What parts of your college application really matter?

Completing a college application often involves providing a lot of different information. With universities asking for so much as part of a college application, it can be difficult for prospective students to figure out which parts of the application carry more weight with college admissions officials. Which parts of the college application are the most important, and why?

One thing that college admissions officials will pay close attention to is the courses you've taken. Although nobody expects you to have it all figured out by the time you enroll in a degree program, they will want to see some thought behind larger career goals. Maintaining a sense of direction in your elective choices shows college admissions officials that you're at least thinking about how they fit into your long-term plans.

The grades you've achieved are also very important. Again, nobody is expecting you to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA, though if you can, it'll look good on your college application, but you should work hard and strive to achieve the very best grades you can. Your GPA is more important than your SAT and standardized test scores, because grade point averages demonstrate a progression of academic achievement over time, as opposed to how you did on the day of a test. That doesn't mean you shouldn't study hard for your SATs, but test scores are becoming less important to many colleges than they used to be.

Letters of recommendation will be examined closely. Think carefully about who you want to approach to write a letter of recommendation. Your teachers are obvious choices since they know you well, but you should also think about asking your principal, student adviser or the president of any after-school clubs or societies you may belong to. Whoever you ask, your recommendation letters should reflect well on you as a person and as a student.

Your essays and personal statement are two of the most important aspects of your college application. They provide you with the opportunity to tell the college admissions adviser who you really are, what you want, and where you're going. Don't write overly formally or try to impress the college admission officer. Be yourself, write clearly and expressively, but avoid writing in a voice you wouldn't ordinarily use.

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