Jan 19, 2022 |

What Colleges Expect from High School Students

By Gravitas

college student

Whether your child is already in high school or still a couple of years away from that milestone, the time to start thinking about college is now. Colleges—particularly elite institutions—have high expectations for the students they will accept and planning to accommodate their requirements needs to begin long before junior year of high school. Colleges look for students who are mature and passionate with a rich academic and extracurricular portfolio. If you start planning now, you open the doors of possibility for your child’s academic career and their future.

Colleges Look for Good Grades in Challenging Courses

Your student’s GPA doesn’t define who they are but it serves as an important data point and indication of how they might fare in college. High test scores on standardized tests and good grades in challenging classes indicate that they might be ready for the demanding curriculum of higher education. However, all As aren’t necessarily the standard colleges seek. Great grades in easy classes do not send the same message as good grades in high honors courses. Steady progress in increasingly difficult courses demonstrates intellectual growth and maturity.

Extracurricular Activities

Regarding extracurricular activities, more isn’t necessarily better. A resume jam-packed with activities that don’t connect to one another or speak to your child’s true passions send exactly the wrong message. Rather than participating in what they believe might check an Ivy League box, your student should choose activities they care about. Colleges like to see long-term commitments that might allude to a future interest or career. For example, that future journalist should work on the school newspaper; that budding politician should work on campaigns or run for school office. Also valuable are the leadership roles they take and awards they win within a passionate endeavor. Getting a black belt in karate is more valuable than bench sitting on a team sport in which your child has little interest or ability.

Colleges Expect a Level of Maturity

Particularly with top-tiered universities, there is an expectation that even first-year students will come to the campus with a certain level of maturity and seriousness. The investment you and your student make in their education is one that should be made with care and gravitas. College can be fun, but the end goal is an education that will serve your child well into adulthood, a career, and life. Your student can demonstrate maturity by the goals they set, obstacles they overcome, and attitude with which they handle adversity. Proof of maturity is often displayed at an in-person interview and it can truly distinguish your student from other young applicants who are not serious minded or up for the challenges of independent living on a college campus.

Evidence of Good Moral Character

Long after your student attends and graduates from their alma mater, the institution wants to look to their alumnus with pride. Evidence of good character formation early on gives admissions personnel a window to the future. Who your child is and how they present themself in earnest to the world says much about the kind of adult they will become and how they might positively contribute to society.

Caliber of a Student’s High School

While a college doesn’t disqualify students from disadvantaged school districts, it might give an early nod to a student coming from a school that has a great reputation. Especially if the institution has seen the success of many graduates from a particular high school, it makes sense that they would want more of the same to fill their student body.

Passion for the College

With all the tasks to complete during the college admissions process, students sometimes neglect one of the simplest, and yet most important actions that might get them admitted: let the school know they want to attend. The sooner your child singles out a school as a clear choice, the more convinced an institution will be that if it makes an offer, your child will attend. Admissions representatives want a strong enrollment yield. That’s the percentage of students who enroll after a school extends an offer. If they feel your student is qualified and that he or she will say yes, they’re more likely to choose your student over another. Encourage your child to visit campus and if possible, get an interview, and attend informational events. Have them follow up with thank-yous. The more engaged they are, the better their chances of a positive response. That said, demonstrated interest may not have as much of an impact at schools with extremely low acceptance rates such as an Ivy League institution.

How to Give Colleges What They Expect

A stellar college application includes transcripts, class rank, test scores, and extracurricular activities. But all the documents that make up your child’s academic records may not speak fully to who they are and what makes them unique. The college essay, however, is a critical component that can tip the scales in your child’s favor. It allows them to highlight their authentic self, while also showing off their command of the written word. And an interview at a prospective school may truly seal the deal.

Are you looking toward a bright future for your child? Gravitas provides academic excellence in an online setting that allows your student to pursue other passions along with their diploma. An extension of The Stony Brook School in New York, Gravitas is a unique school for students—and parents—who demand more and are willing to think outside the box. Apply now or contact us for more information.

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