6 Essential College Application Tips to Consider

Learn what colleges look for in applicants

As your child starts looking at colleges, it’s important to know what colleges are looking for in students. For the most part, the answer depends on the school. If your child wants to attend a highly selective school that accepts a small percentage of applicants, the bar is much higher for admission.

Most schools expect high grades, excellent scores on standardized tests and interesting extracurricular activities. If your child wants to start at a community college and then move to a larger four-year university with transfer credits, the requirements may be easier to meet.

Here are six college application tips that most colleges consider when reviewing applications:

1. Courses

 All schools consider what courses someone has taken. High school students who take four years of math, science and a foreign language will be in a better position when applying to a selective school than students who took only three years of each, even if that’s all that was required for graduation.

2. Course level

In addition to looking at courses, the college will consider whether the courses were regular, honors or advanced placement (AP). That doesn’t matter for all schools, but those that are more selective will weigh the harder courses more to show that the prospective student can handle intellectual rigor and that he or she is motivated.

3. Grades

Did your child barely pass or receive straight A’s? There’s a college for everyone, but those who have a lower grade point average, will likely have fewer options available to them. Many colleges use 3.0 as a baseline GPA for application.

4. Test scores

Most colleges require an ACT or SAT standardized test score. There’s not a minimum score that colleges require to admit students, but most schools publish the range for accepted students in previous years. That gives students an idea of how competitive a school is, and they can compare their scores to the school’s range.

5. Activities

Extracurricular activities are important to some schools. Many schools want to see leadership skills or excellence in a certain area. That might be in orchestra, debate or sports. Schools like consistency. They want to see that a student has continued putting effort into one area and is getting better at it. That might mean taking on more responsibility in a club, volunteering or moving into higher-level musical groups and even winning awards.

6. Personal statement

What do colleges look for in a personal statement or essay? They want to see original thoughts and a story that distinguishes the student from others. They want to see how a student thinks and why he or she wants to go to the school.

 

Understanding what colleges look for is helpful in determining which colleges are good matches for applicants. If the things a college looks for aren’t your child’s strengths, it’s best to look at a different school.

Before your child begins the college application process, it’s important to start saving money for tuition. Nationwide’s college savings calculator can help you decide how much to put aside on a regular basis.