Creating the Acceptable College Applicant
America's colleges and universities no longer have enough room to accommodate all the qualified students who apply. As a result, schools are forced to reject far more applicants than they accept. The goal of admissions committees is to weed out the qualified masses and fill their halls with resourceful, well-rounded acceptable students. In today's highly competitive college admissions process, knowing how to present a student to be acceptable not only substantially increases the chances of being admitted, but is an essential factor for success after college.
No one knows exactly how every school goes about the acceptance and elimination process, and no two schools follow exactly the same guidelines. However, it's safe to assume that they go about their arduous task something like this:
First, the admissions committee assembles around a large conference table. Everyone is handed a huge pile of folders containing student transcripts, applications, essays, and countless letters of recommendations. No more than 15 to 20 minutes is likely spent on any one applicant! They then begin to eliminate unqualified students - those deficient in the numbers.
Next, they look for professionally prepared applications with thought provoking, interesting, and grammatically flawless essays. They are most impressed with student resumes dating back ten years, detailing academic life, extra curricular activities including community service hours, and a cleverly written special essay, perhaps entitled, "Why I Must Attend The University of?" Admissions committees are ever on the alert for uniquely talented students in the arts, or those having demonstrated exceptional athletic potential. These factors all weigh heavily in the final decision.
You cannot give birth to an acceptable student, nor can you adopt one, and I've never seen one listed in any mail order catalogue I've ever read. Acceptable students are made, not born, by families determined to see their children successful in life. To create one; to insure pre-high schoolers have every possible advantage to succeed and go on to their college of choice, the stage must be set early in preparation for the high school years.
If the student's home is a circus, and not conducive to studying, it's time for some major changes. Students must have access to a comfortable place to study with virtually no distractions. A bare minimum of 1½ to 2 hours each night should be devoted to schoolwork, and students should maintain a normal daily routine including a healthy diet and eight hours of sleep.
Ideally, college-bound students should not be left alone without supervision for long periods of time, certainly no longer than 24 hours! They should not spend more than 15 hours each week on non-academic activities, and would be ill-advised to regularly burn the midnight oil. The benefits of a good night's rest cannot be overstated.
All students should begin by electing to take courses with college in mind. By the time they enter the 12th grade, they will have created the right posture to make admission committees stand up and take notice.
Four years of the core subjects are what all colleges are most interested in, unless the student has a special ability as an athlete, vocalist, musician, or artist. English, Math, a Foreign Language, Science and History make up the core Grade Point Average (GPA) or CGPA. There is also the Honors Point Average (HPA) which includes Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Electives such as Art, Physical Education, Music and Computer Programming are of less importance and should only be taken in conjunction with the core subjects. Students should take as many Honors and AP classes as possible. The risk/reward ratio comes into play here. Colleges are looking for students who take risks and challenge themselves academically and otherwise. The bonus for earning an 'A' or 'B' or even a 'C' is that it adds extra points to the GPA and gives the student that all-important edge in admissions.
Receiving an 'A' in a non-honors class is not as impressive as earning a 'B' in an Honors or AP class. It demonstrates that the student took a risk and therefore a greater accomplishment is perceived. Admissions officers are as impressed by the challenge taken as they are with the result.
I'm certainly not suggesting that any student become stressed out by taking classes they are not capable of doing well in, or working beyond reasonable limits. However, for families with an exceptionally bright child, it is highly recommended that they take as many advanced courses as they can comfortably handle. An outstanding academic record has always been and is still the greatest bargaining chip.
Students should also pursue extracurricular activities such as clubbing, not to be confused with staying out all night partying. Membership in the Debate Club, Student Council, Key Club and the like is one of the absolute necessities to becoming a well-rounded, acceptable student. Even more beneficial, the student should hold office or take on a leadership role in as many of these clubs as possible. Leadership demonstrates taking a risk and assuming responsibility.
Even students who are super athletes need some diversity, as sports alone is not enough. Students need to avoid the impression that they are one-dimensional, and do whatever is necessary to portray themselves as multi-faceted.
Early on, students must also begin to accumulate community service or volunteer hours. However, don't confuse extracurricular activities with volunteer work. I define extracurricular activities as in-school participation. Community service takes place outside of school, i.e. scouting, working for one's house of worship, working with AIDS and/or Alzheimer's patients, seniors, hospice, involvement with the handicapped, and environmental work such as cleaning up beaches or highways.
By participating in volunteer work with financially, emotionally and/or intellectually challenged people, students demonstrate their compassion and empathy for others, and this will make them shine with admissions officers. Working with those who are less fortunate also gives the student a much broader idea of how life is outside their own environment.
Every college-bound student needs an edge in the admissions process whether they apply to Harvard or their local state college. Competition is fierce, and the painful truth is - no one really cares about any student's education except the student and their family. It would be ill-advised and unrealistic to expect any favors or kindly 'ole educators to bend over backwards to ensure the success of any student. Academic achievement is rarely an accident, and creating the acceptable student is the sole responsibility of the student and their family.
This is one of a series of articles by college admissions and financial aid expert, Reecy Aresty, based on his book, "Getting Into College And Paying For It!" For further information or to contact him, please visit www.thecollegebook.com.
For almost three decades, financial advisor & lecturer Reecy Aresty, has helped thousands of families to protect their assets, increase their wealth, and reduce their taxes. During the 1980's, he turned his attentions to the complex world of college admissions and financial aid. By the end of the decade, he was already saving his clients thousands of dollars on a college education!
He has authored, "Getting Into College And Paying For It," also available in Spanish. Filled with trade secrets and insider information, it offers solutions for high school and college families guaranteed to give students the all-important edge in admissions, and parents countless legal ways to reduce college costs.
In 2004 alone, Reecy saved families hundreds of thousands of dollars! He has become a major factor in obtaining affordable, quality educations for America's students. In doing so, he has restored the faith people used to have in one another by proving that there are still people who care, people who can be trusted, and people who actually do what they promise - and get results!
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