College Guidance Resources

What Do Colleges Look For?

Students can use the following "top ten" list as a guide to using the full potential of your time at YULA.

  1. A rigorous high school curriculum that challenges the student and may include AP.
  2. Grades that represent strong effort and an upward trend. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all As in less challenging coursework.
  3. Solid scores on standardized tests (SAT, ACT). These should be consistent with high school performance.
  4. Passionate involvement in a few activities, demonstrating leadership and initiative. Depth, not breadth, of experience is most important.
  5. Letters of recommendation from teachers and the guidance counselor that give evidence of integrity, special skills, positive character traits, and an interest in learning.
  6. Special talents or experiences that will contribute to an interesting and well-rounded student body.
  7. A well-written essay that provides insight into the student’s unique personality, values and goals. The application essay should be thoughtful and highly personal. It should demonstrate careful and well-constructed writing.
  8. Demonstrated enthusiasm, often exhibited by campus visits and an interview, showing an interest toward attending the college.
  9. Experiences outside school, including work and community service, that illustrate responsibility, dedication, and development of areas of interest.
  10. Demonstrated intellectual curiosity through reading, school and leisure pursuits, and more.

For Parents

  1. Continue to monitor academic progress; because most college applications are completed in the fall of a student's senior year, the last grades on a student's transcript are usually from the junior year. Junior year grades, therefore, are often considered the most important grades in high school. Make sure that your student understands the importance of these grades.
  2. Encourage involvement in activities, the pursuit of personal interests, and the development of leadership skills. These are important factors when determining admission.
  3. Think about and explore college options---when looking for a college, consider the following:
    • Location
    • Campus size
    • Surrounding community
    • Academic reputation
    • Majors/programs/activities
    • Cost
    • Admission requirements
    • Campus environment

      Early in the selection process, determine what's important to you and to your child. Are you looking for a college close to home? Do you want a college with a specific major or program? Do you want a small college or a large college, a private or a public college? Once you've determined what you are looking for, then you can begin to search for the colleges that meet your needs. Guidance offices, bookstores and libraries all have a variety of college reference books, and there's a wealth of college information on the internet. Have a discussion with your child about how much you are able and/or willing to contribute to their college education.

  4. Make sure your child registers for the ACT and/or the SAT.  Almost all colleges require scores for either the ACT or SAT. Virtually all colleges accept scores from both tests. Students should take the ACT and/or the SAT by the spring of their junior year. If they want to try to improve their scores, they can then retake these tests in the fall of their senior year. Many schools also require students to submit 2-3 Subject Test scores. Subject Tests are hour-long, multiple-choice question tests that measure knowledge in a specific subject area.
  5. Make college visits---Winter, spring and summer are excellent times to make college visits. If you visit colleges during the summer months, go back and revisit the colleges you're seriously considering so that you can get a feel for what they are like when classes are in "full swing".
  6. For junior parents, help select senior year courses---make sure that your student's senior year courses fulfill all high school graduation requirements, the requirements for the college(s) he/she is considering. All colleges recommend that seniors continue to follow a strong college prep program, and most applications ask students to list their senior year courses. Even though students may want to "take it easy" their senior year, they need to continue taking academic courses for a full year.
  7. Help choose meaningful summer activities.
  8. Continue to communicate with the college counseling office throughout the college preparation, search and application process.