Over the last few years, many high school students have approached me for advice on academics and on the college application process. While I am SO happy to provide insight where I can, I don’t want to recreate the wheel; I feel that many questions I routinely receive have already been answered by people who are more qualified than I am (i.e. people who work in university admissions committees, etc.). So with that said, the following resources offer a lot of value to high school students with common questions about academics and college admissions.
1. I am ALWAYS getting asked what colleges ‘look at’ or ‘care about’ when making admissions decisions. This page outlines the key components of the application, and answers this question in depth.
*Disclaimer: this source states that extra curricular activities are the second most important factor colleges consider, and that standardized exams are the third. My understanding is that colleges aggregate each students’ academic scores/grades into one number, and then filter/weed out students based on that aggregated academic index. Because of that, I think standardized exams play a role in determining whether or not the rest of a student’s application will even be read. So, I think scores can potentially be more important than extra-curricular activities. This is another good list of factors that colleges care about. Ultimately, each school has their own algorithms, and each admissions officer reading applications is different, so there is no ‘right’ answer, but I think these pages do a decent job of covering important components of the application.
2. I HIGHLY recommend the resources produced by The Fair Opportunity Project, an endeavor started by two Harvard undergraduate students. The website and PDF provide information and guidance to high school students with limited access to college counseling, and go in-depth on all of the components mentioned in the link above. This guide is long, but it answers pretty much all of the questions you could have about the application process and/or what to do in high school in order to make yourself the best applicant possible.
3. High school students LOVE to ask me what I think their chances of getting into XYZ University are, and that is why I am linking an academic index calculator and an admissions calculator. These tools are helpful for determining how you compare academically to other students applying to universities in the US. It is NOT definitive, obviously, but it provides a crude estimate of where you stand relative to others in terms of just the numbers/academics (not extra curricular activities, essays, etc.). That said, these tools were developed by people who literally make their living off of preparing students for the college application process. That means these tools can give you a better/more objective idea of what your chances are than I can, so if it puts you at ease, use these resources.
Doing well academically
1. This podcast episode is for everyone who reaches out to me asking for study tips for high school, university, MCAT, etc. This podcast will impart more wisdom on you than I ever could. It talks about which study/learning strategies are effective, and which ones are NOT effective. The podcast is an interview with Ulrich Boser, a researcher who has spent YEARS studying the way we learn. Take it from him, not from me. This is how you learn more effectively and efficiently. I’m not going to type out a summary of it, because it’s way more impactful if you actually listen. If you are wondering how to get better grades and learn more effectively, it’s worth the time to just go listen. Also..don’t just listen to it and then continue doing what you’ve been doing, and then wonder why your grades aren’t improving. Implement the recommendations Boser makes and you will see results.
2. I feel like my generation has such a hard time staying focused because there is SO much technology around us. Even people who don’t suffer from any attentional deficit disorders seem to get distracted so easily by their electronic devices. In order to do well in school, though, I think it’s really important to cultivate the ability to focus for longer periods of time. In order to build that discipline, I recommend the Self Control app for Mac, and the Flora app for iPhone (there are similar ones for Windows/Android). These apps are FREE and will prevent you from accessing certain apps and websites for given periods of time (FB, Insta, etc). Start with 15 or 20 minutes, and slowly increase that number until you are able to focus on work for longer chunks of time without getting distracted by social media, texting, etc.
Finally, if you know of any resources that would be valuable for high school students, let me know via email please!
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