The New York Times published a piece written by the director of admission at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, offering insider tips about how admissions folks read high school transcripts. The entire article is worth a read, but here are the tips.
• Avoid being a “GPA protector.” Don’t play it safe by enrolling in easy classes. An effortless “A” is not as impressive as a hard-earned “B” or “C.” Taking challenging classes throughout high school — including senior year — shows the people reading your application that you’re serious about your education and that you’re ready to thrive in college.
• Plan ahead. Working with your guidance counselor, come up with a long-term plan to help you meet your college goals. Choices you make early in your high school career may affect your ability to enroll in classes later on that could make you a stronger candidate for college admissions.
• Don’t be deterred by one bad grade. Colleges understand if you have one grade that’s not reflective of your usual ability. Don’t stress. Refocus and work hard. What’s important is that you’re able to demonstrate that you’re getting back on track.
• Ask questions. As soon as you have decided where you want to apply, get in touch with the admissions offices and find out exactly what types of courses they value most. For most (including Holy Cross) it will be English, math, science, language and history, but some — particularly those with a specialized focus like music — may place greater emphasis on high school performing arts classes.
• Remember, every high school is different. They may seem similar, but the curricula of high schools vary widely. Some have a very rigid class structure, while others may not even offer honors or A.P. classes. Not to worry. You won’t be penalized. College admissions officers will take the time to understand the curriculum of your school.
• Beware of “urban legends.” As alluded to above, it’s dangerous to compare yourself to others in different high schools who have a similar G.P.A. or class rank and assume you’ll get accepted or rejected based on their experiences. Colleges evaluate students within the context of their high school, taking into account differences in grading scales, class size, course offerings and historical data.
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