The 5 Most Vital Aspects of the College Application

While you can never know for absolute certain what makes college admissions boards tick, this list should provide a healthy idea.

1) Grades. Theres no substitute for a strong GPA. Colleges are looking for strong students, and the best way to show that youre a good student is, no surprise, to get good grades. If you had a few slip-ups early on your career, dont worry too much; colleges give more weight to your performance during junior and senior years.

2) SAT score. Don't believe everything you read: The SATs still mean something. BUT: The SAT is not an intelligence test; students scores can jump up to 400 points if they prepare diligently and correctly. Look in to some form of SAT preparation. No one is too smart to prep.

3) Personal statement. This is the one shot to really introduce your personality to the admissions board. Its like youre running for Governor and youre at the convention: You get an audience and only a few minutes to present your case to the voters.

4) Extracurricular activities. These might have ranked higher ten years ago. The marketplace is competitive, and you can only launch so many clubs. Nevertheless, colleges really want a buzzing campus, filled with students trying and doing cool things. Show focus; engage in a few activities and do them well. You don't want to spread yourself too thin and/or try to preen for admissions officers.

5) Teacher recommendations. The challenge here is to choose recommenders sagely. Colleges have seen loving recommendations of all sizes and shapes, and an awesome letter surely works in your favor. It is more important, however, to be wary of a bad or more likelya tepid recommendation. In short, she should play it safe and ask the teachers who really seem to have taken an interest in you, instead of the distant teacher who has a reputation for writing prosaic letters.

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