Look Good on Paper
In addition to grade point averages and test scores, admissions officers look at a student’s extracurricular activities and volunteer work to ensure each applicant is as well-rounded as possible. If a student has excellent grades and test scores but nothing going on outside the classroom, it’s a red flag to admissions officers that this student not necessarily cut out to handle the social aspects of college (living in the dorms, working with other students, etc.); a student with good grades and test scores who also plays a sport or instrument and volunteers at a soup kitchen will probably better fit the student profile. This all depends on the school, of course, but having demonstrated interests beyond schoolwork is never a bad thing.
To get your child on this path, consider things they are interested in and come up with a list of possible related organizations. Soccer players may be interested in assistant coaching kids’ teams on weekends and artistic students could like helping out at a local gallery, for example, but volunteer activities can broaden a student’s horizons, too. Your child may think they want to be a news anchor but after volunteering as a tutor for a few months, they may decide to consider a career as a teacher.
As for test scores, the national average for the SAT is 1500 and for the ACT, it’s between 20 and 21, according to the Princeton Review. Scores under 1100 on the SAT or 15 on ACT are considered low at just about any four-year college. And what does having “good grades” mean? Well, most state universities prefer at least a 3.0 GPA while most Ivy Leagues want a 3.5 or higher. Good marks and an amazing application could offset low test scores and top-percentile test scores may trump average grades but admissions requirements vary at all schools. If your child is interested in how they measure up, request an undergraduate profile from the school in question or try an admissions predictor like MyChances.net, which claims to forecast admission 90 percent of the time based on the criteria you enter.
In some cases, your child may not gain admission even if they meet every single bullet point so encourage your child to go above and beyond what’s required if they can. When admissions officers are reviewing applicants and find two that are almost identical, the one with the longer list of extracurricular activities, more pluses than minuses after their grades or even neater handwriting will gain admission.