This is the third article of our three-part blog series “How to Get Into College."
In the second installment, we offered some insights into the role played by extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and standardized tests that can affect your chances for admission. In this final piece, we’ll mention several more factors to consider.
#7: Class Rank
Rank in class has in recent years been a contentious issue in some schools. So much so, in fact, that one facet of ranking – which senior will give a valedictory speech at graduation – has been eliminated because of GPA wars among students and parents. Suffice it to say that despite these rank wars, there are still schools that hold rank dear, although the number of such schools has been declining in recent years. Wanna find out whether the schools you apply to make some fuss over rank? Easy. Call the admissions office. They’ll give you a reasonable idea. You may be in for a surprise! Now, on to other factors surrounding your chances for admission.
#8: The Rest of the Stuff
There’s more. Depending on the school you apply to, you may encounter other challenges as you fill in the total application picture. Always carefully check the admissions link to see if any of the following apply to your application for admissions:
- Supplemental essays: Some schools may ask you to write a supplemental essay to answer the question “Why This College?” It’s actually one of the harder answers to conjure up, because what the school doesn’t want to see is a rehash of pretty facts from the website. You have to come up with a concrete answer. The very best way to do that is to visit the campus. Short of that, you may want to call admissions and find out if there are current students or alumni they can put you in touch with. Dig. Find out why people like the college. Most of all, visit your top choice(s). That will make a huge difference, because it’ll demonstrate your serious interest in attending. In fact, demonstrated interest can improve your chances for admission to any number of private universities.
- Portfolio or Audition: A portfolio of artwork (photos of sculpture, fabric art, ceramics, pastels, oils, photography, etc.,) may be required when you apply to a studio art program. Likewise, when applying to a conservatory or a well-known performing arts program, you’re likely to be required to auditon on campus or at a regional location. Ask admissions, and read the online application instructions very carefully.
- Interview: Few schools have the time to interview thousands of applicants. There are exceptions, though – for example, if you apply for a 7-year BS/MD program. Most highly selective colleges offer an optional alumni interview in your community. Remember: optional, in college-speak, means required.
- Legacy: The fact that a sibling, parent, or grandparent has attended the school you’re applying to (you’re a “legacy” applicant) may well help your chances of admission. Virtually every school you apply to will ask whether someone in your family has attended. At some colleges, however, being a legacy is an advantage only if you apply early decision, and actually a disadvantage (!) if you apply in the regular application pool.
- Ethnic background: Affirmative action is alive and well at many schools that take into account racial and/or ethnic status. Schools seek diversity in every incoming class.
- Geographic location: Maybe you should move to North Dakota or Alaska before applying to an East Coast school! Geographic diversity once again plays a role in selection. You’ll see right away as you begin the college planning process that schools boast about the number of states and countries represented in their student body.
- Athletic skills: Although we’re placing this component at the end of our blog, we must tell you that many schools fill a percentage of their incoming freshman class early in the process with athletes who promise to bring fame and fortune to their teams. Are you applying to an NCAA Div I, II, or III school? Call admissions. Know what you’re getting into if you decide to pursue NCAA sports at any level. You know that schools recruit – and that recruitment process can start as early as 9th grade! Do you have the potential?
- 1st-generation student: Schools have a special place for applicants from families where neither parent attended college. If you’re the first in your family, it may well be a deciding factor.
- Other institutional “priorities”: Schools are organized by administrators, and populated by faculty, coaches, and staff who support the educational process. Sometimes the composition of an incoming class is affected by unexpected exigencies: perhaps the marching band has lost its best tuba player, and so admissions is tasked with finding a replacement, pronto; maybe the well-endowed geology department is running low on students majoring in geology, and so asks admissions to look for tectonics fans; and then there are political and financial “favors” that schools must repay to powerful and/or wealthy alumni. While a tiny few fall into this last category, the first two examples we mention here are more likely scenarios confronting an admissions team. You may not have any direct effect on these “priorities,” but know that they exist.