Friday, May 23, 2008
Educated Advice Columnist
Q: When I visited Princeton a few months ago, they said that out of all the applicants who scored a 2,400 on their SATs, they rejected nearly half of them. Was this because their personal statements were poor or because they had not been part of extracurricular activities? Or could it have been that there were so many other students better qualified with SAT scores only slightly lower?
A: First off, very few students scored perfect 2,400 on the SAT. Out of roughly 325,000 students who took the SAT last March, 120 scored a perfect 2,400.
What is important to the admissions committees are not just the SAT scores but the number of advanced-placement classes they took and how high they scored on those tests. A score of 5 is needed at most highly selective colleges to test out of a subject.
In addition, Yale and other Ivies are establishing new policies requiring students to take a foreign language even though they might have tested out on the AP exam.
Proficiency in a foreign language makes sense in an ever-increasing interlocking and diverse economy. Harvard is breaking with tradition and actively encouraging students to study abroad.
I’ve already discussed some of the more obvious blunders that students make when applying to college. One includes listing wacky right-wing books on their reading list of favorite books (90 percent of college professors vote for one party — guess which one); poorly written personal statements and errors ranging from bad grammar to nonexistent proofreading.
Incredible as it may seem, even bright students use the wrong name for the school they are applying to — referring to Princeton in their personal statement to Harvard.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. The one I sent to Harvard didn’t have that error.”
Right. I’m looking at it right in front of me.
Extracurricular activities are important. The most important ones are academic competitions — those in which students have competed against other students locally, at state and nationally. Holding a leadership position in these activities is also significant.
For the scholar/athlete, even more weight is given to academic over non-academic extracurriculars, even if the candidate is a truly outstanding Division I athlete.
The New York Times reported the experiences of Haverford College lacrosse coach Mike Murphy. Despite the fact that top high school athletes want to play for him, he has to encourage many to focus on other colleges if they do not measure up academically. A high school grade-point average of 3.1 on a scale of 1 to 4, and an SAT score of 1,800 would make the candidate a long shot for admissions to Haverford, he said.
For a series of stories about recruiting athletes at elite small colleges, visit The New York Times Web site, www.ny-times.com/sports.
Selective colleges are primarily interested in admitting top scholars, not athletes who will have a difficult time academically.
Contact Gerald Bradshaw, The US States Top college consultant. One-on-one college consulting. Get help with the college application essay. Make you dream of being admitted into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania a reality.
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