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College Admissions 101: What Do Colleges Look For? | The Princeton Review
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    College Recruiting Timeline For Seniors

    Senior year is the time when college coaches want to get athletes on campus for unofficial and official visits. Coaches want to ask prospective recruits questions to learn more about them and gauge their interest in their program.

    Visits are a great way to see if a school is the right fitfrom attending a class, meeting with admissions officers and hanging out with the team or attending a practice or game, recruits should be prepared to narrow down their focus to a few schools and get closer to making a verbal commitment or officially signing their National Letter of Intent.

    Seniors who are just starting their recruiting process or havent been hearing back from college coaches need to work hardand fastto secure a roster spot.While its not too late to get recruited, some college rosters, like those at the D1 and D2 levels, tend to fill up earlier in the year, so recruits need to be prepared to expand their target lists to include schools across all division levels.

    In the video below, NCSAs recruiting experts Phill Wells and Danny Koenig offer their tips for senior student-athletes who are close to making their college decisionand share their advice for seniors who still need some time to explore available opportunities and connect with college coaches before making their commitment.

    When Should You Start The Recruiting Process

    As mentioned previously, different sports and different division levels recruit the majority of their athletes in different periods. Top D1 prospects for womens gymnastics or womens volleyball will likely receive recruiting interest freshman year of high school or even earlier. Track and field athletes and swimmers will mostly be recruited closer to senior year. The important thing to know about starting the process is that the earlier you plan, the better prepared you will be to get recruited for college sports. Athletes can build their target list, research schools, attend camps, edit their recruiting video and use NCSA to get noticed before having contact with a college coach. In college recruiting, it is better to be ahead of the pack in order to receive recruiting interest while a coach still has open roster spots. Its never too early to start.

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    The 7 Things That Really Look Good On A College Application

    College Admissions , College Info

    What looks good on a college application? It’s the question nearly every high school student will ask at some point while applying to college. But is there a clear answer?

    Fortunately, the answer is yes! Read on to learn what colleges look for in applicants, what looks really good on a college application, and what kinds of myths there are about good things to put on a college application.

    Campus Visits In Your College Search

    What Do College Admissions Counselors Look for in a ...

    Imagine buying a house. You would inevitably do research online. You might even take virtual tours of the homes that appeal to you. But before you sign on the dotted line, you will need to actually walk through the house yourself. You need to step inside to see if it feels like home. And if it’s worth the investment.

    Its similar with colleges.

    In spite of the depth and breadth of college search tools you have at your disposal, they are no exceptions to visiting campus in person. So, after you have narrowed your college list to a manageable number, its time to think about visiting their campuses.

    A successful college visit will give you a real sense of what your life might be like if you enrolled thereand whether it matches what you want.;Often, youll know instinctively how you feel about a campus within moments of setting foot on the quad. If you hate it, note the things that really turn you off, so you know what to look for at the next school.

    The best time to visit is typically when classes are in session, the college is alive with students, faculty are accessible, and the campus is buzzing with activity. Of course, for many students and their families, summer is a much more convenient time. That’s okay too. Maybe you can make some campus stops on your way to the beach, amusement park, or family reunion. A summer visit is better than no visit at all. Most schools will have special summer visit hours too.

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    What Colleges Are Looking For In A Successful Applicant

    Are you ready to find your fit?

    Applying to college can be an overwhelming process, especially if youre trying to get into schools where competition is stiff. There are several common factors that most colleges consider when looking at potential applicants; however, the key to acceptance isnt just doing well. You want to show admissions officers what makes you stand out from the crowd.

    High School GPA and Class Rank

    Your GPA in high school shows colleges how successful you were in the field of academics and whether or not you buckled down and worked hard. Colleges look not only at your overall GPA but also at how well you did in individual classes. If your school has a class rank, that shows how much competition you faced with grades and performance to reach a particular level.

    AP and Honors ClassesBeing able to show prospective colleges that you challenged yourself academically is important. Admissions officers will look at AP, honors, International Baccalaureate and other college prep classes you take in high school to see how well you handled the course load as this is a good indicator of how youll do in college.

    Challenging Extracurricular ActivitiesColleges also want to see students who stretch themselves beyond the limits of the classroom. The kinds of activities you choose say a lot about your personality and even your morals. Whether or not you stick with your chosen undertakings exhibits your ability to commit to important projects in the long term.

    Exceed Their Expectations With Extracurricular Activities

    Another way to grab the attention of the admissions committee is with a diverse and robust set of extracurricular activities. This is the time to mention all the academic clubs, sports, debate teams, political organizations, music groups, or community projects you participated in!

    In your application, talk about the substantial impact youve made in the team or group, or how you grew from the experience. These will show colleges the determination and commitment you have for pursuits that matter to you.

    Dont forget to also detail leadership roles and skills youve developed to let them know that responsibility, time management, and hard work come naturally to you.

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    College Coaches Sign Athletes And Ensure Academic Eligibility

    The last step for college coaches is ensuring that each recruit signs with their program and meets eligibility requirements. Heres how the committing and signing timeline works in most cases:

    • The athlete verbally commits to the school.
    • The college coach extends an official offer.
    • The athlete signs the official offer.
    • The athlete continues to meet eligibility requirements by taking all the necessary core courses and receiving the required GPA in those courses.

    Unfortunately, every year, there are athletes who have signed with a college but end their senior year ineligible to compete at the college level. This leaves both the athlete and the coach in a tough spot. The coach will need to go back to their list of top prospects and see if the athlete who ranked number two in that spot is still available, interested and academically eligible. The former recruit will likely need to compete for a year or two at a junior college to gain academic eligibility.

    What this means for you: While its easy to get caught up in the rush of athletic recruiting and signing with a school, you still need to make sure that you stay academically eligible. If youre concerned at all that you may not be able to meet the requirements, meet with your guidance counselor to go over what grades you need to meet in your core courses and strategize a way to get there.

    Your High School Years

    What do Colleges look for in an applicant?

    Real talk: the best preparation for your college search is to do your best academic work throughout high school and take advantage of activities that are meaningful to you. This starts basically Day 1 of freshman year.

    However! If youre a junior or a senior, dont worry if your high school résumé isn’t perfect. And if youre a freshman or sophomore, dont go thinking the whole point of high school is getting into college. Your high school years are an important part of your intellectual and personal development, and spending too much time focused on college minimizes how much you get out of them.

    Regardless of what year you arefreshman, sophomore, junior, or even senioryou can make the most of high school by doing the following:

    Besides doing your best throughout high school, your college search will primarily unfold over your junior and senior years.

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    Lock In Your Safety Reach And Match Schools

    Its important to look at your academic record and abilities and focus on colleges that match them. Before you invest time and money in applying to any colleges, compare the average admitted students credentials to your own. That will help you figure out if youll almost certainly be admitted , if youll probably be admitted , or if you may not be admitted .;You should also consider the cost of tuition, percentage of the student body receiving financial aid, and average amount of aid; this information will help you and your family rank the school for its financial feasibility too.


    Heres the most important thing about choosing your safety, reach, and match;colleges:;make sure they’re all schools youd be happy to attend.;Truly, legitimately, genuinely happy. Dont treat your safety schools as throwaways, and dont make your reaches the three most selective schools youve ever heard of.

    Keeping an open mind is often the secret to success in collegeand that “safety” school might be your dream school after all.

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    Core Personality Traits That Impress Top Colleges

    I spend a great deal of time in consultation sessions with new families dispelling myths about what top colleges look for in applicants.1 Most parents come to our initial meeting thinking their child needs to be well-rounded, hardworking, and a perfect 4.0 student .

    I then explain that top colleges look for students who are instead well-defined and simply human. As Harvard Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons states about the Harvard selection process, One thing we always want is humanists.2

    Why is it so important for students to show that theyre a humanist to an elite college? For starters, grades and test scores have come to matter less and less in competitive admissions.3 Once your childs application is sorted with applications of the same academic caliber , admissions readers seek other marks of distinction.

    Beyond grades, test scores, and activities, colleges look out for who your child is as a person. They want to know how your teen behaves in social settings, makes decisions, handles difficult situations, grows from setbacks, and interprets the world around them. Admissions officers see it as their mission to create a well-rounded class . They view this class as a community and seek students they think will contribute to it.

    Yes, colleges focus on what applicants are like as people as people who in one way or another care about humanity. So how can a student show this quality?

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    The What Inspires You Essay

    The what inspires you? essay is a college admission departments attempt at seeing the intellectual and creative aspirations of applicants. Generally, these questions are best fit for students who already have an idea of what they want to study in college and pursue after graduation.

    Here are some past example essay questions from the Common App and Yale University:

    Things Colleges Will Look For In Your Social Media Accounts

    What Does A College Student Look Like

    High schools students are often surprised to hear that colleges look at more than just what they include in their applications. A students activity on social media can, in fact, impact college admissions decisions.

    Use these tips to set your college admissions social media strategy and put your public self in the best light possible.

    1) Change your profile picture.

    The first thing many colleges notice about the social media accounts of applicants is the profile picture. Profile pictures allow schools to put a face to the name on a students application. It is important to understand that your profile picture is a unique opportunity to have a good first impression with a school. Consider changing your profile picture to be slightly more professional a good rule of thumb to follow is if your picture is one that you wouldnt want your grandmother to see it, dont post it as the face of your profile on the internet.

    2) Follow the social media accounts of the schools you are interested in.

    Colleges want to admit students who are excited about attending their particular school. As such, it is a good idea to follow the social media accounts of the schools you are applying to and engage in what they post. This can be done by liking the schools status posts or sharing them with your own followers. If the colleges you apply to do decide to look at your social media accounts, they will appreciate seeing how interested you are in their activities.

    5) Choose your interests wisely.

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    Extracurricular Activities: Demonstrate A Deep Commitment

    Getting involved with clubs, societies, and teams freshman year gives your child a chance to dive deep into an area of interest. Joining early can help them achieve and assume leadership roles within those organizations as an older student. However, sophomore or junior year is not too late to become more involved in your childs high school, town, or state community.

    How Your Child Can Bounce Back During Their Remaining Time In High School

    Your child should not overcorrect for a low-activity freshman year by joining as many activities as possible later on. They risk seeming scattered and unfocused. Instead, they should select few extracurriculars that are meaningful to them. Anywhere from two to six extracurriculars can be a great number, but its the quality and not the quantity of their involvement that matters. ;

    What activity will give your child the chance to really make the most of their talents and interests? If during freshman year, your child devoted most of their time to one demanding primary activity, such as a sport or musical instrument, they should not feel they have to take time away from that activity simply to pad their list of extracurriculars.

    Is there a way to supplement your childs core extracurricular activity? For example, if they spend most of their time playing soccer, they might find time to volunteer at soccer camps for younger children or to referee youth games. Or, if they play violin in a youth orchestra, they might share their talent by performing or giving lessons in a local venue like an elementary school or a retirement home. If your child pursues what is truly meaningful or exciting to them, this will come across in their application. ;

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    College Recruiting Timeline For Freshmen

    ;To set themselves up for a successful recruiting process, freshmen recruits should research different college programs and division levels, gather clips for their recruiting video and create an online recruiting profile to make it easier for college coaches to discover and evaluate their athletic and academic skills.;;

    Watch former D1 University of South Dakota football player Phill Wells break down what freshmen student-athletes should be doing to get a head start in their college recruiting in the video below.

    High School Course Selection

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    Perhaps the most often asked question among high school students/parents planning for college is:;Am I better off taking an advanced class and getting a lower grade or taking an easier class and getting an A?

    This is a difficult question to answer because it really depends on a number of factors and on the nature of the student in question. Admission officers half-jokingly say that they want you to take the advanced class AND get the A, but then they rarely expound to give students a more complete answer. So, here it goes:

    Lets suppose you have the option of taking honors math or non-honors . Youre confident you can take the non-honors and get an A, but the honors class is much more rigorous.

    There isnt one answer as to which class you should take, but consider these factors:

    There is no one right answer to this question. If you opt-out of one challenging class, your chances of gaining entrance to a competitive college are by no means over. If you accept the challenge and dont get the A, no one is likely to write you off over one class. Can you stretch yourself a little more and rise to a new challenge? Or, will it drive you over the edge and negatively affect the rest of your work? Consider everything in a broader context and what it says about you.

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