While it is a busy time for Grade 12 students as they apply for their regular decision schools (if applying to US unis), Grade 11 students are gearing up for their winter break. As you know, your next year would be crucial in getting you placed in a college of your choice. You may be observing your seniors juggle deadlines for their internal assessments, prepare for external assessments, wrap up any extracurricular activities and work on their college applications. Sounds like a handful? Well, it is.
It is essential to review your profile especially if you are aiming for those top-tier universities abroad. In my experience as an education counselor, I felt it would be helpful to create a checklist of things you need to start thinking about in terms of your own academic and personal profile.
Here it goes –
1. Academic Scores
Are you doing great academically? If yes, then ensure that you continue achieving those scores without getting complacent. In case you are doing ‘above or below class average’, do try your best to pull up those grades. In the past, we have had students keen on signing up for AP exams when they are already struggling with school grades. This is not wise under any circumstance. Colleges check your academic progress first and then move on to your extracurricular activities. Few colleges refer to it as an ‘academic threshold’ that expects applicants to have achieved a minimum GPA. However, as mentioned in previous blogs, US universities practice holistic applications and this can be great if you’ve showcased your academic abilities through other options like a summer program and academic extracurriculars.
2. Extracurricular Activities
Broadly speaking, these are categorized into activities that are –
academic (independent research/summer programs)
personal (pursuing a dance form/starting a reading club)
sports-related (e.g. being a state or national level champion in chess)
In your life thus far, you have probably dipped your toes in the second and third options. To make your profile academically strong, you would need to now consider how you have demonstrated the first as this involves an initial build towards college level skills, which admissions officers view positively. Obviously, if you have been playing competitive sports, then you would need to continue doing that such that you have the best possible chance of being selected during scouting.
3. Community Service/Volunteering
A lot of students and parents that we work with, often feel that community service counts as the only extracurricular. This is certainly not true. In fact, I do not characterize community service as an EC since it is often viewed as a way to build one’s resume – a tick mark against a box. To me, the time any community service activity becomes an extracurricular activity is when you have pursued it purely out of your own passion and continued it for many months if not years to come. A student keen on a neuroscience major spent hours at a palliative care for terminally ill patients. Ensure that your volunteering work revolves around actually creating an impact, rather than for the sake of it. This would certainly hold more value compared to just ‘teaching English and Math’ to individuals you would only see twice a year.
4. College Lists
Start identifying colleges you would definitely love to go to. Categorize them into Reach/Target/Safety schools after you have done your research on acceptance levels and what kind of students are typically admitted. Do consider what kind of an academic and social environment you’d like to be a part of. Refer to this blog on Public versus Private universities for more information.
5. Plan your winter and summer
Winter break would be a good time to spend on pursuing new projects and completing old ones. Also, most summer programs open their applications this time of the year so it would be great to get a head start on those.
6. Brainstorming for essays
I generally recommend students to start thinking about the values and skills they would like colleges to learn about. Since students aren’t in the practice of writing reflective, personal essays, a lot of them struggle to write about themselves. As a start, Grade 11 students can refer to existing college prompts as these don’t change often and have new prompts in a similar vein. Most common ones are –
Why are you applying to this college?
Why are you applying for this major?
What unique perspectives or experiences do you bring to the campus?
7. Create a resume
Universities do ask for a resume – some make it mandatory, others keep it optional. Nonetheless, it is great to have one. Suppose there is an amazing internship opportunity waiting for you this weekend and you’re asked to submit a resume? Certainly helps to keep one handy at all times.
8. Recommendation, later?
Many students realize too late in the process that they would need solid rec letters from their teachers. If you haven’t already, build a strong student-teacher relationship with all your teachers and school counselor such that you receive stellar rec letters. With exams not taking place, there has been an increasing emphasis on what teachers write about their students in their LORs.
I hope this checklist helps you review your profile holistically and address aspects you are yet to get started on. If you would like to know more about how to build a strong profile in the next few months, fill in the form on our website or drop us a message on our Facebook page!
Working with study abroad consultants, overseas education consultants, or, as more commonly known, college counselors, can help you plan ahead and make those high school years count. Ivy Central offers exceptional focus to help you prepare for college admissions throughout the high-schooling years. Start today!