Question: What can I do to maximize my chances for college acceptance?
Answer: This is an excellent question because it is one that all families need to be thinking about as they approach college planning. While some colleges have actually had a drop in applicants this past year, generally the landscape remains very competitive especially for the more selective schools. This trend continues because students are applying to more colleges, and schools themselves are more aggressively targeting low-income students who previously might not have considered this option.
I think the biggest mistake I see in my practice is my students’ desire to only consider schools on either coast. I am always amused to learn that students simply like the concept of being near water, even though most of them acknowledge that they will probably rarely access the beach while at college. There are some wonderful schools in the middle of the country that are eager to accept our students, often with generous merit money because they add geographic diversity. In a similar light, it behooves families to look at the demographics of the school to see if your student’s gender or ethnicity might be advantageous to that school. Currently there are many liberal arts schools where girls significantly outnumber males, making it easier for boys to be accepted and wooed with money.
As one might expect, colleges do place considerable emphasis on grades. While they do want to see a strong GPA, colleges are looking at the rigor of those courses first and foremost above anything else on the transcript. For this reason, I do not advise students to stay away from advanced classes simply to protect their grade point.
Finally, colleges want students to show demonstrated interest in attending their college. If a student has not made any effort to learn about the school or to visit, they assume that the student will not attend. Colleges have to carefully weigh admission decisions based on yield, as this impacts not only ratings, but also their ability to fill a class and remain solvent.
Joan Franklin is the owner of MI College Support, an independent college counseling practice. For more, go to www.micollegesupport.org.