Take a Hard Look at Your TranscriptYour transcript is one way to identify your weaknesses and your opportunities to shine on college applications. Review your transcript with a guidance counselor, parent, or teacher who can help you assess it. Divide your courses into subjects, and then determine individual GPAs to identify problem areas. If you are doing well in certain subjects, check to see if you can enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) or college-level classes. Note that some of these courses require pre-requisites or specific approvals. Creating a course plan during your sophomore year can allow you to graduate on time with the best possible classes on your transcript. If you have obvious weaknesses on your transcript, now is also an opportune time to seek additional help. Your transcript is generally one of the most important pieces of your admissions packet, and early planning can ensure that it clearly reflects your academic achievements.
Dive InIf you have a strong interest in a subject or activity, now is the perfect time to heavily involve yourself in it. High school is an ideal time to experiment with new pastimes and push yourself academically, athletically or otherwise. Long-standing interests distinguish you during the college application process. Join a club or play for a team. You might also consider taking on a leadership position. Research possible scholarships connected to these activities. Many seniors join extracurriculars at the last moment without any real commitment. It is much wiser to improve your extracurricular and leadership portfolio early on so that you don’t need to scramble later.
Recognize That There is No “Golden Ticket”No student possesses a “golden ticket” to college. No single activity or course will automatically boost your admissions potential. Achieving academically is more important than padding your transcript with “relevant” or “trending” classes. Instead, focus on doing well in your courses and seeking support when you need it. Improving your chances of success in college admissions means knowing both your strengths and weaknesses. Participating in the best classes and leadership opportunities means laying your high school groundwork as soon as possible. If you are discovering glaring weaknesses in key areas—your GPA, your academic interests, your relationships with teachers who may write your recommendation letters, or volunteer and extracurricular activities—start working on improving them now. Bolstering your application packet is about catching problems early and allowing yourself time to address them. Admissions counselors often look for a well-rounded class, so it is important to allow your interests to flourish.
Andrea Deck is a professional GRE tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She is a graduate student at Columbia University in the class of 2015.