Preparing for College

Advice for First-Timer Parents of 10th Grader

Question: We were wondering if you could give us any help on some of the criteria colleges will be looking for on my daughter's applications AND during the interview process. We are first (child) time college "pursuers" and are a bit clueless to all this. Besides the obvious GPA and SAT scores, what else do they look for and what if my daughter's school does not offer a lot of groups, clubs, extracurricular activities and what not? She is a sophomore in high school who wants to go pre-med but is afraid with all the competition of bigger schools, her resume will fall short. She has straight A's and is in all the honor classes her school offers, but sadly that is not many. She is on student council and also Beta Club and is currently looking to become a Candy Striper at our local hospital and a Big Sister of America. What else do they look for? Thank you

Admission officers evaluate applicants in the context of what is available to them at their high schools. So if your daughter's school offers limited honors or Advancement Placement classes, she won't be penalized. On the other hand, admission officials at the most selective colleges (i.e., those that accept roughly 25% or fewer of their applicants) often find that the students in their applicant pools have gone out of their way to find academic challenge via summer programs, online classes, local community college classes (etc.), if sufficient rigor isn't offered at their high schools. While seeking out such enrichment isn't an admissions imperative—even at the most hyper-competitive colleges—it can certainly help. (To find out a college's approximate acceptance rate, you can use the “Search" function on the College Board Web site. Type in the school's name here: and then follow the links to the profile. You'll see the percentage of applicants accepted under the “Type of School" heading.)

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