As a senior knee-deep in college applications and a junior who just took the PSAT, we went to the Northwest Yeshiva High School college night on Oct. 22 hoping for a little extra guidance and some secret insight into the admissions process. We weren’t disappointed.
Peter Brodkin, the NYHS college counselor, and David Blum, co-chair of the Penn Alumni Interview Program, discussed college admissions and fielded questions from anxious students and parents for more than two hours. Students, parents and younger siblings listened intently on how to survive the most grueling process of an adolescent’s life. Here are five tips for getting it done right:
1. Plan early.
Planning for college doesn’t begin as a senior, or even as a junior. It is never too early to prepare for college. You can do this by taking the PSAT for practice in 9th and 10th grades, maintaining good grades, being intentional about your extracurricular activities, and researching colleges early. In 9th grade, start planning for life after high school graduation. You won’t be sorry.
2. Academic Performance.
Although it may seem intuitive, you need strong academics to get into many colleges. This means that you need a strong GPA, and should take as many honors classes as you can (within reason). Colleges like to see that you challenged yourself. They know far more about your school than you do, so they can fairly compare your grades with other schools and students. Blum additionally mentioned that parity between grades and test scores is crucial. If a college sees a student has very high grades, but poor test scores (or vice versa), the performance looks much worse than the performance of a student who had decent grades, and respectable standardized test scores.
3. Intellectual achievement outside of school.
Colleges like to see a student who is dedicated to knowledge even when he or she is not at school. These intellectual activities include reading heaps of literature (not for school), participating in academic competitions (a science fair, for example) or contests. These activities show the student is ambitious and passionate about learning and would thrive at a particular college or university. The most frequently asked interview question is “What have you read lately?” If your answer is a required reading book like “The Once and Future King,” you lose points! Read for pleasure and you will go far.
4. Colleges are not looking for a “well-rounded” student but a well-rounded freshman class.
So when choosing extra-curricular activities, go for your passion. Don’t choose extra-curricular activities based on what you think will look good on your application. Find what you love to do and do it!
5. The world is flat.
This is the title of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s best-selling book that Blum recommended we read. Simply put, in today’s global culture, we have a lot more competition than our parents or grandparents did when it comes to college admissions. We are not just competing with those in our state or country, but with students from all over the world.
Obviously, these are only a few important pointers you need to know when applying for college. Good luck to all and start early. Seniors…we feel your pain!