No one knows exactly how every school goes about the acceptance and elimination process, and no two schools follow exactly the same guidelines. However, it's safe to assume that they go about their arduous task something like this:
Next, they look for professionally prepared applications with thought provoking, interesting, and grammatically flawless essays. They are most impressed with student resumes dating back ten years, detailing academic life, extra curricular activities including community service hours, and a cleverly written special essay, perhaps entitled, "Why I Must Attend The University of?" Admissions committees are ever on the alert for uniquely talented students in the arts, or those having demonstrated exceptional athletic potential. These factors all weigh heavily in the final decision.
Ideally, college-bound students should not be left alone without supervision for long periods of time, certainly no longer than 24 hours! They should not spend more than 15 hours each week on non-academic activities, and would be ill-advised to regularly burn the midnight oil. The benefits of a good night's rest cannot be overstated.
All students should begin by electing to take courses with college in mind. By the time they enter the 12th grade, they will have created the right posture to make admission committees stand up and take notice.
Receiving an 'A' in a non-honors class is not as impressive as earning a 'B' in an Honors or AP class. It demonstrates that the student took a risk and therefore a greater accomplishment is perceived. Admissions officers are as impressed by the challenge taken as they are with the result.
I'm certainly not suggesting that any student become stressed out by taking classes they are not capable of doing well in, or working beyond reasonable limits. However, for families with an exceptionally bright child, it is highly recommended that they take as many advanced courses as they can comfortably handle. An outstanding academic record has always been and is still the greatest bargaining chip.
Even students who are super athletes need some diversity, as sports alone is not enough. Students need to avoid the impression that they are one-dimensional, and do whatever is necessary to portray themselves as multi-faceted.
Early on, students must also begin to accumulate community service or volunteer hours. However, don't confuse extracurricular activities with volunteer work. I define extracurricular activities as in-school participation. Community service takes place outside of school, i. e. scouting, working for one's house of worship, working with AIDS and/or Alzheimer's patients, seniors, hospice, involvement with the handicapped, and environmental work such as cleaning up beaches or highways.
By participating in volunteer work with financially, emotionally and/or intellectually challenged people, students demonstrate their compassion and empathy for others, and this will make them shine with admissions officers. Working with those who are less fortunate also gives the student a much broader idea of how life is outside their own environment.
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