College applicants in need of good grades, good deeds to gain admission
Kathleen Stevans knows colleges and universities are looking at more than her daughter's grades.
“There is a lot of pressure for high-school seniors to have really high GPAs and great SAT scores,” says Stevans, of Upper St. Clair. Her daughter, Tori, 17, a high-school senior, is an aspiring writer who's applying to several colleges.
“Schools also require them to be so well-rounded,” Stevans says. “They want to see community-based activities, and want them to be interesting, well-rounded people.”
Grades still reign supreme on the list of importance as far as admissions go, but today's colleges are interested in learning as much as they can about each individual's personal accomplishments, extracurricular activities and more before deciding whether to admit them, admissions administrators says.
Most schools require potential future freshman to submit an application along with official high-school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores to be reviewed for acceptance. Beyond that, it's often up to the individual to provide additional information they think will help them make the grade.
“The extracurriculum information helps us better understand the students' interest and get to know the student beyond the numbers,” says Joell Minford, director of admissions at Point Park University. For fall 2013, 2,900 freshmen applied to Point Park and 2,200 were accepted, she says.
Things like personal essays, statements of academic intent, letters of recommendation, examples of leadership activities, community service and additional interests can help “reveal more about the student” to the application-review committee, says Marc Harding, chief enrollment officer at University of Pittsburgh. The university received more than 27,000 applications for about 3,900 places in the fall 2013 freshmen class.
“As the applicant pool gets stronger each year, the admissions committee relies more heavily on the additional information that the applicant provides, especially the essay, in order to find the students we feel will be the best fit for Pitt,” Harding says.
When it comes to curriculum, schools want to see how the student challenged himself.
“The committee is looking for a well-rounded curriculum from all applicants across five major subject areas — English, math, science, social science and foreign language,” Harding says. “Students should go beyond the minimum requirements.”
For example, the fourth level of a class on a transcript is considered more favorably than the third, he says. Honors and advanced-placement classes and international baccalaureate work also can positively affect an admissions decision, he says — “unless a student takes so many he/she can't do reasonably well in them.”
In recent years, the biggest change in admissions procedures is the decreased importance of class rank, counselors says. Because many districts no longer compile that data, it's no longer used in many schools' admission processes.
One challenge admissions counselors face is the varying grading procedures school districts use, says Kellie Laurenzi, dean of admissions at Robert Morris University.
For example, an A in one district might be a score of 91-100, while, in another, it's 90-100. To overcome that, admissions counselors are in frequent contact with districts to determine the difficulty of courses and how they grade.
“We call numerous guidance offices to walk us through the complications,” Laurenzi says.
Robert Morris University receives around 8,000 freshman applications a year. This fall, more than half were accepted. Laurenzi says her department “always encourages students to send additional credentials if there are things that will help us make a decision.”
While other factors do matter, it's key for seniors to keep their grades up, despite the natural inclination to slack off toward the end of their high-school career, administrators say.
“A rigorous senior-year curriculum is strongly recommended and will work to the benefit of an applicant in the admissions review,” Harding says. “'Senioritis,' which could include a decline in grades or taking a lighter course load, could adversely affect the admissions decision.”
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: At start, are Pens already finished?
- Morton, Pirates blank Red Sox in series opener
- Steelers’ Roethlisberger still hurting after hard hit from Ravens’ Upshaw
- Steelers notebook: RT Gilbert not in danger of losing his job
- Identical twins born at West Penn Hospital a rare medical marvel
- Penguins notebook: Martin not concerned about expiring contract
- City of Pittsburgh detective, 2 boys finalize adoption before judge
- Coach’s firing causes ruckus in Steel Valley
- Pirates notebook: Hurdle quiet on rotation plans
- Car, truck collide near Taco Bell in New Kensington
- Southmoreland student injured in school assault