The job market continues to evolve by leaps and bounds. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ December 2016 jobs report, employment in the financial world, education and health and professional and business services continue to rise at an aggressive pace. These industries require innovative thinkers, strong leaders and skilled workers — and those skills are honed by an outstanding education.
A college degree and a social network are vital to success in the workplace, which is why thousands of students apply to for the nation’s most elite schools each year. The fierce competition for spots in the freshmen classes of these universities and colleges, however, means that many talented, capable students will have to pursue their education elsewhere.
Standing Out From the Pack
While there is no magic formula to guarantee admission to your dream school, there are a few steps that you can take to make your application stand out. We took a look at the admissions requirements of five of the institutions that appeared on Niche.com’s list of 2017 Colleges with the Best Academics in America to glean some clues for grabbing the attention of admissions counselors.
Your Grades Matter; Your Classes Matter More
It’s no secret that grades matter; in fact, without a high g.p.a and equally impressive SAT or ACT scores, you may not even be considered for many of the nation’s top universities and colleges.
But here’s the kicker: a perfect g.p.a doesn’t look quite so impressive if the classes that you’ve taken are the bare minimum needed for graduation. The most rigorous schools want to see that you’ve taken challenging classes, preferably at the college level.
For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has an acceptance rate of 8 percent, recommends that prospective applicants have taken, at a minimum:
- One year each of physics, chemistry and biology
- Two years of a foreign language
- Four years of English
- Two years of history or social studies
- Math through calculus
In other words, they want to see students who are serious about their education.
Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to live in a large, thriving city with a wide array of public and private schooling options that offer robust academic programming. If you live in a smaller town, or the high school that you’re attending just doesn’t offer the classes that you need, consider other options like online schools or supplement your education with local college extension or summer programs.
Grades are important, but an A- in a challenging college-level class may look better than an A+ in an easier, high school course.
Brush Up on Your Writing Skills
Some students shy away from essay questions, or treat their college entrance essay like a six-week class in digging ditches. Why? Because writing can be difficult. Writing requires more than filling in a bubble; writing requires that you dig down deep and express your opinions and beliefs in logical, cogent and entertaining ways. That’s really hard!
Today’s most rigorous schools want to see not only what you know, but how you think. For example, Yale University, a prestigious school with a 7 percent acceptance rate, asks that their applicants write two essays. This allows the admissions counselors to get a sense of who the applicant is, and how they will contribute to the student body. Clearly, it’s important that you get comfortable with essay questions.
Know Your Deadlines
Different schools want different things at different times, and missing a deadline can easily derail your entire plan. Stanford, which has an undergraduate acceptance rate of 5 percent, asks for letters of recommendation from 11th and 12th grade teachers. The University of Chicago requires mid-year reports from the guidance counselors of prospective students. Other schools have their own specific deadlines for SAT and ACT scores submissions. Research your school and make sure that you submit the necessary letters, reports and test scores at the right times.
Where Do You Shine?
The most rigorous colleges are looking for unique individuals who will contribute to the culture of their institution.
Harvard, for example, places high value on creativity. The Harvard Admissions website quotes former Faculty Standing Committee on Admissions member Helen Vendler, who wrote that “We are eager to harbor the next Homer, the next Kant, or the next Dickinson. There is no reason why we shouldn’t expect such a student to spend his or her university years with us.” The bar is set high!
Yale’s admissions office operates in a similar vein. With each application, Yale’s admissions officers consider whether that individual will make the most of the university’s resources, and what they will contribute to the Yale community during both their years in school, and after.
Look for ways to volunteer in your community, develop your leadership skills and explore new interests. As MIT’s admissions website notes, “cloning is still for sheep…What we really want to see on your application is you being you – pursuing the things you love, growing, changing, taking risks, learning from your mistakes, all in your own distinctive way.”
Are you up for the challenge of an elite online education? If you want a competitive curriculum that prepares you to take on the most rigorous colleges in the United States, consider GWUOHS. Learn more now.