Admissions, Guest Post

Guest Post: Things You Don’t Think Are Important, But Actually Are

Comments Off on Guest Post: Things You Don’t Think Are Important, But Actually Are 13 December 2017

08/15/2014 - Medford/Somerville, Mass. - A view of Ballou Hall from the Academic Quad on Aug. 15, 2014. (Kelvin Ma/Tufts University)

You’re a resourceful individual. It’s one of the reasons you’re using us, here at College Greenlight. As any intelligent individual knows, though, getting information from one source, and one source alone, feels unfinished. You want corroboration. So, to add some extra value to what we do here, we’ve reached out to Tufts University and asked Sean Ashburn, an Admissions Counselor, to give some advice — advice worth way more than two cents! If you’re interested in Tufts University, check out the website here, but don’t forget to to read Sean’s tips for applying to college!


Things You Don’t Think Are Important, But Actually Are

If you are a current high school senior, it’s likely that you’re familiar with the basic requirements of the college application process, including your transcript, standardized testing, essays, and letters of recommendation. It might seem like these components are all that matters, but there are other pieces of the application that play an important role in your success at navigating this long and complex process. Here are a handful of elements that you should try not to underestimate, both before and after you submit your applications.

Senior Year Grades

It is tempting to believe that the academic data that comes with your application is basically locked in before your final year of high school even begins, giving you the chance to relax a bit once 12th grade kicks off. However, despite what you’ve heard, college admissions officers pay very close attention to students’ academic performance in their senior year courses. Often senior year is when you are enrolled in the most challenging courses you have had the opportunity to take thus far (AP Calculus, anyone?) and your continued success in these rigorous courses helps provide evidence of your potential to thrive in a college-level curriculum.

In cases when hard-working, compelling applicants have a serious dip in performance once their first quarter/trimester/semester grades land in their application files, this can cast an unfortunate shadow over the admissions committee’s discussion. Furthermore, a noticeably impressive start to senior year can add some useful academic heat to your file, reassuring the admissions committee of your preparation for the rigor of college. This information should not add an extra layer of stress to what we know can be an overwhelming time for so many students, but should remind you that maintaining steady performance in the classroom is worth prioritizing, even when you have a dozen unwritten supplemental essays looming over your head.

Good College Research

Maybe this is obvious, but it is worth emphasizing how important it is for students to have strong reasons for applying to each of the schools on their list. Basically, this means you’ve done your homework well enough to be able to articulate in just 2-3 sentences why each college has caught your attention and is worthy of your application. Why? Because colleges are going to ask you to do this! The admissions or alumni interview and the common “Why X University?” essay question are two opportunities where your interest in and knowledge of a particular college should shine through…and you need to have done some good research to make this happen.

It’s certainly a cause for concern for an admissions officer when an essay or interview report reveals that an applicant is interested in an academic program or opportunity that is not actually offered on their campus, but it can be equally unsatisfying when a student gives the impression that they just doesn’t know much about the college’s community at all. Push yourself to dive deeper with your online research – beyond schools’ locations and majors – and practice (out loud, even) answering the question, “why are you applying to (blank) University/College?” At some point, someone is going to ask.

Your Application Status Page

Of all the emails or letters you will receive from an admissions office, the most important has to be the one with the login information to activate your application status page, also commonly referred to as your admissions portal. The majority of colleges provide their own online platform and, once you have logged in, you have access to a world of information available to make your life easier!

This page can often include your checklist of application materials to see what a school has and has not received in your file, a list of the standardized test scores you sent, the option to request an interview, and a spot where your admissions decision is eventually posted. Equally important is the checklist of financial aid materials, where new required documents (like copies of your family’s income tax returns) can be added on an ongoing basis as the financial aid office reviews your aid materials. Regularly checking the application status page saves you from needing to contact colleges to verify that they received your application materials and it keeps you from missing important deadlines.

Between class assignments, out-of-school commitments, family responsibilities, and college applications, college admissions offices know you’re balancing a lot. For that reason, it’s worth a reminder that there are likely so many pieces of this process that you think are important, but are not (a typo in a college essay, for example). Recognizing the importance of the three points mentioned above will save you anxiety and frustration in the long run and make you feel more in control of your own admissions process.  

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