It is easy for students to look at their grades and expect an acceptance or a rejection to their desired colleges. When I was looking at my credentials in comparison to the statistics at many of my desired colleges, I almost didn’t even want to apply to most of them. However, there are a lot of factors that go into the admissions process that many students seem to neglect.
1. Admissions officers are looking for people to fit their campuses, not robots.
Colleges are looking for smart students who mesh well with the culture of the school. They will not automatically press the "yes" button on your application because you fit the school’s average stats. You may get rejected just due to the fact that you wouldn't fit well with the school, and there is nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of other colleges who are able to get you where you want to be in life while catering to your specific needs and character.
While colleges do have certain goals and criteria in mind when looking at candidates, they are not looking for the same type of people over and over. Imagine going to a university that was like that. Imagine seeing clones of yourself over and over with no diversity in ideas or thoughts. This is why it is important for students to be themselves when applying for college. You are more likely to wow admissions officers in that way.
3. Test scores alone will not secure an acceptance or a rejection.
I’ve seen people with perfect SAT scores and loads of extracurricular activities under their belt get rejected from some of the nation's most prestigious institutions. Likewise, I’ve seen students with "average" test scores get accepted to these same institutions. The reason being? Your resume alone will not get you into these schools. If a college sees factors on your application that make them feel as though you belong at their school, you will be accepted regardless of your test scores.
4. An essay will not cause admission officers to overlook low grades or test scores.
A college is not going to look at a report card filled with C's and D's and read the accompanying essay that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and say "Oh yeah! That makes up for it." For the same reasons mentioned in #2, while the admissions process is completely holistic, any factor on the application can make an admission officer step back and mull over whether or not a student is good fit for their school. And this aforementioned factor may not be the ultimate deciding factor, but it can contribute to how well the other factors on the application are viewed or received.
5. But the college process is COMPLETELY holistic.
Back in my junior year, when I became completely obsessed with the idea of attending Pomona, I plugged in my test scores and GPA into one of those generators that notifies you of your chances of attending a college. When the generator came back to me saying that I had a 3% chance of getting into Pomona College, I wanted to cry my eyes out. Yet here I am a year later on a full-ride scholarship there. Despite my initial disbelief, I realized that what the generator failed to account for were my extracurriculars as well as my essays.
6. So, that one B on your test won’t stop you from getting accepted to your dream school.
While grades are important in the college process, since it is completely holistic, having one or two less-than-exemplary grades (exemplary standards range from school to school – a C may be acceptable at one college and may be enough for a rejection at another) probably won’t make admissions officers throw away your application. It is more important for students to maintain a stable string of grades (with a few forgivable hiccups), whether it is by maintaining straight A's or A’s and B’s, even after application season. Work hard, but don’t stress yourself, especially over what has already been done.
Bottom line, it is important to be realistic, and not cynical, during the application process. Don’t approach application season automatically expecting to fail, but don’t expect your essays to make up for a less-than-acceptable report card. Be confident and do not doubt your skills and abilities!
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