College Talk: Grades, Courses, and Activities
Maryline Michel Kulewicz and Tracy Sullivan of College 101 Admissions Consultants
While colleges review an applicant’s complete file, grades, course rigor and committed interests are the three most important factors in determining the admissions decision. We recommend high school students to periodically reevaluate their progress in these areas throughout the year. How are they doing academically? Have they joined activities that they enjoy? And, are they selecting courses that are aligned with their goals? Using a checklist can help in this assessment process:
• How do you get good grades?
Stay positive: Getting good grades takes effort and focus, don’t get down on yourself if you receive a bad test grade. Identify strategies on how to improve on future tests. Staying positive and having a plan will keep you motivated.
Stay organized: Strong organization skills will result in better preparation and better outcomes. Create a dedicated work space and keep it neat. It saves time when your notes and assignments are easily accessible.
Super tip: Use any type of planner to keep track of your homework, projects, and tests and their due dates. Good organizational skills can be life changing.
Homework: Make your daily school work a priority. Determine a good schedule and block the time on your calendar. Challenge yourself to put your phone away - checking messages during study breaks. You will get your homework done faster!
Take notes in class: Good note taking can help you become an active listener, understand concepts better, and in turn, earn better grades.
Ask for help: If you are struggling, reach out to your teacher immediately- you will feel so relieved. Many schools offer free tutorial services through their honor society programs. Hiring a tutor is also an option.
Schedule breaks: Take a 10-15 minute break from your studies- check your phone, get a snack, run around the block for exercise! It will refresh your mind and body and help you refocus.
Take care of yourself: Eat right, exercise, and try to get 8 hours of sleep - good for your mind, body, and grades!
• How do you select your high school courses? Selecting the right courses is not about enrolling in the hardest courses. It is a balance of the course rigor, your interests, mental health, and time constraints.
High School Curriculum Requirements: Every high school has course requirements that must be completed to graduate. Make sure you are on track.
Balanced course schedule: Take courses in all of your core courses: English, Math, Science, Social Sciences, and a foreign language. Many colleges have specific admission requirements that include the number of years per subject. Research the colleges you are most interested in and determine if you meet their minimum course requirements..
Progression: Colleges like to see a continued progression in the rigor of the course and grades through your high school years. This does not mean choosing all AP courses. We advise our students to select course levels that will push them, but not shove them. For example, if a student takes 2 years of CP math and received an A both times, we would recommend taking an Honors math the following year.
Reflect on your goals: Many students do not know what their major will be, but they generally know their interests. Pay attention to your goals and select your courses accordingly. For example, if you love math and you would like to end up in AP Calculus - plan the path that will get you there.
Do what you love: We encourage students to follow their passion. However, enroll in classes for the right reasons. As an example, if you love fashion, and design clothes in your free time, take the Fashion Design Course. However, if you are taking it at the expense of a more challenging course that is more appropriate for you - reconsider your choice.
Seek guidance: Keeping your work/life balance is important. Consult with a guidance counselor or a teacher regarding the appropriate course selection for your interests and overall goals.
• How do you select the activities that are right for you?
Enjoyment: Engage in activities and hobbies that interest you and where you enjoy spending time. Ultimately, you will want to commit more of your time.
Depth: Colleges would prefer to see depth and commitment to a few activities rather than joining many activities where you don’t have time to participate. Engage in a meaningful way. Tip: Sign-up as early as possible, but remember that it’s never too late to join.
Qualities: Colleges look for students who demonstrate leadership, initiative, community service, good work ethic, and social responsibility. Review your current activities and ask yourself - what is missing? Could you help with a local charity or apply for a part-time job? Perhaps you can run for an office in one of the school clubs, or teach young students art? There are many organizations that offer internships that focus on specific interests There are too many opportunities to list here! FREE resource: send me an email, and I will provide our google doc of possible activities to explore.
Good luck and enjoy the journey!
College 101 Admissions Consultants LLC. Website: www.mycollege101.com. Email: [email protected]. Phone: 508-380-3845.
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