What do College Admissions look for in a high school student?
What is more important? Rigor of your coursework? GPA? Extracurriculars? Personal Essay? Teacher Recommendation?
SAT or ACT score is the first thing they look at because it is the only thing that they can compare nationally. Next they look at GPA and teacher recommendations. Then extra curricular activities and personal essays.
This is difficult because very very few high school students have any idea what they will end up studying. Most of the events that changed my life happened between ages 17 and 22. I changed my major three times before settling.
GPA will always be important because...well, we love to be able to attach numbers to people to guage progress and overall worth. Don't worry though, I got accepted with a 2.9 high school GPA and am now a 4.0 college student. Of coruse, it was a tough sell initially.
ACT and SAT are probably the most important. As others have said, this compares you to others nationally and gives them a good idea of how well you will do.
I would argue that the courses you take in high school matter very litte; probably the lowest on the list. Though they don't hurt. You would do better to get good grades in easy/moderate classes than to get Cs in the difficult ones.
Teacher reccommendations certainly don't hurt. Bear in mind however that the majority of professors feel that about 50% of their recent high school graduates are under-prepared for college coursework. Therefore, there is a major disconnect in opinion between teachers and professors.
I would agree with you, VirginiaLynne and Faceless39. Standardized scores are designed for exactly what it means, standardizing the assessment of student aptitude. Admission Officers can compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. But I do have to challenge Jonesy0311's stand on the weighing of courses. A grade of 'A' in Basketweaving does not give the same impression of a 'B' in AP Physics. In addition, college professors come in all different shapes and sizes. Some give quizes and group assignments ad nauseam. Others give one term paper and your course grade is soley decided on your performance for this one all important piece. How well you do in one particular class depends on the 'fit' between you and that particular professor. While it is true that you can overcome the obstacle of a lower GPA in high school and still achieve outstanding results in college, as you have. I think you will agree that it is an uphill battle all the way. But then again, victory is just that much sweeter. Well done.
From what I heard, SAT/ACT scores are the most important.
Then I would say it's a mix of GPA & the rigor of your coursework (particularly regarding how many AP classes you've taken and what you scored on your AP exams). From what I've seen as a recent college graduate, almost all the people in my year came in with sophomore standing due to AP credit.
The extracurriculars, personal essay, and teacher's recommendation helps admissions admin paint a picture of the sort of person they're letting into their university. Though important, I believe it comes secondary to the SAT & GPA unless the student has accomplished something phenomenal.
I have heard that GPA, SAT/ACT score, and extracurriculars are the most critical.
I think that everything that you mention plays a role. And it's hard to say what is more important, your grades, personal statements, or something else. But from my experience can say that it's essential to write a quality personal statement. The concurrency is very high, so the paper has to be perfect. When I was writing it, I decided to use EssayEdge - a professional proofreading service, where the editor made my paper better and corrected all the mistakes.
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