What can I do to make myself a more competitive applicant?

by St.Martin's College Counseling

It’s true. The most selective schools are getting more selective, and getting in depends on a lot more than perfect grades.

If you are looking at the Ivies or their cousins, or any highly ranked school, there is simply no guarantee that you will get in. These schools are reaches for everyone.

The good news is that there are ways to increase your chances. Here’s the quick list.

1. Take AP courses and do well on your AP exams. Good grades aren’t good enough unless you’re in the most rigorous courses available. Your AP scores are important to show mastery of the material.

2. Take college level courses for credit during high school. During the summer, or during the year if it’s available to you, take a college level course for dual credit (counts for high school credit). This shows you’re prepared for college level work and allows you to take classes that may not be offered at your high school.

3. Test prep and take standardized tests seriously. SAT and ACT scores matter. Better scores improve admission results and improve chances of being offered scholarships.

4. Demonstrate leadership. At Vanderbilt this year, 100% of the class of 2017 received one or more significant honors or held major leadership positions while in high school. You simply can’t get in if you don’t have real leadership on your resume.

5. Be involved. Go above and beyond your service hours. Participate in clubs and sports. The more involved you are in your community, the more likely you are to be involved in the community of your university. Plus, more experience means better stories for your essays. Better essays mean better chances of admission.

6. Decide on a school and apply early. Approximately 50% of the freshmen classes at the Ivies were filled after Early Decision. Just as badly as you want to know if they want you – these schools need to know that you want them in order to make a decision. So decide early, and tell them early. Then don’t get your hopes too high for the ones you didn’t say were your first choice.

You’re competition is already checking these boxes off the list. If you want to be competitive, the time to start is yesterday.