By Leanne Soulard
It’s March, which means that high school students are getting ready to choose their courses for next year. Some students find this to be a very exciting time while others would prefer to talk about almost anything else. I was always one of those students who looked forward to meeting with my guidance counselor to choose next year’s classes but, in hindsight, I’m not sure that I had any method for making sure my schedule was full. I didn’t really need to because college admissions was a whole other animal back then. It was much easier to “get in” and colleges didn’t expect nearly as much from students as they do now. We Gen-Xers had it easy!
While it’s true that college admissions is much more competitive than it used to be, one thing hasn’t changed: a strong transcript is the most important element in the college application. It will always be the best predictor of success in college. Not test scores. Not class rank. Not GPA. It’s a student’s ability to succeed in appropriately challenging courses that impresses colleges the most. We’ve seen students become so focused on GPA or class rank that they choose to play it safe in a college-prep level course instead of taking a risk at the honors level. We’ve seen students shortchange themselves on admissions outcomes because they didn’t want to see anything other than straight As on their report cards and they didn’t want to risk the B in an AP course. A strong transcript does not necessarily equal straight As or a 4.0 GPA. Colleges are looking for students who are willing to take risks and persist through the challenges they face in rigorous courses because it is the secret to success in college and in life.
With that in mind, we share with you our top five tips for helping students build a competitive transcript. Encourage your child to be curious about what their high school offers and, of course, don’t be afraid to consult teachers and the guidance counselor about what makes the most sense for your student!
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