Tips For Your Student to Increase Their Odds of Acceptance at Competitive Colleges

By Huntington Learning Center

Has your teen been talking about the Ivy League since middle school? Do they have their heart set on a competitive college where someone they admire graduated? If your high school student is shooting for the stars and you want to be supportive, here are a few tips to share that will help them put their very best foot forward:

  • Strong grades, challenging classes and high test scores are important. At the top of the list of criteria for competitive colleges is academic performance. The National Association for College Admission Counseling’s 2019 State of College Admission report (the most recent edition) says the same. It reported that the top factors for admission decisions are overall high school GPA, grades in college preparatory classes, strength of curriculum and admission test scores (the SAT and ACT).
  • Taking challenging classes is expected. There’s no getting around it: competitive colleges want to see rigor of high school curriculum. Your student will be up against students taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and honors classes. This doesn’t mean your student must take every AP class available, but it does mean they should showcase their strengths. If your student loves math, perhaps that’s the area where they push themselves.
  • It’s important to stand out in other ways. Competitive colleges like those in the Ivy League have tens of thousands of applicants apply every year who are exceptionally talented as students. But smarts alone might not get a student into those schools. Admission officers want to see students who are passionate about school and activities outside of school. They want to see them engaged in whatever they do, not just be a passive participant. Certainly, your student can’t fake these things, but if they are curious, motivated and a self-starter, that will help them stand apart from others. The essay/writing sample, interview and counselor/teacher recommendations are a great way to share these character traits.
  • It’s about quality not quantity. A resume with a lengthy list of activities might impress less than one that demonstrates a student’s commitment to the things that they do. If your student has loved computers since childhood and has embraced many opportunities to learn about them, participate in activities involving computer science, and even teach what they know to children who lack such opportunities (i.e., a leadership role), this will stand out. And—it will stand out more than them being a member of 10 clubs and activities.

It's not always easy to decipher the specific guidelines that selective colleges have for admission candidates, but it’s safe to say that they’re all seeking students who make the most of school. They want to accept students who will enrich their campus. Academic excellence is of course the primary benchmark, but they’re looking for potential and excellent preparation along the way (in other words, students who have worked hard and excelled in school).

If your student has big goals and you want to help them get ahead, call Huntington. We work with children of all ages who want to do better in school as well as those who are striving to get ahead and achieve great things. We’ll identify your student’s strengths and weaknesses and develop a customized program of instruction—including one-to-one SAT/ACT prep—that will help them reach their dreams.