What selective colleges look for
What will the student add to our college? What kind of impact will the student have?
The number-one student with average test scores who achieves through hard work but doesn’t contribute much to classroom discussion and is barely noticed by teachers except for good testing ability is less attractive because his major contribution will be studying really hard and trying to get good grades in college. In contrast, the more interesting, dynamic applicants will be the ones who are achieving and contributing in the classroom, pushing their professors, and raising the level of discussion.
The difference between the SAT Reasoning Test and the SAT Subject Tests is that you can study for the later. Unlike the SAT Reasoning Test, the Subject Tests last only an hour and cover a narrow range of material, which can be prepped for. Most selective schools require two of these SAT Subject Tests; take only those that you are good at. Take the SAT Subject Tests at the end of the year, immediately after completing the corresponding class. Ideally, take three to five tests so when colleges select the two strongest, they will be excellent.
Truly impressive combined scores on the SAT are over 2250. SAT scores of 750CR, 630M would be much more impressive for most highly selective colleges than a 640CR, 780M, even though the latter score has a higher combined total by forty points. This is because the math section is easier than the Critical Reading section. If you want to stand out on the SAT you should aim for a score of 740 and over on each section, or at least a Critical Reading score over 730 or so.
SAT Subject Tests
Admissions officers use the SAT Subject Tests to sort out a standard that can be applied across the entire country; the Subject Tests are the true equalizers in the admissions process. The real function of Subject Tests is either to back up all the evidence present in the file or to contradict this evidence. Admissions officers can get a sense of how strong the high school is, how qualified the teachers are, and how well the student has covered the material. Doing very well shows academic strength when considered against the national pool of applicants. Doing poorly will show that the student is not up to the competition of applicants from around the country who have higher scores.
Advanced Placement and IB courses
AP courses are one category of advanced coursework available at many high schools. College credit for such courses is given by taking the nationally administered AP tests, which are graded on a scale of 1-5, 5 the highest. Some schools offer the international baccalaureate degree, or IB, which is counted the same as AP for admissions purposes and has a corresponding worldwide test scored on a scale of 1-7, with 7 the highest. Students should take as many AP or IB courses as possible so that it appears he/she is choosing the most challenging curriculum possible.
How many APs to take
If able to handle the challenge, select all available honors-track courses. Especially in high schools that weight grades (assign added point value to advanced-level classes). Students will not be competitive unless they are taking a challenging course load. Students are judged relative to the norm in their high school. Most of the top students will not be seen as competitive if they take only three such classes, even if they have higher grades than the person taking a more demanding schedule of classes. There are some high schools that count all their coursework as honors and therefore limit the number of APs a student can take.
Early decision means applying around November 1 to one college and hearing around December fifteenth about acceptance. If accepted, the student is committed to attending that college. Early decision is a “binding” plan, if accepted, you are bound to attend.
Early action is similar in terms of time frame, but you are not committed to attending; hence, this is considered a “nonbinding” plan. The acceptance rate is invariably higher for early-decision candidates at most selective schools, but you have to be sure that the college is truly your first choice. In almost every case, the early decision pool is much more homogeneous. Many of the applicants for early decision tend to be affluent white students. With early decision colleges can control exactly what the class will look like.
High School Transcript
If academics are two-thirds of the admissions decision, the high school transcript probably accounts for roughly 60 percent of the academic determination. The transcript is the single most important piece of the whole puzzle. Students with very high standardized test scores and C grades are routinely turned down by most highly selective colleges.
The first thing is the rigor of course load. Officers consider a student against the context of what has been available. If a high school offers APs in twelve different su