Strengthening The Academic Profile Of The College-Bound Student

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By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington

Today, college admissions are more competitive than ever. In 2010, freshman enrollment was at an all-time high — 70 percent of the 2.9 million U.S. high school graduates went to college, up from 68.6 percent in 2008 and 62.9 percent in 1999. Colleges across the country are experiencing sharp increases in applications, and many are accepting fewer freshmen than in years past.

Clearly, when it comes to presenting him or herself to colleges, it is in your teen’s best interests to put the best foot forward. The most important factor in your teen’s college application is his or her demonstrated academic achievement — grades, course selection and test scores. Here are the best ways for your high school student to bolster his or her academic profile:

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Keep up the GPA. Perhaps the single most important factor in the admission decision is the GPA. Your teen should know that most schools weight IB (International Baccalaureate), AP (Advanced Placement) and sometimes honors courses, so a B in an AP chemistry course might be the equivalent of a B+ or an A- in regular chemistry. In short, academic rigor is important; however, your teen should not take courses that are above his or her skill level, causing his or her grades to suffer. Colleges examine cumulative GPA, but also year-by-year GPA, to identify inconsistencies or grade dips. If your teen experiences a personal situation that causes such a drop, be sure to discuss with the high school guidance counselor the best approach to addressing it on college applications.

Take the right classes. Every college has individual entrance requirements to ensure students are well prepared for college-level course work, so your teen must be sure to meet the minimum requirements of his or her college of choice. A highly competitive institution, for example, might require algebra, geometry, algebra II, trigonometry and calculus, whereas a less competitive institution might only require algebra, geometry and algebra II. Taking the most challenging, yet appropriate, course load available will strengthen your teen’s academic profile.

Prepare for standardized tests. Many colleges require the ACT and/or SAT Reasoning Test, and an increasing number also request that applicants submit one or more SAT Subject Test scores as well. While these tests are an important component of the overall academic profile of a prospective student, they are considered in conjunction with applicants’ high school GPA and curriculum. Preparation is important in order to demonstrate your teen’s knowledge, but colleges are mainly interested in standardized test scores as a means to predict the academic success of prospective students at their institution.

Get involved with meaningful activities. While colleges first consider a student’s academic record when making admission decisions, extracurricular involvement does strengthen a student’s overall application. However, colleges are interested in quality, not quantity. Your teen doesn’t need to join every club in his or her high school. Rather, he or she should commit to a few things — community activities, school organizations, athletics, work experiences or internships — that he or she is enthusiastic about. Admissions officers appreciate applicants who are well rounded, capable of handling additional commitments outside of school and who have learned valuable lessons outside of the classroom.

In today’s competitive college environment, colleges are seeking mature, curious students who have worked hard in high school and are capable of succeeding in college-level classes. It’s never too early for your teen to start thinking about preparing for college — and how to give him or herself the best chance for acceptance at the college of his or her choice.

Parents who want additional information are encouraged to call the local Huntington Learning Center at 732-906-0900.

Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years.  For more information about Huntington, call 1-800 CAN LEARN.


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