Improving Academic Performance

Navigating the College Admissions Process

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Mon, May 28, 2012 @ 06:26 AM

One of the things I learned when applying to both undergraduate and graduate programs is that it’s not enough to simply strive for good grades and a good test score.  Sure, the entire college application process is very competitive, so you should aim for the best possible grades and highest possible tests scores, not just something that’s above average.  But, that’s not what I mean exactly.

What I mean is that each school has a different approach to admissions and different criteria against which you’ll be judged.  Each school is looking for a different “story” that aligns with their culture and admissions standards.  For example, my college application had a well-rounded list of activities, three varsity sports, AP and Honors classes, a good GPA and a very good ACT score.  However, I was only admitted to two of the five large, but highly selective, state schools to which I applied.

What happened?

Well, it turns out that large state schools tend to have a very simple sliding scale of GPA vs. test score they use to grant admission.  My GPA, while above average, was pretty low for the schools to which I applied.  For a highly selective state school to admit me, I would have needed an extremely high ACT or SAT score.  While these schools do require application essays, etc. – they tend to place less weight on those.

However, I learned later that many highly selective smaller private schools don’t have quite the same process, and my overall application may have better suited those schools. At these schools, your essays are ready very carefully, and more weight might be placed on the extracurricular activities you engaged in during high school.

The lesson is that it’s important to begin thinking about where you want to go to school early, and then structure your high school experience so that it aligns with what those schools look for.   In addition, when it comes to writing essays, it’s important to communicate your personal “story” effectively based on the culture of the school to which you’re applying.


While MyGuru chooses to focus on 1-1 tutoring, we do partner with companies that can help you think through these issues and write excellent essays.  One such company is called  If you check out their web-site and think you might want to work with them or purchase one of their e-books on the college application process, let us know.  They’ve agreed to offer MyGuru students exclusive discounts and benefits. To review other products, partners, and solutions we are currently working with, visit our tools and resources page.