The college admissions process, as we’ve previously discussed, includes almost overwhelming amounts of uncertainty, but thankfully very little risk for most applicants. If you truly want to, you will find a school that will be happy to have you (and your tuition dollars). But anyone focused on specific schools will find the lack of assured outcomes unsettling to say the least.
If you’re looking to add certainty to the admissions process, embrace two critical steps:
1. Do your research
Somewhere amidst the thousands of colleges out there is the right school for you… you just have to find it. Take advantage of online resources like Naviance and college websites to find high mutual-match schools. If the thought of interminable hours of college research makes your eyes glaze over, be advised that great college admission consultants (of which we know a few) bring not just insight and expertise but also enthusiasm to the search process.
2. Improve your application
While you are identifying your target schools, you need to also take all necessary steps to improve your chances of admission. Class rank, course difficulty, extracurricular activities, application essays, recommendations, and more all factor into the admissions process. In most instances, though, admissions starts as a numbers game: if your GPA and test scores don’t fall into place, schools may never take the time to evaluate everything else you bring to the table. By raising your grades and test scores to the levels desired by your target schools, you improve the odds that your application will get more consideration.
Test scores matter so much in the college admissions process because applicants are not the only parties subject to uncertainty and risk. You may assiduously assure every school on your list that you will enroll if accepted, but you and I and they all know that’s not true. Each college manages yield (the percent of students who choose to enroll after having been offered admission) as if its institutional life depends on it because, in a very real sense, it does. When too few students show up in September, the school has trouble making ends meet. Too many students lead to overcrowding and unhappiness. These calculations don’t even take the inevitable attrition into account!
Your test scores add clarity to the admissions process, helping colleges understand more about your compatibility and likely commitment. Signal to a school that you are both certain to enroll if accepted and a low risk of failure once you arrive, and you’ll go a long way towards convincing your future alma mater to take a chance on you.