Getting into college has become a grueling, competitive process – especially for exclusive colleges or Ivy League schools.
Even still, regular universities can be a bit of a challenge. So many things need to be submitted – including transcripts, letters of recommendation, volunteer experience, essays, standardized test scores and more.
Gathering the correct paperwork can take months – sometimes longer – of preparation.
The process itself is long and tiring, and that’s not even accounting for the competition to get into your top school.
Though not all schools are competitive to get in in-general, most are competitive when it comes to getting into a specific program.
I, for example, went to the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
That particular year, a good amount of students applied to the program, making it more competitive since there were a set number of spots available. Depending on your major, you’ll want to find ways to stand out among the crowd.
Colleges Look at Number of Factors
Colleges evaluate potential students in a number of ways.
When your application is received, it’s stored electronically in the school’s database.
Typically, your grades will be standardized so they can be compared to the other applicants average GPAs’ all on the same scale. Students that do not meet the school’s minimum GPA requirement are automatically denied admissions.
For everyone else, let the competition begin.
Viewing the Student as a Whole
Thankfully, most universities look at the student as a whole instead of just their GPA (though you do have to meet the minimum require at the very least).
This means that if you’re GPA is on the lower-end of the scale, you won’t necessarily be denied over the other, higher GPA-ranking candidates.
So say, for example, one student has a “C” average but excelled at the essay portion of the application. This will give the student a more competitive edge than a “B” student with a poorly-written essay.
According to the article “5 Factors Colleges Use to Evaluate Students,” colleges will look at grades first, and then standardized test scores, then student essays, then teacher and counselor recommendations and lastly extracurricular activities.
To stand out and increase your chances of being accepted, try to excel in every single area.
Write clear, well-written, concise essays that differentiate you from the rest of the applicants. Be as involved in extracurricular activities as your schedule allows. Find a program to volunteer at on a monthly basis.
All of these little things add up and will greatly increase your chances for acceptance.
Start the Planning Early
Of course, in order to volunteer and be involved in extracurricular activities, you need to have planned ahead.
Parents should encourage new high school freshmen to join a few different clubs or sports teams so they can get a feel for what they like early on. Some high schools give seniors a half-day schedule.
Use this extra time wisely – perhaps by picking up a part-time job, volunteering, tutoring other students or helping out more with some of the clubs you’re involved in.
With college admissions being so competitive, the better-rounded you are, the more likely you are to stand out.
About the Author: Sarah Brooks is a freelance writer living in Charlotte, NC. She writes on college admissions, careers and personal finance.