Q&A: What are some things I can do in high school to help me get into good colleges?


Q: What are some things I can do in high school to help me get into good colleges?

A: As an experienced admissions file reader, there are some basic guidelines I would give any applicant, that if followed, would make their application profile more competitive for top schools, like the Ivies.

1. Plan out your high school course sequence in 9th grade. When you make that list, ensure you’ve included the courses you need to get into the college of your choice or the college major of your choice. Your list should focus on highly-rigorous courses like AP, IB, and dual credit. Take college-level coursework, if possible (again, AP, Honors, College in the High School, community college classes). When I assess applications, course rigor is as important as GPA.

2. Develop a working list of at least five schools. Research the admissions requirements and start working to surpass them. If the average GPA at your dream school is a 3.7, aim to get a 3.8 or higher for your GPA.

3. Complete 100+ hours of community service or service learning. Most college applications want to see proof of volunteer work. Completing volunteer work and community service will also give you content to write about in personal statements and shows you care about something besides yourself.

4. Learn how to write a personal narrative so that you can effectively write about yourself (for your personal statements) in a way that is coherent and impactful. You can practice writing personal essays that aren’t as high stakes as admissions essays by entering writing competitions or applying for scholarships open to high school students.

5. Join extracurricular clubs and activities and stick with them throughout your four years of high school as this demonstrates you can be dedicated, committed and interested in something outside of academics. Holding leadership positions and receiving honors in extracurricular activities is a plus. Colleges would rather see you excel at 1-2 activities for the four years of high school, rather than read about you participating in a dozen or more extracurriculars, but not really wholeheartedly dedicating yourself to anything.

Cover Photo by Photo by Dimitri Bång on Unsplash