*This article was initially written for an online magazine that unfortunately shut down. However, I believe that it may be valuable to those applying for college in the near future. Thank you Ms. Hospodar and Mr. Glitman for your wonderful responses!
By: Monique Mahabir
Although some people are outstandingly gifted in academics, many colleges realize that grades aren't the only indicator of a great student.
Hence the reason for the holistic admissions process.
Holistic admissions takes into account the whole student, not just their GPA and SAT/ACT scores. This serves as a great opportunity for students whose lives revolve around school activities, clubs, sports, community service, career ventures and other extracurricular activities.
Lynn University, The University of Tennessee, and The University of California, Berkeley are among the colleges that implement holistic admissions.
Although the review is highly selective, students have an opportunity to persuade their college of choice why they would be a perfect addition. This allows applicants to be more personal than a straightforward, academically centered review.
“Students should take advantage of the opportunity to share information about themselves through the [holistic] application process,” University of Tennessee admissions officer Stephanie Hospodar said.
Prospective students should not only showcase their academic achievements, but also their leadership experience.
“We look at extracurricular activities to ensure that we are finding a leader both inside and outside the classroom. I always ask myself: What will this student do during their free time on campus? How will they contribute to our campus environment?” Lynn University admissions officer Federico Glitman said.
Extracurricular activities serve as an indicator of how involved a student is within their community; however, too many extracurricular activities may trigger a red flag for admissions officers. It is important that students do not spread themselves too thin.
“Although the student might have ‘little extracurricular', it does not necessarily mean that the quality is not there. In fact, it must surpass that of an application with 15 activities. I am a firm believer in quality over quantity,” Glitman said.
Some schools, including Lynn University, are test-optional, meaning applicants have a choice of whether or not to send their standardized test scores.
Despite this option, academics are not neglected during the review.
“We do review the curriculum to ensure that the student is challenged. We determine if their GPA is a true reflection of their academic potential. This means reviewing each semester to ensure it is an AP, Honors or IB course rather than an introduction to basket weaving (yes it has occurred),” Glitman said.
Without a primarily academic-based review, it is imperative for students to put much effort into their essay . Colleges take into account the applicant's writing skills, such as their ability to write a thesis and supporting statements, elicit proper grammar as well as their storytelling and persuasion skills.
The essay is the student's chance to distinguish themselves from the other applicants. It gives the student the opportunity to explain their weaknesses and emphasize their strengths.
With all this in consideration, it is important for the student to remember that each college is different. Step one of college admissions is researching one's institution of choice.
“Staying on top of application deadlines, understanding requirements of a completed application and being mindful of the factors that are being considered in the review process will help students in navigating through the college application process. Additionally, remember that admissions representatives are here to help,” Hospodar said.
Maintaining a close relationship with one's high school counselor, contacting admissions officers, and visiting and/or researching colleges are all great ways to keep abreast of one's personal admissions opportunities.
Taking these steps will allow applicants to not only work towards a successful college education, but also towards a successful future.