News & Events
A frequent question that we get from freshmen and sophomores is “What can I do now to prepare for getting into college?”
Keep in mind that most college admissions committees focus on 4 components:
- Standardized test scores
- Application essay(s)
- Extracurricular activities (such as volunteer work, sports, clubs, etc.)
Standardized testing typically begins junior year with the PSAT in the fall and the SAT in the spring. Application essays are typically written in the fall of senior year.
What does that leave us with? GPA & Extracurricular activities.
GPA: GPA stands for “Grade Point Average.” For the GPA, you must focus on both getting strong grades and taking tough classes. If your school offers AP classes, and you are up for the challenge, consider taking it. Honors classes are also excellent. Don’t feel compelled to take an AP class “just because colleges like it.” Take an AP class in a subject that you enjoy and that you are good at. If academics come naturally to you, take many AP classes. If you struggle to finish your homework each evening, think twice about taking an AP class. They are intensive.
Extracurricular activities: I advise students to get involved in at least 2-3 activities starting in freshmen year. Pick activities that you enjoy. Do you like sports? Do you enjoy helping people through volunteer work? Could you serve your church in some way during the summer months which you have off? A college admissions committee does not want to hear “I was so focus on school that I didn’t have time for activities.” Activities expose you to new things, and help you solidify your interest. You do not have to do a sport if you are not athletic. Join student government or write for the school newspaper. If you are shy, try broadening your horizons through some volunteer work. (Ask your church, your city recreation department, or a local hospital.) Don’t spend all your time doing homework. Likewise don’t waste a lot of time on social media. If you want to spend time on social media, consider putting a timer for yourself: 30 minutes a day is more than enough. Do something meaningful with the rest of your time. Colleges love to see that you had a leadership position in the clubs that you are involved with. After being involved in a club for a year or two, try to become an officer or leader in the club.
Keep in mind that for most schools, GPA and standardized tests are the 2 biggest components to your application. The essay and extracurriculars are important, but they usually carry less weight. Don’t sacrifice your grades for a club or sport. Try to balance your time. School work is first. Clubs and activities are second. Spending time on social media should not take you away from school or activities.
Above all, remember to go to church on Sunday morning and attend youth meetings and Sunday School. Enrich yourself spiritually as well as mentally and socially. Many students find that when their spiritual life is strong, so is their discipline in school.
Senior year is full of anxiety and emotion. Seniors often come to us with 2 central questions: “What should I write my essay about?” and “Which schools should I apply to?”
“What should I write my essay about?
Let’s address the first question. The essay is a chance for a college admissions counselor to get to know you, apart from your GPA, SATs and extracurricular activities. Keep in mind that an admissions counselor might spend 5-20 minutes on your whole application, depending on the volume of applicants at that school. A large school will typically spend less time on each application. Since you do not have much time to catch the reader’s attention, your essay should start with a “bang.” Try a quote, a scene description or a dramatic statement. Write about something important to you. However, you should avoid controversy. (Imagine that you write an essay about the importance of gun control, and the person reading your essay owns several guns…) Select a topic that is not too broad. Write about something important to you. Keep the theme of that topic from the beginning to the end of that essay for the sake of coherence.
“Which schools should I apply to?”
To students who are residents of California: you are blessed with an excellent public college system. Whether you apply to CalStates or UCs, you will find strong institutions at a reasonable cost. Make sure you have completed your A-G requirements before applying.
You may also consider applying to some private schools. For example, a small engineering school, a liberal arts college or a Christian college. Please avoid for-profit schools, such as University of Phoenix and Devry, if possible. These schools do not have a strong retention rate.
One excellent resource is www.collegeboard.com . Try out the “College Search” link which will give you a narrow list of schools based on your ideal location, major and school size.
Also, visit at least two colleges during your junior or senior year. Visiting a college helps you envision whether or not you will fit in. Your goal is not to pick the school where your friends go or the school with the best football team. Your goal is to pick a college where you will THRIVE and succeed. When you do a campus tour, you will see if the school is the right fit for you.
In the meantime, if you have questions, please contact us at CEF. We are glad to help! Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org