The Gerber Life Parenting Blog

College Admissions: 10 Things Your Teen Can Do to Stand Out from the Crowd

September 30, 2015

High school student posting flyersThe competition among college applicants is at an all-time high, causing the acceptance process to become more selective than ever. In 2015, college acceptance rates dropped to a record low of 5.05 percent. No wonder that teens are feeling the pressure to get into college!

If your teenage is starting the senior year of high school, here are some things that he or she still has time to do to stand to college admissions.

1. Keep the Grade Point Average high.

Some teenagers like to goof around a bit during senior year, but make sure that your son or daughter doesn’t slack off too much. Even if a college applicant had a 4.0 GPA for the first three years of high school, college admissions will take notice if his or her GPA drops during senior year.

2. Take challenging, college-prep courses.

By taking challenging classes during senior year, teens can demonstrate to college admissions officials how seriously they value education. In addition, an Advanced Placement (AP) class or concurrent college enrollment during senior year can prepare your teen for the kind of time and effort required in college-level courses.

3. Continue involvement in extracurricular and volunteer activities.

College admissions officials usually look for well-rounded students who are involved in their communities. Even after your teenage has submitted a college application, make sure that he or she remains involved in extracurricular and volunteer endeavors. Even after an application has been submitted, admissions officials can still find out what your teen has been up to recently – especially if your teen gets wait-listed.

4. Seek leadership positions.

Encourage your teen to pursue positions of leadership in activities. Whether running for class office, serving as captain of a sports team, being lead violin for the school symphony, or spearheading a volunteer fundraiser, colleges look for applicants who take initiative. Remember, however, that it’s depth, not breadth, of experience that matters most to college admissions.

5. Retake the SAT or ACT exams if needed.

If your teenager didn’t do as well as he or she hoped on the SAT or ACT exam, he or she is not alone. Fifty-five percent of high school juniors who took the SAT improved their scores when they retook the exam in their senior year. The best time to retake these exams is the early fall semester of senior year, so that if your teen improves his or her score, he or she can use the new score on college applications.

6. Consider applying for early decision.

If your teen is absolutely certain about which college he or she wants to attend, find out if the school offers early decision plans. Early decision is a binding contract with the college or university: If the school accepts an early decision applicant and offers the applicant a financial aid package considered adequate by the family, he or she must attend that school. Applying for early decision shows college admissions officials that your teenager is committed to attending that school.

7. Write an insightful admissions essay.

Not all colleges require students to write an essay as part of their application process, but for schools that do, this could be your teen’s opportunity to shine. An essay gives your child the opportunity to paint a word picture for college admissions officials that relays who the applicant is and why he or she would be an ideal fit for the college or university’s student population.

8. Carefully proofread the application before submitting.

Don’t give college admissions officials a reason to eliminate your child’s application. Given the great number of applications that a university receives, a quick way to eliminate candidates is according to their spelling ability to spell and knowledge of grammar. Your teenager should double- and triple-check everything, both with a computer grammar-and-spell-checker (which nevertheless are known to make errors) and then visually, to assure, so to speak, that all the “i’s” have been dotted and “t’s” have been crossed.

9. Seek out letters of recommendation as soon as possible.

Ideally, a letter of recommendation should come from a teacher and/or guidance counselor who is familiar with your teen’s quality of work as well as with the particular personality traits of your child that would make him or her a desirable applicant. In addition, your teen’s current or former bosses, volunteer supervisors and/or coaches could be in a knowledgeable position for writing a great recommendation, too. Be sure that your teen gives the person enough time to write the letter.

10. Don’t be afraid to reach out to college admissions officials.

It’s also acceptable to communicate with offices of admissions in various ways. For example, your teen could “like” the university’s Facebook page, send an email to the admissions office, visit the school (which it’s good to do, if possible), and request to meet admissions officers face to face. These can be great ways for your teen to demonstrate to college admissions officials that he or she is sincerely interested in attending the school.

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Categories: College Planning
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