There are two different questions: what’s the number one factor to determine success in college? And, what’s the number one factor admissions counsels consider?
They should be the same factor and at some colleges they very well might be. But, at most they are not, unfortunately.
AP Classes: Your high schools grades, specifically grades in Advanced Placement classes, can directly determine how well you will perform in college. Some colleges have come out and said that AP grades and AP exam scores are the number one factor in admissions. But, SAT/ACT scores are still the most important factor at many schools.
SAT scores/ACT scores: The SAT and ACT are designed to evaluate all students on equal playing field. That’s why admissions counsels place so much weight on these tests. AP exams are also standardized, but it’s easier to get into AP classes at some schools, as AP invitations are left up to a teacher’s discretion. This can cause many discrepancies across schools.
ACT/SAT Requirements: “We look at students holistically” could very well be the biggest lie in colleges. Applications are skyrocketing, and admissions counsels are overwhelmed – absolutely overwhelmed. Admissions counselors at Pitzer College, in Claremont, California even admitted that they only take an average of 15 minutes for the first read of each application, according to the US News & World Report.
It’s impossible to compare students holistically in just 15 minutes. Most colleges set benchmark requirements, and it’s easiest to use the SAT and ACT for those requirements. It’s usually pretty straightforward, if you don’t have at least a certain ACT/SAT score, you’re rejected immediately. But, if you meet that requirement and the weighted GPA requirement; then and only then will your entire application be considered.
Emphasis on curriculum: In the past few years, colleges started noticing that too many students were earning 4.0s in the easiest classes. These students don’t become great college students. So, they are favoring students who take tougher classes. In many cases, a lower GPA in a harder curriculum (all AP/Honors classes) outranks a higher GPA in easier classes.
Now, 71 percent of colleges give “considerable importance” to strength of curriculum, an increase from 62 percent in 2006. Colleges are also weighting senior year more, believing that those are the toughest high school classes.
Application essay: After you meet the SAT/ACT and GPA (adjusted for curriculum) requirements, colleges look at your essay. Letters of recommendation aren’t as important anymore and have essentially been replaced with the essay. Essay readers are looking for one big factor: is this student intellectually curious? And they are experts at determining that from your essay. The intellectually curious make great students not only because they are motivated but also because they are willing to learn and explore new areas and challenge themselves academically. Seems like the perfect college student, right?
Class rank: Is not as important as it once was. A lot of high schools try to manipulate their class ranks by having 15 valedictorians who somehow all earned 4.0s in the toughest classes. So, colleges are catching on and only 15 percent are giving “considerable importance” to class rank, a decrease from 42 percent in 1993.
Good ACT/SAT scores: If you want to get into a top college, you’ll need to score in the top 90th percentile. So, you’ll need at least a 29 on the ACT and an 1850 on the SAT. The average ACT score is around a 20, and the average SAT score is around a 1500.
Consider getting a tutor to assist in getting into that college you would love to assist. There is no need to stress and worry about test scores when there is assistance all around. There are sites that will do all in their power to get you results you’re looking for.
About the Author
This guest post article was written and provided by Janice Mitchell who is a stay at home mother and has homeschooled her children with the help of VarsityTutors.com for SSAT testing and more.