The college puzzle: putting the pieces together

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Every puzzle has a common thread. It is basically putting easy or challenging pieces together in a logical order to come up with a preferred solution. Choosing the right college is very similar to a puzzle. It’s taking all the simple or complex pieces that are required and putting them together to make the best college choice.

What are some of the most important pieces of the college puzzle? There are certain selection criteria that admissions offices consider when looking at applications.


Grades, Grades, Grades –
The importance of grades cannot be emphasized enough and can often create that first impression. Getting a good start during freshman year establishes a solid GPA to build upon during the sophomore and junior years in high school. Colleges will typically request the first three years of a high school transcript to determine an admission decision.

Upward Trend – Colleges want to see upward trends in grades on a transcript. It is important for students to maintain their solid GPA and improve upon it through high school.

Standardized Tests – Although the SAT and ACT are different tests, they both accomplish the same purpose. They serve as a possible guideline of performance in college, and help in comparing students from different educational backgrounds. Students should consider taking both tests as they may perform better on one test over the other.

Course Selection – “Rigor with reality” is a phrase used by some colleges pertaining to course selection in high school. Colleges want to see students challenge themselves during high school, while at the same time protecting their GPA during the process. Do not lighten the load during senior year either as colleges take this into consideration.

Extra-Curricular Activities – Activities outside the classroom can be important for admissions and scholarships for colleges. Students do not have to be Super Teens, but instead be passionate and display leadership in their areas of interest.

Essays and Recommendations – College essays need to reveal something about students that cannot be gleaned from transcripts alone. Essays should provide a glimpse into a student’s character. Colleges may also ask for recommendations from teachers or counselors.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Take a deep breath, and remember that stress during this time is inevitable with many details to consider. Having a positive attitude and a willingness to tackle the various pieces of the college puzzle will help you face and embrace the college process.


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