what Colleges Want
This time of year at Grenada School District, we're helping students and parents get ready for big transitions in August. The elementary school is signing up next year's pre-K and kindergarten students, many of whom will be attending school for the first time. At the other end of the elementary scale, fifth graders and their parents are gearing up for the leap to middle school.
But perhaps the most critical transition is from eighth to ninth grade. Kids who have just entered their teens will begin to prepare for the final stage of their grade-school journey.
Not to put too much pressure on you, ninth graders, but over the next few years, you'll be making decisions that will affect the rest of your lives!
For you incoming ninth graders with higher education in your sights, now's the time to start formulating your strategy for getting into the college or university of your choice. You'll be shocked at how quickly these four years fly by, so start building your high school credentials right now.
To make yourself an appealing candidate for college admissions officers, you want to portray yourself as motivated, curious, and responsible. How do you do that? Be that student.
Colleges don't simply check boxes on a list to make sure you meet the criteria, but there are undoubtedly things they pay attention to, and those things include:
So why are grades so important, and why do teachers and parents seem to obsess over them? It's because they say a lot about who you are as a student. Are you responsible enough to complete your assignments and turn them in on time? Are you serious enough to pay attention in class and can you demonstrate that you understand the material by passing tests and quizzes? Can you apply that information in the form of projects, reports, and in-class discussions? Grades are a way to measure your willingness to learn. Does that mean you have to make straight As every term to be considered viable college material? Not at all. There's something colleges pay even more attention to….
Colleges want to see that you weren't afraid to confront a challenge on your high school journey. If it's not going to dramatically diminish your GPA, go ahead and take the more challenging classes like advanced placement, college-credit, and innovative electives like Project Lead the Way's engineering or biomedical. Most colleges would rather see that you fought a good battle and earned an 89 in that advanced math class than sailed through lower-level courses with a 98. Why? It suggests that you're ready for college-level classes.
Also, don't try and front load your hard classes just so you can coast through your senior year. Colleges are looking for students who show improvement and work harder each year. Rather than slough off twelfth grade, you should take your toughest courses and post your best grades. It's a sign that you're motivated and ready to work even harder when you arrive at college.
Standardized Test Scores
Obviously a 36 on the ACT will catch the attention of college admissions officer, but standardized test scores are not the make-or-break number many students fear. If you do the base work, study and strive to learn the material, that knowledge will most likely translate to a solid test score.
Here is the last piece of the puzzle. A college wants to know what kind of person you are, not just on paper. Are you creative? Are you a leader? Colleges are looking for these types of students. You don't have to impress them by loading your resume with every club and organization in the school. It's better to show commitment and excellence in two or three areas than to list a dozen clubs, teams, and service groups. That shows you are devoted and eager to excel in your area of interest.
Not sure where to begin extracurricularly? Step out of your comfort zone. If you don't have a secret interest, then try something you've never done. Look into jointing the NJROTC or the yearbook staff. Try the archery team, or participate in the science fair. Run for student government. Just put yourself out there and be a part of something. You'll be amazed how much you can learn from your peers. These experiences form a patchwork of memories that you'll take with you forever. You won't remember all those hours you spent watching TV or skipping around on your phone, but you'll never forget the trip to the regional science fair or the service project you did cleaning up Chakchiuma Swamp with Educators Rising.
Even though high school will be your greatest academic challenge to date, and even though your performance here determines what happens next, it can also be the most fun experience of your youth. So mix it up. Don't hide. We're only able to truly become ourselves when we interact with others.
And as for higher education, a four-year university with advanced degree is not your only option at Grenada School District. You could go for a two-year degree at a community college, go straight to the workforce with specialized technical training and certification, or enter the military through the NJROTC program. We'll look closer at these other options next month.