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The Big Three

  1. Grades, Grades, Grades! And test scores. This is where you'll want to focus your energy. Thinking of blowing off your senior year? Bad idea. There's no getting around the fact that colleges view the grades you receive throughout high school as a major indication of how well you might do in their classrooms.
  2. Admission Test Scores: Your ACT/SAT scores make a difference to most colleges. You didn't do so well the first time around? Take them again. Most students improve their score the second time around. Do your research! Find out the admissions require-ments at all the schools you're interested in.
  3. Class Rank: Unfortunately, this is somewhat out of your hands. Class rank depends on how many students are in your class, the mean grade point average, and so on.

The Sidekicks

  1. When students appear to be equal candidates on the "Big Three," schools may turn to these factors to make the next cuts, especially if you're applying at a smaller, private school. The Essay: If you've got a way with words, work your magic ...especially if you're applying at a very competitive school. Highly selective schools report placing more emphasis on and giving more personalized attention to your well-crafted statement than public schools with higher acceptance rates.
  2. Work & Extracurricular Activities: Do you have a job after school? Do you play tennis, but don't expect to scoreascholarship? The true benefit of extracurricular activity is you're learning to juggle, prioritize, and manage time - skills you'll definitely need in col-lege. The added bonus of a job means work experience, potential references, and a way to save up for the various costs of school. So keep at it.
  3. Recommendations: The majority of schools do not put a lot of weight on counselor and teacher recommendations, but a stellar letter can't hurt.

The Back-Up Reinforcements

  1. While some institutions may vary from the norm, in general, these factors receive far less attention than you might think. The Interview: The bigger the school, the less importance is placed on interviews; partly because bigger schools have more ap-plicants and less time to interview them.
  2. Ability to Pay: Whether you can actually afford a particular school or not often has little influence on whether they'll accept you. Between financial aid, grants, loans, and work study, they figure you'll come up with the means if you're set on the school.



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