Preparing for College

Last-Minute "Fixes" for Student with So-So SAT's?

Question: I'm a rising senior, and applying to college is seriously stressing me out! I've taken the SAT I and SAT II's already, but the scores are not satisfactory. What can I do as a last-minute fix to make my college app look better for top notch schools?

Admission officials at "top notch schools" are wise to anything that smells like a "last-minute fix." If your test scores are well below the typical admitted-student range at the colleges that interest you the most, then your admission odds won't be good, unless you have special traits that these schools are seeking. Many of these traits are out of your hands ... e.g., your race and ethnicity, unusual athletic prowess, an atypical background (e.g., you grew up on a houseboat), or VIP connections.

But perhaps there IS something that is exceptional about you that admission officials will want to know about. For example, do you have a unique hobby? Have you published a novel (it's not too late to start writing ... it's just early July! ... but write FAST ;)) or spent hours on a particular unique project or passion? Don't only focus on school activities, organizations, or clubs. Think, too, about your personal interests ... things you do in your free time that may be uncommon.

If nothing comes to mind, then you can certainly take a shot at your dream colleges anyway but, at the same time, you should be searching for other schools where your test results will fall more squarely in the middle range. Although it can be frustrating to realize that you're good enough to attend any college in the country and yet may be turned away from the ones you most desire, there is often a "meant to be" aspect to this crazy admissions system that can lead you to a place that may not be front and center on your list right now but could end up as the perfect place for you.

So don't just look for 11th-hour application add-ons but, instead, put some time into researching colleges where your test scores will fit and where you will fit, too. (But, of course, you can also study for the SAT's and try them again in the fall.)

Once you identify some colleges that excite you but that are also "Realistic" or even "Safe" options, then this whole process won't seem quite as stressful.