishments and endurance of hardships. If you really want to make it to a selective college, you will have to stand out and this is a perfect opportunity for that. For example, maintaining very high grades in high school despite personal tragedies shows that you can tolerate immense pressure. You don't have to get too personal but at least let them know what you have to offer.
Another thing that is overlooked is the scores on the SAT test or the ACT test. Many students aren't aware of the importance of getting high scores. You can take the tests multiple times and make improvements because colleges look at the highest score. You have nothing to lose by testing over and over.
One thing that colleges won't look at is the attendance although being absent a lot will probably reflect on your grade. They probably won't look at your PSAT score if you took it and if they do, it won't be a determining factor.
Just make sure you work with excellence in all that you do and you could end up with some pretty impressive recommendation from teachers, principals and community leaders. It's not difficult to comprehend what colleges look for so work hard, make necessary changes, and get into your dream college that's assuming you get a good net price. Please take note of what colleges look for. If this helped you in any way drop a comment.
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