5 things admissions departments look for apart from good grades

Once your child has entered high school and has begun to understand the importance of a good education and holistic development, it’s time to plan for the future. You have been particular about your child’s upbringing, given him/her the best education and laid a foundation for a bright future; now is the time to explore and aim higher.

Generally, this is also the stage or age (14-17 years) when your child starts to display inherent talents, abilities and interests. As a parent, it is time for you to identify and nurture these talents and interests, and help them grow into well-rounded individual personalities, and this is where the admissions application enters the stage as well.

Perhaps, your next objective is to get your child – whom you still consider a “kid” but in reality is about to step into adulthood - enrolled in a prestigious college abroad so that his/her future is secured. Contrary to popular belief, college admissions are not all about earning high grades. Nowadays, more and more good colleges and universities (even elite ones) are looking for students who live well-rounded lives, something that can also be aligned with holistic development.

Here are 5 things that the college admissions department may be searching for apart from good grades in your child once they receive an admissions application from your side. Equip them and help them conquer the admission process. If you are a prospective college student, read this carefully and prepare yourself.

Extracurricular activities

Colleges are communities and admission departments look for students who can actively engage and add value to that community rather than just being a bookworm. There is no particular type of extracurricular activity that will earn your child brownie points, but here are a few examples that may help:

● Presided over the school’s recycling club and was responsible for promoting a recycling culture in the school and increasing collection of recyclable materials

● Volunteered in community service during a natural calamity

● Participated in a rain water harvesting workshop

● Was the leader of school’s environmental club

However, remember that when you encourage your child to engage in extracurricular activities at school, the focus should be on depth rather than breadth. Meaning, rather than making him/her engage in 3 music classes, 4 sports, 3 community organizations and 5 voluntary activities, ensure that there is specialization and focus. For example – if your child is interested in cricket, he can join the swimming club as well but he doesn’t have to participate in football, badminton and dance classes at the same time. Maintain balance and encourage depth of experience.

Well-written college application essays

Even though not all colleges ask for a written essay, it is an effective tool to impress educators, teachers and administrators. Essays are tools used by colleges to learn more about the student and to assess their level of commitment and desire to study in their institution. Take all your time and use every resource at your disposal to help your child come up with an impressive one during their admissions application process.

Imagine that the admissions staff will be looking at your child through that essay. If you are not confident about his/her writing abilities, you can make them improve their skills with practice. Alternatively, they can use online resources to learn how to write a successful college application essay.

Recommendations from teachers and counselors

A good recommendation letter from your kid’s teacher or guidance counsellor will go a long way in securing a place for him in his/her dream college. Let’s face it; everyone has a favourite teacher or teachers in school. A good recommendation from his/her teacher will assure the college’s admission department of your academic prowess and personal qualities.

Leadership qualities

Colleges prefer to have students with leadership qualities as it’s a rare and useful personality trait. Not everyone is born to be a leader but if your child has leadership qualities, there are higher chances of getting admission in your favourite education institution.

To showcase this quality, you should mention leadership positions held by your ward in various clubs and organizations during high school education. Rather than just being a member of 10 different organizations, the admissions department will prefer a student with leadership positions in just one or two organizations.

High school transcripts

Last but not least; colleges put a high value on your child’s high school transcripts. It includes all the details about his/her high school education such as courses taken, grades obtained in each class, SAT or ACT scores, ranks, GPA, etc. Remember that colleges also give importance to high SAT and ACT scores when deciding to admit a student.

It’s also important that your ward takes up challenging courses during high school and opts for AP and honours classes. Experts recommend that you take at least five core courses per semester.

Finally, if your child still has time – perhaps a year or so – to apply for college admission, it is the right time to help him/her gain focus, discipline and clarity. Your child should engage in more extracurricular activities and make meaningful use of free time outside of school to ensure all-round holistic development. He/she may join an NGO and provide voluntary services or come ahead to take up leadership positions in high school. All these efforts, apart from good grades, will help build and improve your child’s high-school CV and will be instrumental in getting them admission to a reputed college.

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Mangesh Sawant

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