You may not have experienced this yet, but, believe it or not, in college you might take a course where you take two tests over an entire semester—and those two scores make up your grade! That’s it, 50% each. Have a bad day during that first test and you’ve got a steep climb back to the top, my friends.

Fortunately, the college admissions process isn’t quite so black and white. So if you’ve had a periodic slip up in one aspect of your academic profile, don’t fret. There are always ways to overcome these blips in other areas of your application, and we’ve got some fun little tricks to highlight your strong suits and apply some coverup on the blemishes. According to the Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA), whose sole purpose is to study the process and thousands of surveys from applicants (FUN!), there are four categories of your application, and the ICEA has agreed that the weight of each category is generally viewed as follows:

40% – High School Grades: Your grades throughout all four years of high school are most heavily weighted, which makes sense as it’s the most comprehensive view of the results of your most recent educational endeavors. Colleges want to see that you’ve been taking a balanced yet challenging course-load and succeeding on a consistent basis. They want to make sure you’ve got strong academic habits that you can continue right on into college. The nice part about this is that, even though you may have taken Intro to Religion a little too lightly your sophomore year, your overall GPA shouldn’t have taken too large of a hit.  For more on challenging courses, see our post titled “To AP, or Not To AP”…

30% – Standardized Test Scores: Some of our students hate this stat, while others love it. The fact is, while test prep resources can significantly help your scores (let’s leave that for another day), not everyone takes tests the same way. If this is a place where you excel, let’s chat about a few extra tips and tricks to really put you over the top; it will be worth it to make you stand out. If you’re an average test-taker, perfect. You’ll be right in the sweetspot of median test scores, but we can talk about a few ways to elevate your scores to the upper-end of those averages. And if you are getting a nervous tick just reading this section, not to worry. With a little assistance you can get into that ballpark you’re looking for, and, as this only accounts for about 30% of the overall decision, you have plenty of opportunities to showcase yourself in other ways.

10-20% – Extracurricular Activities: This category has caused some considerable confusion, and we’d like to set the record straight. If you joined the Calligraphy Club your junior year for no other reason than filling up your “Other Activities” section on your applications, I’m sorry to tell you that this addition on its own will not get you into college. Now, if you have a true passion for Calligraphy, started the club, raised money for a local philanthropy by selling your club’s work, and write an inquisitive college essay about how the digital age is killing the personal touch of free-hand penmanship, then you just became a very interesting and memorable candidate to the admissions counselors. The point here is participate in activities you have a passion for, or have always been interested in, but don’t do something to write it on your application. Admissions counselors can and will sniff that out in seconds.

10-20% – Essays, Letters of Recommendation, Alumni Interviews, College Visits, Handwritten Letters, etc:  Remember how I said we can always apply some coverup on your application blemishes? Welp, here we are. This is the “Wow Me” category for admissions counselors, where you have the opportunity to truly differentiate yourself from the pack. Too many times we see students lose steam at this point in their application process, and who could blame them. But this is exactly the category where we need to put our heads together and throw a coming out party for you, letting the school’s know who you are, what you’re made of, and why they absolutely NEED to have someone like you. Most of the other categories provide simple “weed-out” numbers, but when it comes time for that admissions counselor to decide on your fate, executing in this category can make all the difference.

Stressed or confused about the upcoming college search? We can help!  If you find you could use personalized, one-on-one guidance throughout the college search process or simply want to learn more about our services, click the button below.  We offer complimentary 30-minute consultations to learn about you and decide if we can help.