A good GPA and a good score on the SAT or ACT are essential, but that alone is not enough to be admitted by a good college.
Nevertheless, when colleges are selecting prospective students, many other factors come into consideration. Here is a sample of the most important ones:
- Most colleges highly value participation in school activities.
- Participation in school clubs (literary, science, etc.) is an important way to get noticed outside the classroom. To become president of a club or be the founder of one is viewed as a sign of leadership.
- Even if your high school doesn't offer competitive sports, or if the student is not sports-oriented, being part of a team is very valuable. To become team captain in any sport is considered to be a sign of leadership.
- To befriend professors in the field of study in which the student is most interested in could be useful to secure good recommendations when applying for college.
- To be selected for an Honors Society adds extra points to your personal profile.
- School counselors are very important to help determine the appropriate steps to college. It is important to develop a good relationship with the counselor and visit their office often, beginning frome the first year of high school. If counselors are not available, seek help at one of the multiple organizations established to offer that type of guidance.
- A high GPA (above 3.5) is the best measurement of academic success of a student and it is viewed as such by the universities.
- It is very important to take honors classes early on.
- Advanced Placement (AP) courses, offered by most high schools, are a key measurement of the academic challenges that a student is willing to meet and that is why it is so important to take as many AP classess as possible.
- Good preparation for the state's standardized tests helps boost the school's prestige and is a good indicator of the student's academic capacity.
- A good score on the PSAT (prepared by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation) could become the most valuable asset for a high school student, since many institutions offer generous scholarships to the students with the best scores.
- To adequately prepare for the SAT or ACT is very important, given that colleges tend to use these scores as a reference when assessing applicants. To take a preparatory coursem or take the practice test available on the SAT website, could help you become acquainted with the test and help you get a higher score.
The College Application
- Entities such as the College Board offer on their websites a list of requirements for college applications. It is a good idea to have the list handy and fill it out with the information about the colleges of your choice. It will also help you meet application deadlines.
- Several universities and colleges use a common application without many supplements. Others have their own applications. Acquire them early enough so you have time to compile all the materials you need for the application.
- Although many high schools do it routinely, make sure on that your high school transcripts were sent on a timely manner to the colleges you are applying to.
- It is very important to request early from your teachers the recommendation letters required by most colleges, and don't forget to send a "Thank You" note to the teachers that wrote them for you.
- All colleges and universities require at least one essay, while some require more. This could be the key piece of the puzzle. It is a good idea to prepare several drafts and, whenever possible, get advice from your English teachers. It is very important to make the essays as personal as possible. The people who read them want to see a reflection of you. They want to have the best mental picture possible. It isn't very helpful to write about your summer vacation--you've got to be creative.
- Many high schools require a certain amount of community service hours, but you need to do those even if your school doesn't require them. The more you have the better. Some Honors Societies place high value on community service and encourage their members to do it.
- Other colleges look for so-called “Service Learning,” in which a student develops abilities in his field of interest. In general, colleges place great value to this type of experience.
- Some high schools help their students who are in their final year of high school to secure internships associated with their prospective careers. To be an intern for one or two summers is an excellent way to develop academic credentials, get a deeper knowledge of the field of study and develop good rapport with a supervisor that could write a letter of recommendation to add to all the admission material that is submitted for admission for college.
- A student's personal interests must be seriously considered. Not all universities offer the same majors, and not all environments are the same. The important thing is that when you are making your choices is to meet the academic requirements of the university.
- It could be useful to learn about different careers and job opportunities associated with. It is a good thing to talk to your high school Counselor. There is also useful information available online. The Center on Education and the Work Force from Georgetown University offer numerous studies on this subject.
- There are many institutions, including many high schools, that offer opportunities to visit the colleges in the country. Don't dismiss them by considering the colleges out of your reach. All universities have websites and there you can find out which majors they offer. The websites also list their admission requirements.
- Although there are programs that allow you to apply to many universities free of charge, usually the applications have a cost. Therefore it is important to prepare a good college portfolio. Start with your “dream college” (thinking that it is doable), bearing in mind cases like Lucerito Ortiz' and many others that have reached their dreams.
- If your academic record is not the best, add to the list a couple of the so called “reach schools” (those which require, on average, a little more than what you have been able to accomplish). Many students that have done this with “reach schools” have been accepted.
- Also include some of the so-called “match schools” (the ones in line with your results) and don't forget to add a “safety school” (the one in which your acceptance is a sure thing).
- If you meet all the requirements but lack the resources, chances are that you will receive financial aid. Remember--some top notch universities may be more affordable than your community college. Find out about programs such as Questbridge and Posse.
- In any event, you will need to submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It is available online, and they provide instructions on to fill it out. The process will be even easier when you have your family's financial information (the tax return usually will suffice). You have to be very careful when you fill out this document.
- Another document required by most universities (82 of the most selective compared by Univision, for example) is the "Financial Aid Profile," also known as CSS, developed by the College Board. It is an online application that must be completed in advance.
- Some universities require a Tax Return.
- If after meeting all the requirements and doing all the calculations and the resources are still insufficient, there are a number of scholarships that will help you make the ends meet. There are many resources available online. So much so that it may be difficult to sort them out. Before you start, try assessing how much assistance is offered by your university and determine how much additional assistance you need do you need. Afterwards, jump in the sea of information on the web. To begin, visit Univision's “This is the Time.”