Getting into college these days is not just about being the smartest kid in the class, nor having the best grades. In fact, there’s no guarantee of college admission even for the valedictorian of the class. It’s more about what makes a student special.

If a student is in the top 10 percent of the class, they no doubt have special qualities that might even outshine being a valedictorian. A special, standout student might be an amazing actor, a tireless eagle scout or a devoted volunteer at the local hospital.

Colleges want diversified students with well-rounded skills that include interpersonal involvement in a range of activities – someone who is good in school, plays sports and also has a good relationship with his/her family.

Some of the qualities colleges look for in students include leadership, a willingness to take risks, initiative, a sense of social responsibility, a commitment to service and special talents or abilities.

What about grades?

Admissions officers value grades that represent strong effort. Grades should show an upward trend over the years. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all A’s in less challenging coursework.

Do colleges just look at just the end-of-semester grades or at all grades? Most high schools put all grades on the transcript that goes to colleges; some high schools, however, will put only the final grade for each course. (For half-year classes or Block System classes, this is usually the semester grade).

Admissions counselors are looking for more than just good grades. A student’s character and the personal qualities they bring to a college are equally important. Students should think about goals, accomplishments and personal values and figure out how to best express those in the college applications.

When it comes to extracurricular activities, colleges want to know what the student learned and how they grew from participating in these activities. Quality, passionate involvement in a few activities — and a demonstration of leadership and initiative in those activities — can only help students with college admissions. Depth, not breadth, of experience is most important.

Summer jobs can reveal insight into a student’s character. Holding a job at a fast-food restaurant can build as much character as attending a prestigious summer learning program.

It’s all about what the student learned and how they communicate that in their admissions paperwork.

Community participation is another advantage for college admissions. Volunteering or contributing time and energy in community service reflects character and good will. If students who are passionate about serving others and have proved that passion throughout their high school career with solid and actionable results, they will always earn points. 

Before Admissions, College Prep

With Yorktown Education’s private school dual enrollment program, not only are students challenged with rigorous work that prepares them for college, but families can save substantially on tuition. This is an ideal choice for students who aim to attend graduate school or graduate from college early.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for students after high school graduation is stepping into an unstructured college environment. College professors offer more day-to-day leniency and are less likely to help students remember due dates, deadlines, and assignments.

Yorktown Education provides life skills and time management education practiced daily so students thrive in college. Students are better prepared for the transition to college life and the exciting challenges ahead.