According to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the higher the level of education, the lower the unemployment rate.” Higher levels of education also mean higher earning potential over a lifetime. As a college preparatory school, 100 percent of Episcopal seniors earn admission into a university, with many attending highly selective institutions. Episcopal students are assisted by three full-time college counselors who help them through the entire college admissions journey. This journey can be intense, and it may have parents and students wondering, is there a secret formula for getting accepted into the right university? College Counseling Director Justin Fenske shares the top five qualities that colleges are looking for in an applicant. Keep in mind that these qualities can change depending on the student and the school.
1. Academic Success
When it comes to taking that next step in the educational journey, being able to show that you’ve done well in your high school courses is important. A strong transcript showing academic success and growth is a good indicator to a college admissions officer that the student understands the subject matter and is ready for more advanced college-level course work.
2. Challenging Courses
Students should also be mindful of the courses they choose. Fenske advises students to take courses that show a preference for challenging subject matter while also allowing them to be academically successful. He says students should not simply enroll in a higher-level course to pad their transcript.
3. Extracurricular Passion
You have the right grades in all the right courses, now what? Fenske says colleges want to see a commitment to an extracurricular activity. However, this does not mean the student should participate in every activity offered. Fenske says a deep involvement in a few activities is meaningful on an application. He says students can explore numerous possibilities while still in Middle School and by the time they are a sophomore or junior in Upper School they can devote more time to activities they particularly enjoy. Being able to show a progression in involvement over the years is also a plus. For example, a student may start out helping backstage in a theater production and eventually mature to be a leader in the theater department.
4. Required Test Scores
Yes, testing is certainly still a factor in college admissions. Luckily, Episcopal has a robust testing preparation program. Counselors help students understand the types of test questions, how to study and how to efficiently manage the allotted test time. There are even test boot camps that simulate the testing environment. Students take practice tests and have the opportunity to discuss errors with teachers before taking the actual exam. This sort of test prep is garnering impressive results. Students are earning National Merit recognition for their performance on the PSAT. Student scores are also translating into college admissions and scholarship dollars.
5. Tell Your Story
Fenske says students need to tell their story in their college application, and that story needs to make them stand out among the crowd of other applicants. He advises students to do something interesting that garners recognition beyond school. For example, thousands of students attend a sports or theater camp each year. A unique story would be to create your own camp or serve as a leader at an existing camp. Fenske has also helped students tell the story of juggling a full-time job or extensive personal obligations while maintaining a strong GPA and a commitment to school life. A unique story goes a long way in helping a student garner the attention to earn admission.
The college admissions journey can be exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Episcopal’s college counseling program is serving students well, with 100 percent of seniors earning acceptance into college, including many highly selective institutions. Fenske says ultimately the counselors want to help students find the best match based on their individual goals and projected career path. Finding that right fit and moving on to the next step in life is extremely rewarding for students, families and even the counselors who have assisted along the way. As the Class of 2020 begins to announce their college decisions it will be exciting to see where the journey takes them. Look for college announcements coming soon and please join us in congratulating these students on completing this important milestone.
Meet the Episcopal College Counselors
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