Are you thinking of applying to the US for undergrad education?
If yes, I hope you read this so you can better prepare yourself for the application process. Unlike India and UK, where only good grades matter to get into a college, the US takes a more holistic approach. They believe that just test scores and GPA does not completely reflect who a student is and what he or she can bring to a college community.
Grades are a very small part of the entire application process. They want to know you as a person, your likes, your dislikes, your passion, and what others think of you. They understand that not everyone can get A’s in all subjects and that’s why the activities outside of your classroom matter.
Let’s explore the different points needed to help in the process.
Good grades are the stepping stone for getting into a good college. The most rigorous courses offered in high schools today are Honors, AP, and IB courses. If you are doing well in school, keep your grades consistent. For e.g. If you are an A student, make sure you keep up with your A’s for all 4 years of high school. If you are a B or C student work hard to get to an A or a B. If you can’t don’t stress too much as you can showcase your strength through your activities outside of your classroom.
Every college in the US accepts either SAT or ACT. Decide which one works best for you and take the test no more than 2-3 times. Time is of the essence and does not use it in trying to get the perfect score instead work in areas where you can excel.
SAT is a multiple-choice, 3 hours plus 50 min optional essay writing test.
The highest possible SAT score is 1600. Check the SAT test dates and register at https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register.
On the other hand, the ACT is a 2 hrs, 55 minutes (plus 40 minutes if taking the ACT with writing) test, and the highest possible ACT score is 36. For more information visit their website at https://www.act.org/content/act/en.html.
Both SAT and ACT tests purpose is to measure a high school student’s readiness for college. Lately, some colleges like the University of Chicago have made the application process test-optional where one is not required to take the test. So, unless you know which college you are applying to, it’s highly recommended to take either one.
Required & Recommended
3. Extra-Curricular Activities
A very important part of the puzzle is who are you outside of your classroom? What do you do with your free time? Are you a member of any club? Do your play any sports or an instrument. What is your passion and what are you doing about it?
For eg., You may have an interest in computer science but in your free time, you play soccer and do debate. Your passion and activities are not in sync. Show the college you are interested in studying Computer science by either being the President of the Robotics club, making an app, or a website for an NGO. Use your summer well by doing internships in the related field of interest or attending a summer camp.
Whatever you do, do it consistently for 4 years and take it to a higher level of achievement. There is no need to do 3-6 different activities instead of excel in 1-2 activities. Also, what you do here will help in writing those essays and defining who you are.
This is your chance to brag about yourself and tell the college how awesome you are through your essays. Tell them your story, your struggles, challenges, and victories. Make sure you write those essays yourself and your parents, teachers or siblings are not doing it for you.
Make them laugh, cry or smile and keep the language simple. Trust me, the application reader is reading 100’s of such essays a day and can tell who has written them. You don’t have to try too hard to impress the reader. Just share your life story. Be genuine and authentic.
5. Letters of Recommendation (LOR)
LOR from school teachers, school counselors, and other community members help college admissions officers get a more complete picture of the applicant. It’s a way of getting to know the applicant better from another valued person. What do they think of you? How are you as a person?
The college knows about your grades already, but this is the opportunity for others to describe you as a person. Get to know your teachers at a personal level as it will help them write a more personal recommendation. Make sure the teachers write about personal strengths also along with academic achievements. Make sure you ask your teacher for that letter in the month of June or July or just as school reopens so they have enough time to think and write about you.
And yes, don’t forget to send a thank-you note. Some schools require mandatory LOR from at least 2 teachers while other schools don’t enforce it.