Students should meet with their counselors as early as freshmen year to begin mapping out action plans.
These plans should include classes they’re taking now, what courses to take next and following years, SAT and ACT test-prep timelines, and how to begin building balanced college lists.
This is why in addition to the “hard factors” (GPA, grades, and test scores) of a student’s application, colleges also place great weight on the “soft factors” (essays, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and demonstrated interest) in order to gain a full picture of applicants.
How these components are evaluated, however, can be confusing to families and make the college admissions process somewhat mysterious.
The admissions people, often young and underpaid, buzz with enthusiasm; the professors frequently pause to take off their glasses and rub their eyes.
These exhausted folks, hopped up from eating too many cookies and brownies, have been sitting in committee meetings for days after spending a couple of months reading applications, most of which look pretty similar: baseball = life, or debate = life, or “I went to a developing country and discovered poor people can be happy.”They wade through long lists of candidates, state by state, region by region. But occasionally one will make an admissions officer tear down the hallway to find a colleague to whom she can say, “You have to read what this Math Olympiad girl said about ‘Hamlet.’ ” Your goal is to write an essay that makes someone fall in love with you.For example, if 3 is the max score that an applicant can get for the eight categories listed above, then 24 is the top score an applicant can get on the rubric.After analyzing all institutional needs and goals, the admissions office might decide that a student with a rubric score of 20 or above is qualified to attend and if admitted will be able to do the work and graduate within four years.Here’s a visual representation of this “scoring.” Many schools publicize the median GPA and test scores of admitted applicants in order for prospective students to get an idea of the scores they will need in order to be considered for admission.The goal for applicants is to submit an application with components equal to or above the admissions standards set by the admissions office.When making admissions decisions, colleges and universities in the US don’t just look at grades and test scores.There are a myriad of factors that admissions officers consider when evaluating college applications, and it’s important to understand what colleges are looking for in order to have the best chance of admission to your top-choice colleges.In order to evaluate these factors, admissions officers use a “rubric” as a guide.Rubrics are not one-size-fits-all and differ from school to school, but most evaluate these core components of an applicant’s profile (in no particular order): In most rubrics, each factor is evaluated against the admissions standards for the school, and whether it is above, equal to, or below the standard outlined in the rubric.If the subject doesn’t matter to you, it won’t matter to the reader. It might be why you don’t believe in evolution or how you think kale must have hired a PR firm to get people to eat it. In school, you were probably encouraged to write papers that took a side. “I love my mom even though she makes me clean my room, hates my guinea pig and is crazy about disgusting food like kale” could lead somewhere While the personal essay has to be personal, a reader can learn a lot about you from whatever you choose to focus on and how you describe it.That’s fine in academic work when you’re being asked to argue in support of a position, but in a personal essay, you want to express more nuanced thinking and explore your own clashing emotions. One of my favorites from when I worked in admissions at Duke University started out, “My car and I are a lot alike.” The writer then described a car that smelled like wet dog and went from 0 to 60 in, well, it never quite got to 60.