What do I mean by “think like a college”? In making admissions decisions colleges know what they want to see in new students. While you may never know everything a college wants, you can understand much of their thinking.
Colleges all want good students. What that means from college to college will differ. For some colleges, you will need to have almost all A’s to be competitive. For others C’s may be good enough. Do you need to take an AP or will a regular class work as well. Think like a college. If the college regularly sees students with 5 or 6 AP classes, you will be at a disadvantage with only one AP.
Most colleges also like to see students with strong test scores. Your job is to find colleges where you will be considered a good student. If the average SAT at a school is 1,800 but you have a 1,500 what will the college think? They will think you have a weak SAT score for that school but may look at your application to see if there is something else that makes you a student they want on their campus.
What do colleges want besides students with good grades and test scores? Colleges want students who will contribute to the campus. They want athletes, musicians, actors,scientists and many other types of students.
A world class musician may be able to have lower test scores than another student. The future star of the football team may have lower grades than the typical student admitted to the college.
With the most selective colleges, almost everyone applying has strong grades and strong test scores. So what do they think about in putting together a class? Who are the interesting students. What makes a student interesting? Anything that makes that student different from every other student.
A great soccer goalie will be a desirable student for many colleges. But if a college just recruited a great goalie last year, this year’s goalie may not be of interest.
When you think like a college some of those odd admissions decisions start to make sense. Maybe that student with good grades and test scores was rejected because he didn’t add anything interesting to the college. Maybe that great flute player wasn’t accepted because the college already has an abundance of flute players.
Admissions decisions can sometimes seem random particularly when looking at the most selective colleges. Every year I just shake my head at some of the decisions I see. But, the admissions decisions make sense to that college.
So, go out there and find colleges that will think you are a great person for them to admit.