Everything you put on your college applications is important. Every last bit of it. You know why? Because colleges are looking for the best of the best and in order to do that, they need to read each application carefully. One student may have a killer essay but may have answered the questions on the application really poorly. Another student might have a lackluster essay but a really impressive application with detailed answers. It’s really hard to say what’s more important or most important, but it is possible to point out some aspects of a college application that definitely deserve some extra attention.
Your High School Grades
They really are the most important thing. And as impressive as your extracurricular activities might be, grades are still going to be on a college’s radar first. I mean, universities want to find the students that are most likely to buckle down when necessary, work very hard and really apply themselves to the courses that they take. While extracurricular activities will show reviewers that you are well rounded and may very well contribute to the campus atmosphere, grades will always be most important.
Your Courses & Class Work
Not only are your grades important, but so are the classes in which you earned those grades. In high school, I remember one student asking, “What is better, an A in a regular class or a B in an AP class,” to which the teacher replied, “An A in an AP class.”
Taking advanced placement courses shows admissions reviewers that you are committed to your education and are up for a challenge. AP classes require near college-level work, so a good grade in one of these classes will obviously mean much more than an A in a standard class. That is not to say students that took only regular classes will not be admitted to college. Quite the contrary. It just goes to show you that admissions officers really do look closely at applications and want to see that you have not only applied yourself but also challenged yourself.
Your Student Standing
How you compare to other students in your graduating class is important as well. Some colleges require that you be within a certain percentile of your class. The standard range is between the top 25%-50%. The higher your class rank, the higher your chances of being accepted into college.
Your Test Scores
While your SAT or ACT score will not necessarily make or break your college application, it can definitely give you a boost in either direction. For instance, if you have a B average but an extremely high exam score, you will probably be accepted no problem. The same goes for if you have high grades but a lower test score. Colleges want to see that you have either a broad range of knowledge, as with the ACT or the skills to reason and think logically as you will have to in college courses, as with the SAT. In both cases, these tests can really only add to your application. That is, unless you do terribly.
Your Admissions / Entry Essay
The essay, if required, is probably one of the most important aspects of the application. This is your shot to tell it like it is, in your own words. Nowhere else on the application can you be so free to express yourself in this manner. That’s why it’s so important that you take this aspect of the application very seriously. An outstanding essay gets many people admitted to college, even those with less than impressive grades. Let your personality shine through and make the college want you. There’s really no better way to capture the attention of the admissions reviewers and state your case, so to speak. Take advantage of the opportunity!