For the graduating class of 1998, school has just begun. Today, more high school students go on to further their education at college, and the competitive race college depends on grades and SAT scores, right? Wrong! This may have been true 20 years ago, but today many more factors affect how a applicant appears.
The top 100 schools in the country look at more than an applicant's grades and SAT scores. Class rank, extracurricular activities, sports, leadership qualities, original essays, and recommendations all play a part in determining whether an applicant is accepted.
Take a school like Bowdoin College in Maine, for example. In a recent article in the Maine Sunday Telegram, an admissions officer found herself at odds with the rest of the committee because they felt that an applicant she thought worthy seemed to be too "one-dimensional." The student in question had remarkable grades, recommendations, and test scores, but lacked the leadership that Bowdoin requires of its students. Sadly, this student was placed in the infamous "bullpen," a list of students who do not quite make the grade, but are too valuable to discard without second consideration.
To many, this inside look at an admissions office may seem harsh, but with the vast number of colleges gracing our country, it's all top colleges can do to keep themselves at that higher level. The best policy for any high school student is to appear well rounded. You should not limit yourself to one after-school activity, but try to do at least two things you enjoy. Being involved in student government also helps. Also, many colleges will not even look at your application if you're not in the top half of your class.
However, it isn't the end of the world if you don't get accepted to the college of your choice. Many state schools are comparable education-wise to the top 100 schools, but lack the name recognition. An education is what you make of it. In fact, many professors at Ivy League schools also teach at local community colleges. Graduating very high in your class at a state university is more commendable than graduating last in a top 100 school. The quality of education you receive depends on the courses you take and what you make of them. U.S. History at Princeton is not going to be different at Florida State, and this is what you have to keep in mind when you begin to worry whether you are accepted at the college of your choice. f
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.