Can Amazing Extracurriculars Outweigh Average Academics?

Extracurricular-ActivitiesYear after year, this is one of the questions we receive most from eager high school students gearing up for the college application process. We thought we’d take the time to break down how admissions decisions are made. Don’t want to read all the way to the end? Here’s our #spoileralert: amazing extracurriculars don’t outweigh average academics. Let us tell you why!

When admissions committees at top schools make admissions decisions, they’re evaluating you across a few elements:

Academic Preparedness

Here, admissions committees are looking to evaluate whether or not you are equipped to succeed in their college courses. This comes down to more than your GPA and test scores, though those are factors in this evaluation Other areas of your academic evaluation will include AP test scores, SAT Subject Test Scores, Letters of Recommendation and your academic involvement outside the classroom.

Habit of Leadership/Depth of Commitment

(This is where your amazing extracurriculars will be evaluated!)

It’s not enough to just participate in volunteer work or play a sport. Admissions committees at top universities are looking for students who have thoroughly enveloped themselves in activities that they are truly passionate about! Their job as an admissions committee is to admit a well-rounded, diverse freshman class. They’re looking for “pointy” students – students who have clearly demonstrated interests and passions and have taken the initiative to excel in those areas both inside and outside the classroom.

Fit for Institution

In the end, admissions committees will never admit a student that they don’t believe will actually enroll, so it’s important to clearly articulate your fit and sincere interest for each individual school on your list! This is typically done through school-specific supplemental essays, and will also be an imperative part of your application process.

Essentially, excelling in extracurriculars does not outweigh average or less-than-average performance in academics. Why? Because first, admissions committees need to determine if you will be able to keep up academically with your peers in college level courses. That’s the most important criteria. Unfortunately, your extracurricular activities do not necessarily demonstrate to admissions committees that you are prepared to excel academically on their campus. If you don’t have sufficient evidence on your application that you’ll be able to handle academic rigor, it is unlikely you will be admitted to selective college or university.

Do you have questions about how your unique extracurricular experiences will be evaluated by admissions committees? Take advantage of Veritas Prep’s free college consultation — you’ll receive personalized feedback from one of our college admission experts on your chances of admission to your dream schools, as well as tangible next steps for what you can do to ensure your applications are successful!

How Are College Applications Actually Evaluated?

GMATThe Common Application is live! Most (if not all) college applications are now available for you to access, meaning that application season is officially here! We here at Veritas Prep get very excited about this time of year – we connect with students all around the world who are ready to tackle applications to their dream schools. We are inspired to come to work every day because we get to work with the most ambitious students and help them reach their most ambitious goals.

We’re a team of college admissions nerds experts who have a unique insider’s perspective to how college applications are actually read and evaluated by admissions committees. As the 2016/17 application season officially begins, we wanted to provide you this insider look into our 4 Dimensions of a College Applicant. When admissions committees read their hundreds of applications a year, they are looking to evaluate candidates through these 4 dimensions:

Dimension 1: Academic Achievements
Your academic achievements demonstrate that you’ve mastered high school academics, but most importantly, they indicate to admissions committees how you’ll be able to handle the academic rigors at their school if you are admitted. To evaluate your academic achievements, admissions committees will review your:

  • GPA: This is a predictor of your academic performance in college; how well you did in high school may be directly related to how well you’ll do in college courses.
  • Class Rank (if your school provides rankings): Class rank gives admissions officers a bit more context for your grades in comparison to how your classmates performed.
  • AP/IB/Honors Coursework: Admissions committees will want to know which courses are offered at your high school and if you took advantage of all that your school had to offer.
  • High School Profile: Your high school profile allows admissions committees to see where your high school stands compared to other high schools in the nation/world.
  • Standardized test scores: The SAT & ACT provide colleges with a standard scale to compare you to all other applicants. While your GPA may have less room for change, your SAT or ACT score is more in your control. A higher standardized test score can help mitigate the effects of a low GPA.
  • Recommendations: You may not suspect that recommendations play into your academic achievements, but admissions committees read these letters and look for your teacher’s perspective on your abilities and achievements in the classroom.
  • Final grades: Although it may seem impossible to stave off senioritis, do your best to keep your grades up! Your final grades do count – in our years of experience, we unfortunately have seen students have their offers of admission revoked because their grades dropped second semester of senior year.

Dimension 2: Match & Fit Factors
The most selective schools in the nation often report that 75% of their applicants are qualified for admission. Since they, unfortunately, do not admit all of the students who may be academically qualified to attend, admissions committees look carefully for match and fit factors. Essentially, they’re looking for the right group of students who accurately and creatively represent themselves in their applications in a way that demonstrates their perfect fit for the campus culture, academics and community. When admissions evaluates your match and fit factors, they’ll be looking closely at your:

  • Personal Statement: This is where you can really let your personality and passions shine!
  • Vision for the Future: The personal statement should shed light on what you are thinking about pursuing in college and beyond. Don’t worry too much about completing the goals that you write about as we know that this might change over time, but demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have ambitions (and make them believe in these, too).
  • Potential for Success: Colleges love to brag about their alumni and celebrate their students’ accomplishments. When they read your personal statement and supplemental essays, they’re going to be looking for successful students who will bring that same level of success to their campus.
  • Interest In and Knowledge of the College: With students applying to an average of 10+ schools these days, colleges really want to know that students actually want to attend their school. There are several places in the application where you can show your interest in and passion for a school. Admissions committees want to know that if they offer you a place in their freshman class, you will likely attend.

The other two Dimensions of a College Applicant will be integral in the success of your applications. Want to know what they are and how to make sure you’re submitting the strongest applications? Attend one of our upcoming online free college workshops led by one of our college admissions experts. Sign up for free here!

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.