5 Academic Achievements that Colleges Consider

Ready to start the college race? Check out the top five things colleges look for in their applicants to see which areas you've got covered and which could use a boost.

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1. Keep Your Grades on Track

Colleges place a heavy emphasis on grades. Great grades in high school show colleges that you will excel in a demanding academic environment. Grades are a clear display of how serious you are about your academics. Buckle down and keep those grades up to show colleges that you are ready for even the most rigorous academic environment.

2. Stay High in the Ranks

Since grade inflation is a growing issue, grades are hard to evaluate in isolation. High schools often assign a rank to their students in terms of GPA. This ranking system provides information on a student's grades relative to classmates. Keep in mind that class rank overlooks the overall strength of the entire student body.

3. Take on a Rigorous Course Load

Many colleges expect their applicants to pursue the strongest academic programs at their respective schools. Colleges want to see students challenge themselves and take advantage of opportunities that their schools have to offer such as AP courses. A straight A record for a weak course load will have less of an impact on colleges than a mixed record for a challenging course load. Take on an AP course or two to boost the rigor of your curriculum.

4. Score High on Standardized Tests

Standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT are another tool that colleges use to separate students from each other. They are independent of varying grading standards of high schools, but have received a fair share of criticism. There are concerns of what the test actually measures and whether it is bias in some way. Keep in mind that colleges are wary to rely too heavily on SAT or ACT scores, so scoring in the middle of the pack will neither hurt nor help your chances.

5. Be Aware That Your High School's Reputation Counts

High schools usually submit a "school profile" with each transcript to give colleges a better understanding of the school's curriculum and grading policies. This often includes grade range for the senior class and other statistics about the student body. This allows colleges to not only compare individual students but high schools on a broader scale as well.

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